The average Rutgers student spends about $1,500 per year on textbooks and course materials — $300 more than the national average.
Last year, the Rutgers University Senate passed a resolution in favor of creating an open-source textbook pilot program modeled after a program at University of Massachusetts Amherst, Vitez said. On Feb. 3, Rutgers announced the creation of a $12,000 competitive grant program available for professors at Rutgers.
Applications have not been sent out yet, but based on projections, the pilot program is going to save students more than $1 million, she said.
“(Open-source textbooks) makes these (books) free to download and share online, and students can either purchase it themselves or buy these books at the bookstore for less than $40 compared to a big (biology) textbook that’s $300 – that’s a pretty significant saving,” said Kaitlyn Vitez, Rutgers NJPIRG Student Chapters campus organizer.
“It’s really awesome that (the University) is moving forward on the issue, and that we can try and save students some money,” Vitez said. “We’re just really glad that this program is now a reality and instructors are going to have the opportunity to bring open-source into the classroom.”
The pilot program that was created is only in place for one year, Vitez said. Rutgers can test out the application process and what the results look like at the University.
If the program is successful, she said it may serve as a model for other schools across the nation.
“What’s really important is that we get the word out about this pilot program so that it’ll be funded for a second year and continue to save students money,” she said.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of websites and organizations set up to address the high cost of textbooks. They are using the open source content model to bring low-cost or free textbooks to the party.
The most recent announcement comes from OpenStax College which announced that they will be releasing free of charge a series of five books. The group plans to offer more than 20 titles.
OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. Their free textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed by educators (including two Nobel laureates) to ensure they are readable, accurate, and meet the scope and sequence requirements of your course. Through partnerships with companies and foundations committed to reducing costs for students, OpenStax College is working to improve access to higher education for all. OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University and is made possible through the generous support of several philanthropic foundations.
The first five books are College Physics, Intro to Sociology, Biology, Concepts of Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology. Once published, they will be free to download and view via the Web, PDF or EPUB. Given the nature of open-source content, faculty is a big part of the development process as they are encouraged to post corrections, suggest examples, or volunteer as editors.
It’s innovation in education. And the time is right to offer free textbooks that meet scope and sequence requirements for most courses. With a popularity of the iPad and other tablets students should welcome this free content. Being these are peer-reviewed texts written by professional content developers they should be welcomed by professors who are sensitive to the cost of textbooks for students. Professors can adopt a book today for a turnkey classroom solution or modify it to suit your teaching approach. As with a lot of the open-source content now being shared, it will take a bit of time for these college books to work their way into the adoption process, but as they do, it is clear that a peer-reviewed book will have a leg up in credibility and thus in getting more widespread adoption and classroom use. Free online and low-cost printed books are built for student budgets.