BATON ROUGE, La. – LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network and the Louisiana Board of Regents are pleased to receive a $2.125 million federal grant for the Open Textbooks Pilot Program. The award, from the U.S. Department of Education, supports Building a Competitive Workforce: Career and Technical Education (CTE) OER with Embedded Digital Skills. This project is a three-year initiative to improve access to and completion of CTE courses by developing open educational resources (OER) courses, or courses that assign textbooks and other materials that are freely available to students. By removing that textbook cost barrier, this project has the potential to provide greater access to higher education and save Louisiana students over $6 million annually.
The Building a Competitive Workforce project is part of Affordable Learning LOUISiana, LOUIS’ initiative to save students money by reducing the cost of instructional materials. According to the National Center for Education Data Statistics, the average annual cost of college textbooks during the 2020-2021 academic year was $1,226 at four-year institutions and $1,465 at 2-year institutions. Affordable Learning LOUISiana facilitates collaboration between academic libraries, faculty in higher education, and dual enrollment instructors who reduce costs through the creation and implementation of Affordable Education Resources (AERs), OERs, and other open-access materials. Since 2012, more than 491,000 students in Louisiana have enrolled in courses with OER and AER textbook alternatives, resulting in up to $43.3 million in savings for students and their families.
The work of Building a Competitive Workplace is aligned with the Board of Regents’ talent development goals and its focus on affordability. “We are excited that this competitive grant will advance our efforts to ensure that students have access to their textbooks and needed materials on day one, which is critical to student success. I am so grateful for the faculty, librarians, and other education leaders who will develop the high-quality career and technical education resources that will make a real difference in affordability for our students,” said Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, Commissioner of Higher Education.
LOUIS and the Louisiana Board of Regents were previously awarded a grant through the Open Textbooks Pilot in 2020 for the project Interactive OER for Dual Enrollment Project. That project engaged Louisiana dual enrollment instructors and academic librarians in the curation and creation of OER for 25 of the state’s general education courses. Those textbooks and course materials are now available for adoption, adaptation, and reuse.
In addition to CTE courses, the OER materials that Building a Competitive Workforce participants develop will focus on the foundational and industry-specific digital and job readiness skills necessary to succeed in in-demand areas of the Louisiana workforce. Emily Frank, LOUIS’ Affordable Learning Program Administrator and Project Director, says of these OERs, “Students are better poised for success as they enter the workforce having had these foundational and industry-specific digital and job readiness skills interwoven in curricula, which enable them to build competencies and ensure digital readiness.”
As work begins on the new Building a Competitive Workforce project, which is fully federally funded, LOUIS will collaborate with postsecondary education systems in Louisiana to bring teaching faculty and librarians together to create cohorts to develop textbooks and course materials. Stay up to date by subscribing to the Interactive OER for Dual Enrollment distribution list.
The contents of this article were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
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