In a result that will make college students rejoice, a group of researchers at Brigham Young University have found that a free textbook is just as effective as an expensive one.
BYU’s Open Education Group studies open educational resources, free and open-access educational resources they’ve found that can teach students just as well as paid resources.
The group’s research not only showed that students using the free materials do just as well, and in some cases better, than if they were using a pricey textbook, but that the students were also more likely to stick in a course and not drop out.
For low-income students at community colleges, open educational resources might be an effective resource for keeping more students in school.
Lane Fischer, a BYU counseling psychology and special education chair and member of the Open Education Group, said many students will wait to buy their textbooks until weeks after classes begin when their financial aid comes or until they decide they need the textbook for the course. By the time the students get their books, they’re behind and might drop the course.
“That cycle continues for these folks who have lower educational resources,” Fischer said. “This is our most vulnerable group who most need an education and we are making them slow down and hurting them in the process.”
The high cost of traditional textbooks—an average of somewhere between $600 and $1,400 per student each year, according to studies by NACS and the College Board—not only impacts students’ ability to attend college but also their ability to continue and complete coursework. Open educational resources, including the free, peer-reviewed textbooks offered by OpenStax, eliminate cost barriers for students and allow unrestricted, immediate access to learning materials, increasing the likelihood for students to complete their courses successfully.
For decades, textbooks were seen as the foundation for instruction in American schools. These discipline-specific tomes were a fundamental part of the educational infrastructure, assigned to students for each subject and carried in heavy backpacks every day – from home to school and back again.
The experience of students is much different today.
As a scholar of learning technologies and a director for outreach and engagement at Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology, we’ve seen how technological advances and an increase in digital curriculum materials have hastened the move away from textbooks.
Does all of this technology spell the end of traditional textbooks? And if so, is that actually a good thing for students and teachers?