The U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a report this week called, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives.” The report features responses to a survey administered to over 2,000 students across 163 college campuses in the U.S. in regards to the rising cost of textbooks and how it affects student usage and academic performance. The report has been making the rounds in major news outlets and is highlighted in a letter to Congress by Senators Durbin and Franken as a push for the Affordable College Textbook Act. It is available for anyone to read online under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, but here are the tl;dr highlights:
What the survey results say
- 65% of students choose not to buy a college textbook because it’s too expensive
- 94% report that they suffer academically because of this choice
- 48% say they altered which classes they took based on textbook costs, either taking fewer classes or different classes
- Senator Durbin wholeheartedly agrees: “According to the students surveyed in this report, the rising cost of textbooks not only adds to the overall financial burden of attending college, it can also have a measurably negative impact on their academic performance and student outcomes.”
- 82% of students say they would do significantly better in a course if the textbook were free online and a hard copy was optional!
- Case studies at both Houston Community College and Virginia State University suggest that classes using open textbooks have higher grades and better course completion rates
Textbook industry facts
(as reported by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs)
- College textbook prices have increased by 82% in the past ten years, aka 3x the rate of inflation
- Though alternatives to the new print edition textbooks exist, the costs of these alternatives (such as rental programs, used book markets and e-textbooks) are still dictated by publishers who re-issue editions every few years
- Ethan Sendack at U.S. PIRG says: “[Students] can’t shop around and find the most affordable option, meaning there’s no consumer control on the market.”
- On average students spend $1,200 a year on textbooks which = 14% of tuition at a four-year, public college; 39% of tuition at community college
Open textbook facts
- Open textbooks are written by faculty and peer-reviewed like traditional textbooks
- Open textbooks are free to access, use, download to electronic devices, and affordable to print — all thanks to the open content licenses on them that legally allows these uses
- U.S. PIRG estimates that open textbooks could save each student ~$100 per course they take
Find out for yourself
Links to the press release, full report, and news coverage below.
- Press release: http://uspirg.org/news/usp/survey-shows-students-opting-out-buying-high-cost-textbooks
- Full report: http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/fixing-broken-textbook-market
- SPARC’s blog post: http://www.sparc.arl.org/blog/survey-says-textbook-costs-threat-student-success
- US News & World Report: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/28/report-high-textbook-prices-have-college-students-struggling
- NBC Today show: http://www.today.com/money/college-textbook-costs-more-outrageous-ever-2D11999533
- The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/open-textbooks-could-help-students-financially-and-academically-researchers-say/49839
What you can do
Support the Affordable College Textbook Act which would establish open textbook pilot programs at colleges and universities across the country! Learn more at http://www.sparc.arl.org/advocacy/national/act and read Senators Durbin and Franken’s Dear Colleague letter to Congress at http://www.sparc.arl.org/sites/default/files/S.%201704%20Dear%20Colleague.pdf.3 Comments »
United States Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota have introduced legislation called the Affordable College Textbook Act that seeks to make college textbooks affordable and openly available under the Creative Commons Attribution license. According to Durbin’s press release, Bill S.1704 does 5 things:
- Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students;
- Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public [via CC BY];
- Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students;
- Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle; and
- Requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress by 2017 with an update on the price trends of college textbooks.
(3) OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE.—The term ‘‘open educational resource’’ means an educational resource that is licensed under an open license and made freely available online to the public.
(4) OPEN LICENSE.—The term ‘‘open license’’ means a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable copyright license granting the public permission to access, reproduce, publicly perform, publicly display, adapt, distribute, and otherwise use the work and adaptations of the work for any purpose, conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given to authors as designated.
(5) OPEN TEXTBOOK.—The term ‘‘open textbook’’ means an open educational resource or set of open educational resources that either is a textbook or can be used in place of a textbook for a postsecondary course at an institution of higher education.
The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) note several existing open textbook programs that have proved successful in lowering costs for students, including the University of Minnesota’s online catalog of open textbooks which has so far saved students $100,000; Tidewater Community College’s degree program where each course uses open textbooks lowering costs to zero for students; and Washington State’s Open Course Library project for its 81 largest enrollment courses that has saved students $5.4 million to date.
In addition to cost savings, SPARC highlights Bill S.1704′s potential impacts of high quality and innovation:
- High quality materials. Open educational resources developed through the grants will also be available for all other colleges, faculty and students across the country to freely use.
- Supporting innovation. At a time where new models to support open educational resources are rapidly emerging, this bill would help foster innovation and development of best practices that can be shared with other institutions.
For more info, see:
- Senator Durbin’s press release
- SPARC’s press release, web page to take action, and page about the bill
- Summary and current status of Bill S.1704; complete text of bill
You can take action to support Bill S.1704 here and use Twitter hashtag #oerusa to share the news!No Comments »
Saylor K-12 Beta by The Saylor Foundation / CC BY
The Saylor Foundation recently launched a new K-12 program on Saylor.org, debuting courses for grades 6-12 in English language arts and mathematics. A team of experienced educators and staff are developing courses fully aligned to the US Common Core State Standards. Like Saylor’s college-level courses, the K-12 program incorporates open educational resources (OER), making the courses, as well as their contents, widely reusable by students, teachers, and parents nationwide. The course frameworks and instructions are available under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Thus, while the courses are ready for use as-is, anyone may also reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute their courses to meet local needs.
Following its higher education model, Saylor’s K-12 team focused on reviewing and vetting an existing pool of OER, selecting the best OER to develop instructions and learning outcomes. With Common Core standards providing a framework for each course, Saylor aims to make K-12 OER easy to find and use. Saylor is currently working on 18 additional courses which will be rolled out as they are completed.
How can you use K-12 courses on Saylor.org?
- Flip your classroom without shooting your own videos. Saylor provides recommendations on their site.
- Incorporate more engaging digital content in your class.
- Get current, openly licensed, Common Core–aligned materials for free.
- Provide extra resources to supplement what your kids learn in school.
- Use self-contained curriculum for home-schooling families.
- Accelerate or review subjects with your kids.
- Do more challenging work. Your school might not offer calculus, but Saylor.org does!
- Learn subjects in a different way and acclimate to an online learning environment.
- Review material you learned in school.
- Go further and prepare for your SATs/college (more on that on the site).
OpenStax College, an initiative of Connexions, the open educational resources (OER) authoring project at Rice University, is creating high-quality, peer-reviewed open textbooks. All of OpenStax College’s books, including the art and illustrations, are available under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), allowing anyone to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the books.
The first two OpenStax College books were published in June of 2012, and since then Introduction to Sociology and College Physics have been downloaded over 110,000 times, used by more than 1.5 million unique online learners, and adopted at over 200 schools. These adoptions represent real savings for over 30,000 students in classes around the world. OpenStax College estimates that it has saved these students more than $3 million (USD) so far.
OpenStax isn’t stopping there. Biology and its corresponding book for non-majors, Concepts of Biology, and Anatomy & Physiology have now been released and are ready for use in classes in the fourth quarter of 2013.
OpenStax College recently received grants to complete six more books from several major foundations, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Kanzanjian Foundation and Lowenstein Foundation. The next phase will feature Introduction to Statistics, Pre-Calculus, Principles of Economics, U.S. History, Psychology, and Chemistry. These books are entering production now and are scheduled to be released by the end of 2014.1 Comment »
New Education Highway (NEH) is a nonprofit project that could not exist without open educational resources (OER). Launched this year in Myanmar, NEH leverages new and existing OER to provide remote and rural communities — often with no Internet connection — with access to a quality education.
NEH partners with existing organizations in local communities to open free learning centers with tablets or laptops installed with an offline, easily navigable learning interface. Resources are preloaded and span all manner of subjects, including comprehensive K-12 education, standardized test preparation, vocational skills, health/HIV education, sanitation, critical thinking, community development, foreign language training, and environmental and agricultural science. All resources are available under CC licenses, developed by NEH or other organizations. Because permissions have already been granted for reuse, NEH, as well as its communities, can adapt and redistribute the resources as needed.
NEH works with each community it serves to customize the offline interface and OER to that particular community. NEH is always seeking new and existing materials to incorporate, currently in the environmental and agricultural sciences. If you have suggestions for OER, materials that might be adapted and released as OER, or are interested in getting involved as a volunteer, visit http://www.neweducationhighway.org/ or email email@example.com.
Informational content on NEH’s website is defaulted under the CC BY license. The OER used within the NEH Learning Interface is licensed under the CC BY-SA and CC BY-NC-SA licenses and will be made available on the site in the coming months.2 Comments »
Ryan / CC BY-SA
Lumen Learning, a company founded to help institutions adopt open educational resources (OER) more effectively, just launched its first set of course frameworks for educators to use as-is or to adapt to their own needs. The six course frameworks cover general education topics spanning English composition, reading, writing, algebra, and college success, and are openly licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY).
The course frameworks were developed by the Lumen Learning team in concert with faculty members at nine institutions who worked to align the content with defined learning objectives and quality standards. By providing openly licensed course frameworks developed and vetted by experts, Lumen Learning hopes to make it easier for educators and institutions to use OER. From the press release,
“Our ultimate goal is to provide sustainable open textbook alternatives for an entire general education curriculum and even entire OER-based degree programs,” said Kim Thanos, CEO and co-founder of Lumen Learning. “We are thrilled with the interest and momentum we are seeing around OER today. It is definitely a rising tide, benefitting students, instructors and institutions alike.”
You can browse the CC BY-licensed course frameworks at http://www.lumenlearning.com/courses. Lumen Learning will also offer additional course frameworks in business management, psychology, chemistry, biology, and geography in the coming months.2 Comments »
A year and a half ago, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of Washington state’s 81 high-enrollment courses under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). Now they have released the remaining 39 under the same terms, which means that anyone, anywhere, including the state’s 34 public community and technical colleges and four-year colleges and universities, can use, customize, and distribute the course materials.
The Open Course Library project is funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It adheres to SBCTC’s open policy, which requires that all materials created through system grants be openly licensed for the public to freely use, adapt, and distribute under CC BY.
For further background on the project, read our 2010 feature about the project when it was just beginning. All 81 courses are available at the recently redesigned Open Course Library website where each individual course is marked with the CC BY license to enable discovery through Google and other search services on the web.
The SBCTC held a press call today bringing to light a new Cost Analysis report on savings for students where Open Course Library courses have been used in lieu of traditional course materials. For more info, please see:
- Affordable Textbooks For Washington Students: An Updated Cost Analysis of the Open Course Library – Among other findings, “The Open Course Library has saved students $5.5 million in textbook costs to date, including $2.9 million during the 2012-2013 academic year alone.”
- Official SBCTC press release announcing Phase 2 courses (pdf)
- Audio of the Open Course Library media conference call with Q&A (mp3)
On April 19, 2013 US Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris announced the third annual round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT) grant program. The press release states that the current round of grants available is $474.5 million bringing the total 2011-13 program investment to nearly $1.5 billion. A fourth round is planned for 2014. Information on all the rounds is available here.
Funding is targeted at expanding innovative partnerships between community colleges and employers. All education and career training program strategies developed through grant funds have employer engagement and use labor market information to focus training on local economic needs. This years Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA) says the TAACCCT programs aim is to help “adults acquire the skills, degrees, and credentials needed for high-wage, high-skill employment while ensuring needs of employers for skilled workers are met”.
In addition to partnerships TAACCCT stimulates innovation by requiring applicants to build five core elements into their initiatives:
1. Evidence-Based Design
2. Stacked and Latticed Credentials
3. Transferability and Articulation of Credit
4. Advanced Online and Technology Enabled Learning
5. Strategic Alignment
This years SGA even encourages the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
Another innovation, which DOL has maintained in all three rounds of the TAACCCT program, is the requirement for TAACCCT grantees to make all grant funded curricula and training materials Open Educational Resources (OER) by licensing them with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC BY).
This year’s SGA states:
- “The purpose of the CC BY licensing requirement is to ensure that materials developed with funds provided by these grants result in Work that can be freely reused and improved by others.”
- “To ensure that the Federal investment of these funds has as broad an impact as possible and to encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials, as a condition of the receipt of a TAACCCT grant, the grantee will be required to license to the public all work (except for computer software source code, discussed below) created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CCBY) license. Work that must be licensed under the CCBY includes both new content created with the grant funds and modifications made to pre-existing, grantee-owned content using grant funds.”
- “This license allows subsequent users to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the copyrighted Work and requires such users to attribute the Work in the manner specified by the grantee. Notice of the license shall be affixed to the Work. For general information on CCBY, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0“
TAACCCT academic resources developed by the first round of grantees for industry sectors such as health, manufacturing, energy, transportation, and information technology, will become available for reuse in 2014 followed by additional resources from subsequent rounds. What a boon to education and the economy.
Congratulations to the Department of Labor and the Department of Education for their leadership and foresight in requiring publicly funded educational resources be openly licensed in a way that allows them to be reused and continuously improved. This innovation will benefit students, educators, and industry.
Creative Commons remains committed to supporting TAACCCT grantees in deploying and leveraging the CC BY requirement. See OPEN4us.org for a current list of TAACCCT grantee services Creative Commons offers in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative, Center for Applied Special Technology, and the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.No Comments »
Arizona Phoenix College math instructor James Sousa has been teaching math for 15 years at both the community college and K-12 levels. Over the years, he has developed more than 2,600 video tutorials on topics from arithmetic to calculus, and made these videos available on YouTube, originally under a CC BY-NC-SA license. His website and videos, entitled, Mathispower4u, feature both math lessons and examples, and many of the videos have been incorporated into online homework questions available at MyOpenMath.com.
Recently, James decided to change the license on his videos from CC BY-NC-SA to CC BY, or Creative Commons Attribution. He writes,
“Originally, the videos were licensed CC BY-NC-SA. However, the reason for creating these videos was to help students be more successful in mathematics. To increase student access and more easily share this resource with others, I decided to make the videos more open and change the license to CC BY. I hope the videos will provide a quality math tutorial resource to many.”
Mathispower4u videos may be accessed in several ways, including through James’ website, blog, YouTube account, and Phoenix College’s video database. Thanks to James for his great contribution to open education and the field of mathematics!5 Comments »
The OERu aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide using OER learning materials with pathways to gain credible qualifications from recognized education institutions.
Like MOOCs, the OERu will have free open enrollment. But OERu’s open practices go well beyond open enrollment.
The OERu uses an open peer review model inviting open public input and feedback on courses and programs as they are being designed. At the beginning of 2013, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority approved a new Graduate Diploma in Tertiary Education to be developed as OER and offered as part of OERu offerings. OERu recently published the design blueprint and requested public input and feedback for the Open Education Practice elective, one of a number of blueprints for OERu courses.
OERu course materials are licensed using Creative Commons licenses (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA) and based solely on OER (including open textbooks). In addition, OERu course materials are designed and developed using open file formats (easy to revise, remix, and redistribute) and delivered using open-source software.
The OERu network offers assessment and credentialing services through its partner educational institutions on a cost-recovery basis. Through the community service mission of OERu participating institutions, OER learners have open pathways to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit.
Open peer review, open public input, open educational resources, open textbooks, open file formats, open source software, open enrollments – the OERu is distinctively open.
Congratulations to the OERu on its second anniversary and its upcoming international launch in November.1 Comment »