Open texts predicted to save students $25 million

Rice-based nonprofit adds open textbook titles for algebra and trigonometry, college algebra, chemistry

open-textsRice University-based nonprofit OpenStax College has unveiled three new textbooks and said its growing catalog of free textbooks will save students an estimated $25 million in the 2015-16 academic year.

OpenStax College uses philanthropic gifts from major foundations to produce open educational resources — full-color, peer-reviewed online textbooks that have the same look and feel as books that cost $100 or more.

All OpenStax College textbooks are available free online and at low cost in print. The publisher, which launched with two titles in 2012, today offers 15 titles that have been used by more than 540,000 students and adopted by instructors in more than 2,000 courses worldwide.

Its three newest titles — Algebra and Trigonometry, College Algebra and Chemistry — reflect OpenStax College’s commitment to publish titles for the most-attended college courses.

Next page: What professors say about open texts

“Our growth curve has quieted most of those who doubted the sustainability of open education,” said Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax College and Rice’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering. “Today, six times more students are using our books than were just two years ago, and we are well ahead of our goal to eventually save students $120 million per year.”

Baraniuk said OpenStax College’s three newest titles, as well as new and revised titles added this year for high-enrollment courses like U.S. history, psychology and economics, will spur adoptions, but he said the real driver is the demand — among both instructors and students — for free and low-cost alternatives to expensive textbooks.

Daniel MacDonald, assistant professor of economics at California State University, San Bernardino, said he chose an OpenStax textbook because it both reduces costs for his students and shows them the power of open educational resources.

“I believe that a high quality education should be accessible to any student,” MacDonald said. “Everyone benefits from shared knowledge, and it is inspiring for this generation of students to see that and experience it firsthand. In other words, aside from the actual content of the books themselves, OpenStax has a broader affect as a role model. OpenStax shows people how knowledge can and should be generated and shared in our society.”

OpenStax College’s catalog will eventually cover 25 of the nation’s most-attended college courses. In addition to the previously discussed titles, OpenStax College offers textbooks for introductory physics, sociology, statistics, anatomy and physiology, both majors and nonmajors biology and precalculus.

Microbiology is slated for release next spring and seven additional titles are planned by 2017. OpenStax College is also entering the Advanced Placement textbook market with three upcoming titles. College Physics for AP Courses is slated for release this fall and Principles of Economics for AP Courses and Biology for AP Courses will be available in 2016.

OpenStax College is made possible by the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation, the Maxfield Foundation, the Calvin K. Kanzanjian Foundation, the Bill and Stephanie Sick Fund and the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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