Feature Friday: Meet our champion for open, affordable textbooks

Posted on: October 22, 2021

If you like affordable textbooks, you’ll love Liz Thompson. 

Liz is our Open Education Librarian, which means she helps faculty to get started using open textbooks and other open license course materials. Thanks in large part to her work, over 8,000 JMU students last year saved nearly $900,000 in book costs, and the program is growing!

Why is her work so important? Open access is not just about saving money. As Liz describes, “When instructors assign open and affordable course materials, they are offering students an alternative way to access required readings that makes a course more accessible not only for low-income students and visually impaired students, but for everyone.”

Q&A with Liz

You’re JMU’s Open Education Librarian. What does “open” mean?

“Open” refers to anything that can be shared freely online. Many textbooks not only cost a lot, they are also copyrighted to prevent sharing, and are not able to be modified by the instructor. Open educational resources (OER), however, can be freely shared and revised. 

Why should faculty consider using open course materials?

The cost of textbooks is a serious problem for some students. JMU recommends students budget $1,098 per year for textbooks! But in addition to reducing student cost, open course materials provide instructors an opportunity to customize materials to support their course goals AND to use more diverse and inclusive language, examples, and case studies. This study demonstrates how open course materials improve grades for all students, but at even greater rates for part-time students, and historically underserved populations.     

What excites you most about your work right now?

I am thrilled that the federal and state governments are supporting open and affordable course content and allocating funding for educators to author more open course materials. I’m also contributing to  SPARC’s Open Educational Leadership program this year and learning even more about OER with an exceptional group of educators from the U.S. and Canada. 

What’s your favorite local restaurant or local attraction?

The folks at Taste of India know my regular order, so I guess I go there a lot. 🙂 Several of our Harrisonburg “family” work at Billy Jack’s so we end up there quite a bit, too. This time of year, I love to visit Showalter’s Orchard for apples, cider, and donuts. 

What would you like everyone at JMU to know about you?

I am growing into the work of open education and open publishing at JMU, and I enjoy exploring the possibilities with my colleagues. If you have ideas for expanding open and affordable access at JMU, let’s talk!

Links for Faculty

Adopt an open textbook for Spring 2022
Find open course materials
Create open course materials
Contact Liz Thompson, Open Education Librarian

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