In higher education, we always look for new ways to lower the cost of education. One trend that is becoming more visible is open textbooks. While instructors have used scanned articles & book chapters in classes via Moodle, that's just providing e-delivery of course materials. It's the modern equivalent of photocopying. Open textbooks takes electronic courseware to a new level.
The Seattle Times reports "A state-funded project to create low-cost digital textbooks for community-college courses has saved students about $5 million in just a few years … The project, called the Open Course Library, has employed dozens of Washington community-college faculty members to create textbooks and other curriculum materials for 81 of the most commonly taken community-college classes—like psychology, biology and precalculus. The materials are freely available and open to anyone."
Washington is not alone in this effort, nor are they exactly leading the charge. They are just one of many institutions investigating open textbooks. The University of Minnesota is also working in this space. President Kaler challenged the U of M to investigate open textbooks. You can follow our progress via the Open Textbook Catalog. From the website:
In an effort to reduce costs for students, the College of Education and Human Development has created this catalog of open textbooks to be reviewed by faculty members. Read full press release
Open textbooks are complete textbooks released under a Creative Commons, or similar, license.
Instructors can customize open textbooks to fit their course needs by remixing, editing, and adding their own content. Students can access free digital versions or purchase low-cost print copies of open textbooks.
This is a great boon to higher education. Glancing through the titles in the Open Textbook Catalog, I see several from other universities. This is one way that higher education is unique. We create useful content and give it away so others can use it. The program ultimately helps students by lowering the cost of education. I hope you will follow this trend in open textbooks.