Numerous successes illustrate that authoring open textbooks is possible and adoption can be rewarding for faculty and students.
The Florida Distance Learning Consortium (FDLC) gathered data on faculty use of open textbooks from interviews, focus groups, webinars, and the Open Access Textbook Task Force (OATTF) survey administered in early 2010. Evidence from these sources indicated that the faculty members were concerned about the high cost of textbooks and its impact on students. They generally viewed open textbooks as a potential solution, but perceived several impediments to their development and use. Among their concerns regarding authorship were incentives such as release time or recognition for digital scholarship and support by administration.
The concept of openness of scholarly work is readily embraced by some faculty and administrators. The recognition and rewards for open digital scholarship should help to allay the concerns of the wary, even as research institutions around the world commit to open research and scholarship. Recognition from leaders at any level can convey the message that the value of digital scholarship is appreciated. Tangible tokens of appreciation can take the form of honors, fellowships, titles, monetary rewards, or release time.
The Orange Grove Scholars program is a program that rewards faculty for digital scholarship with the express purpose of engaging others in the use of the digital repository. The Orange Grove Scholars are nominated by FDLC members or The Orange Grove institutional liaison for their leadership capabilities and their interest in digital content. These faculty members operate on their individual university and college campuses around the state and reach out to individual faculty members and departments. A list of potential tasks is provided to the nominees. The tasks are reviewed and all or some tasks are agreed upon by the faculty members and The Orange Grove staff to form the basis of the contractual agreement with the faculty as payment for their services. These faculty members serve at least a two semester commitment. The Orange Grove Scholar/Advisor program is supported by FIPSE funds, and provides an opportunity to explore techniques for increasing repository uptake. Scholar/Advisors serve as the information conduit to department chairs, deans, vice-presidents, presidents. They demonstrate, teach, and request contributions of content from their fellow faculty members. The Orange Grove Scholar has added credibility and interest at the campus level, which is critical for adoption of the repository resources for use in their teaching. The OG Scholars have indicated that it is extremely beneficial to have two individuals working together to share ideas and put on events. This appears to be particularly important in the early stages of adoption of the repository. For a comprehensive account of Florida’s initiative to create and sustain a statewide standards-based educational repository, visit the Online Content Repository (OnCoRe) Blueprint.
Federal legislation has accomplished modest objectives for reducing textbook costs, but, as of the time of this writing, the more ambitious federal legislation has been shuffled from committee to committee for more than three years. The stalled federal role leaves open the opportunity for innovation at the state level. Ohio is a state in which the higher education leadership has led the way. In 2008, Ohio began a textbook affordability initiative launched by Chancellor Eric Fingerhut. The value proposition of the textbook affordability strategic plan focused on improving learning outcomes as well as reducing the cost of textbooks. In a 2010 webinar funded by a FIPSE grant, Steve Acker, the Research Director of eText/Ohio Digital Bookshelf explained the three interwoven strands of Ohio’s Textbook Affordability Initiative: work with publishers to reduce costs; engage with open resources by rewarding faculty authors and funding large scale development; and eventually develop a framework for students to construct their own personal learning environments. For a more detailed description of Ohio’s initiative, see Appendix K.
College and university administrations can have a powerful impact on the production and acceptance of digital scholarship. The provost of the University of Florida allocated funds to pay Mathematics faculty to develop a series of three calculus open textbooks, the first of which is being field tested at the time of this writing. Such strong support from the administration provides the impetus for faculty to engage in digital scholarship and to consider authoring or adopting open textbooks.