University of Minnesota Pays Professors to Use Open-Source Textbooks

The University of Minnesota wants to save money for their students by making open-source textbooks available to the student body by way of its Open Access textbook catalog. As textbooks are obscenely overpriced already, this is a good thing.

The university however, is also willing to pay its faculty to "review and adopt" the new open access books:

“High textbook costs are one of the many factors that are contributing to the increasing financial burden that students are facing,” said Lizzy Shay, U of M undergraduate student body president. “Affordable open textbooks would go a long way in relieving that burden.”

The catalog currently lists 84 open textbooks that are in use in classrooms across the country. Over the next year, CEHD will work with U of M faculty to review the texts in this collection, making it easier for users to judge textbook quality. CEHD will support faculty who choose to review and adopt open textbooks with $500-$1,000 stipends.

I share a problem with all academic librarians, namely, the promise of new technology if only the faculty would embrace it. Not all faculty do for a number of reasons. The younger ones tend to be adjuncts and even if they like the new tech, don't have the pull with the Deans or full-time faculty to advocate for it. The faculty are frequently nervous about any change to the status quo, and many don't even understand how the library works or why we develop technology policies. And the Deans are administrators more often than not. A given technology's promise to them is how much money it can bring into the corporate coffers and how quickly. Obviously, free on-line textbooks don't measure up to that ideal, at least, not yet.

So, in that context, I can see why providing a stipend for the review and use of such things would be warranted. Nothing opens the eyes and loosens the tongue like silver in one's palm. At the same time, I would expect that once the University of Minnesota completes its catalog, it will stop paying out to promote its electronic wares. What happens then?

We shall see.


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