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University of Maryland University College (UMUC) has been selected by the Open Education Consortium (OEC) to receive the organization's prestigious President's Award. The award is given by OEC's Board of Directors to an individual or institution that shows exceptional leadership and commitment to open-source education.

UMUC, the largest public online university in the United States, is halfway to its goal of eliminating all publisher textbooks for its more than 84,000 students by fall 2016. All undergraduate classes will be using open-source materials by the end of fall 2015. All graduate classes will eliminate publisher textbooks by fall 2016.

"Two key factors are driving this large-scale effort—and are at the heart of this tremendous honor from the Open Education Consortium," said Marie Cini, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at UMUC. "The first is that high-quality open-source material is now widely available to our faculty. Second, by using open-source material we are eliminating the cost of textbooks for our students, many of whom are squeezing their budgets to afford higher education while juggling work and families."

Cini emphasized that "with the average cost of a publisher textbook at about $100, the total savings for our students is in the tens of millions of dollars."

Open-source materials allow faculty and instructional designers to be flexible in creating and customizing course content and to find the best resources to help students learn rather than relying on one textbook. And at UMUC, course material is directly connected to learning outcomes (rather than students having to purchase a text in which many chapters are ignored).

In addition to the cost savings, other key advantages of using open-source material include a richer learning experience than using a textbook and immediate access to materials at any time.

"This is a special category for which we don't solicit nominations; rather, it is given . . . to an individual or institution that shows exceptional leadership and commitment to open education," said Mary Lou Forward, OEC's executive director, in announcing the award. "We salute [UMUC's] commitment."

UMUC was presented with the award at the Open Education Consortium's annual meeting, held in Banff, Alberta, Canada, on Thursday, April 23.