Students at the University of Maryland took their complaints about the costs of textbooks online, and they caught the attention of school officials.
They posted photos of whiteboard messages spelling out the amount each spent on books. That led to the University System of Maryland launching a pilot program this semester that makes course materials available as open-source digital content.
The pilot is part of a partnership with Lumen Learning, a company that helps instructors locate content used in creating open-source electronic books. The school estimates the program will save the 1,100 students participating a combined $130,000 in textbook costs.
Even with the partnership, compiling content requires a time commitment from professors. Scott Roberts, who teaches an introductory psychology course on the College Park campus, told the Baltimore Sun it took about 80 hours to write the open-source textbook he created for a class in 2010.
“Maybe one of the bigger issues is in certain academic circles, the rigor of a course is judged by the textbook you use. If you stray from that, you might be met by some furrowed brows,” said Robert Javonillo, a biology professor from Coppin State participating in the pilot. He added that the open-source material he has used has been high quality and that his students are relieved when they find out their assigned course materials are free instead of the $158 textbook he used to assign for this class.