How Some Colleges Are Offering Free Textbooks

Career College Central summary:

  • Open textbooks are catching on among educators and institutions looking to save students money. A 2014 study by The Student Public Interest Research Groups, which advocates for open textbooks, found that textbook costs are deterring students from purchasing assigned materials and impacting their course selection — and schools are starting to take notice.
  • "The degree of unaffordability is getting to the point that it's hurting learning," said David Wiley, co-founder of Lumen Learning, which helps schools adopt open educational resources.
  • Then why aren't open textbooks more common? Many educators say they are content with proprietary textbooks and don't want to alter their class syllabus for a new text — a time-consuming task.
  • Others believe open textbooks don't face the same academic or editorial scrutiny as proprietary texts, which is true with some versions. The nonprofit College Open Textbooks, which promotes awareness and adoption of open textbooks, said in a 2012 report that "copy editing is an issue" with many open texts, noting that "if [they] were to have the same editing quality as proprietary textbooks, they would proliferate faster."
  • It raises the question of which is better for students: an imperfect textbook or no textbook at all?
  • To address this concern, publishers of open textbooks are beefing up academic oversight to offer peer-reviewed material that they say is comparable to proprietary textbooks. And, they're finding an audience.

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