Students in the North Dakota University System (NDUS) pay an average of $1,100 each year for course materials. A new plan presented to the state legislature may bring that amount down.
The proposal would provide funds to train faculty members in the system to learn about using free online textbooks in place of traditional textbooks. The North Dakota Board of Higher Education approved a budget of $500,000, which includes incentives to attract faculty members to participate in open-textbook training.
“I’m giving them training and the opportunity to learn about it and faculty who are not interested at all in doing open textbooks don’t have to, so it’s purely self-selective,” said Tanya Spilovoy, NDUS director of distance education and state authorization, who proposed the open-textbook plan to the state legislature.
A partnership with the University of Minnesota , which created its own free online textbook library in 2012, will allow NDUS instructors to get accustomed to educational videos and interactive online tools that have already gone through a vetting process at Minnesota. Becoming comfortable with digital course material is an important part of the process, according to David Ernst, chief information officer at the Minnesota College of Education and Human Development.
“In higher education, faculty’s academic freedom is probably the most important thing they have,” Ernst said. “Their right to choose their course material, basically anything academic, is their call and all we can do and all that’s appropriate to do is educate them about open education resources, specifically open textbooks. You answer questions and help remove barriers.”