U.S. Department of Education: Open Textbooks Pilot Program
The Open Textbooks Pilot program supports projects at institutions of higher education (IHEs) that create new open textbooks or expand their use of open textbooks while maintaining or improving instruction and student learning outcomes. Applicants are encouraged to develop projects that demonstrate the greatest potential to achieve the highest level of savings for students through sustainable, expanded use of open textbooks in high-enrollment courses or in programs that prepare individuals for in-demand fields.
Increasing textbook costs introduce an additional barrier to college access and completion, particularly for low-income students. In recent years, the development of open textbooks has emerged as a potential solution to increasing college textbook costs. While open textbooks often support general education or introductory courses, the U.S. Department of Education seeks to promote degree completion by supporting the development of open textbooks for courses at different levels within an academic program. Therefore, this pilot program emphasizes the expansion of the use of existing open textbooks developed for general education or introductory courses, and the development of open textbooks for several required courses in one or more high-enrollment majors to ensure that students will benefit from cost savings throughout their programs. There is also a shortage of open textbooks to support instruction in career and technical education, where it is equally important to help students reduce costs. To ensure that students in career and technical education programs have access to low-cost textbooks that are up-to-date, the Department encourages the development of open textbooks that would support students enrolled in high-enrollment programs for career and technical education associate degrees, or career and technical education associate degree programs designed to meet the needs of in-demand occupations and industries.
This notice includes three absolute priorities and one competitive preference priority.
Absolute Priorities are:
- Absolute Priority 1—Improving Collaboration and Dissemination Through Consortia Arrangements. An eligible applicant must propose to lead and carry out a consortium project that leverages the expertise and resources of at least three IHEs, including the lead applicant, and that engages employers or workforce stakeholders and/or nonprofit or community organizations, as appropriate, to participate in the project. Applicants must explain how the members of the consortium will work in partnership to develop and implement open textbooks that: (a) Reduce the cost of college for large numbers of students by reducing textbook costs and (b) contain content that aligns student learning objectives with the skills or knowledge required by large numbers of students (at a given institution or nationally) as part of a degree pathway, or in the case of a career and technical postsecondary program, meet industry standards in in-demand industry sectors or occupations.
- Absolute Priority 2—Addressing Gaps in the Open Textbook Marketplace and Bringing Solutions to Scale. An applicant must address the issue of gaps in the open textbook marketplace and of how to bring market solutions to scale. An applicant must propose a comprehensive plan to: (a) Identify and assess existing open educational resources in the credential pathway or the subject area or areas proposed, before creating new ones; (b) focus on the creation and expansion of education and training materials that can be taken to scale, within and beyond the participating consortium members, to reach a broad range of students participating in high-enrollment courses or preparing for in-demand occupations; (c) create protocols to review any open textbooks created or adapted through the project for accuracy, rigor, and accessibility for students with disabilities; and (d) disseminate information about the results of the project to other IHEs, including promoting the adoption of any open textbooks created or adapted through the project. Note: Grant funds may be used for professional development to help build capacity and expand the use of open textbooks for any faculty and staff members at IHEs.
- Absolute Priority 3—Promoting Degree Completion. An applicant must propose to build upon existing open textbook materials and/or develop new open textbooks for (a) multiple courses at different levels in a program’s course sequence and that are typically required for individuals majoring in one or more high-enrollment programs and/or (b) several courses along the pathway to an associate degree in one or more career and technical education field(s). The applicant must include plans for: (a) Promoting and tracking the use of open textbooks in postsecondary courses, including an estimate of the projected cost savings for students; (b) assessing the impact of open textbooks on instruction and student learning outcomes, and (c) updating the open textbooks beyond the funded period.
The Competitive Preference Priority is:
- Using Technology-Based Strategies for Personalized Learning and Continuous Improvement. To meet this priority, an applicant must propose a project that focuses on improving instruction and student learning outcomes by integrating technology-based strategies, such as artificial intelligence and adaptive learning, with the open textbooks proposed for development to provide personalized learning experiences. These technologies must be capable of supporting ongoing electronic assessments that enable students to monitor their own learning mastery and/or allow instructors to monitor the individual performance of each student in the classes or courses for which the applicant proposes to develop open textbooks.
Amount: An estimated $4,950,000 is available to make 1-3 awards ranging from $1,500,000 to $4,950,000 and averaging $2,475,000. The Department will not make an award exceeding $4,950,000 for a single budget period of 48 months.
Eligibility: Eligible applicants are IHEs that: (a) Lead the activities of a consortium that is comprised of at least: i. Three IHEs, including the lead applicant; ii. An educational technology or electronic curriculum design expert (which may include such experts that are employed by one or more of the consortium institutions); and iii. An advisory group of at least five employers, workforce organizations, or sector partners; and (b) Have demonstrated experience in the development and implementation of open educational resources.
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