CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new open textbook initiative could save students thousands of dollars in textbook prices if the program picks up momentum.
Students have been speaking out for years about the cost of textbooks.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Oregon State University student Jose Schofield. “I mean honestly, it’s a book that should be easy for us to get and use for education.”
For some students, textbooks cost thousands of dollars a year.
“I’m not really happy,” said student Anastasia Sokoloff. “I’m pretty upset. It’s frustrating.”
So imagine a different world.
“Textbooks are free,” said Shan Sutton, the Associate University Librarian for Research and Scholarly Communication. “Free not only for OSU students, but students and faculty from many universities around the world could adopt these resources for their own courses.”
The idea is already becoming a reality in some classes at OSU. It’s called the open textbook initiative, where faculty publish their own content online that is available free of charge.
“This project really embodies the Land Grant Mission of OSU,” Sutton said.
Sutton says one goal is to make higher education more affordable.
Two biochemistry professors, Indira Rajagopal and Kevin Ahern wrote their open textbook together, and it is now available online to the world for free. So far it has been downloaded over 72,000 times.
“If I can provide students with what they need to learn without having to spend the 200 bucks, well I’ve just saved them some money that for most of them is kind of hard to come by,” Rajagopal said.
She says her biochemistry classes used to require a $200 textbook.
But with the help of the OSU Open Educational Resources and Emerging Technologies Unit at OSU Extended Campus, professors can enhance their online texts.
“We have the tools to create interactive things so students can work with a text in a way that they can’t with a printed text,” said Dianna Fisher, the unit’s director. “We can help create videos, animations, and modules for example.”
Faculty can use other posted materials from around the world for their own courses free of charge.
So what’s in it for the professors?
“What’s in it for the professor when you teach at any time? You are there to serve students,” Ahern said. “You’re there to spread education. You’re there to make people understand something that they didn’t otherwise understand.”
The open textbook initiative is a new program – a partnership among OSU Libraries, OSU Press, and OSU Extended Campus. Despite its recent appearance at OSU, the program says it hopes more professors on campus will participate in the nationwide movement.