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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Budget Bill Boosts Open Textbooks

The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill signed into law March 23 sets aside $5 million for the Open Textbook Pilot, a program intended to underwrite development and expansion of open educational resources (OER) for higher education. The aim is to trim the cost of course materials for students without diminishing their learning.

While the omnibus bill doesn’t spell out exactly how the Department of Education should distribute the funds, Washington Monthly said it will most likely use the proposed Affordable College Textbook Act (ACTA) as a guideline. The act, which has been introduced in the House and Senate multiple times, most recently in September 2017, calls for establishing a competitive grant program to create or adapt open textbooks.

ACTA also supports assistance for faculty in finding and reviewing open materials, improving access to OER (especially for students with disabilities), assessing OER to ascertain actual cost savings and academic outcomes, and fostering partnerships among higher education institutions and other groups.

ACTA also “highlights several additional considerations for evaluating proposed projects and selecting grantees, including evaluating an institution’s demonstrated capacity to create high-quality resources, focusing on high-enrollment courses at the institution, and making a clear plan for marketing and distributing open textbooks to faculty and students,” Washington Monthly noted.

There’s no timeline for implementation, but $5 million isn’t a lot of money for a national program.

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