Open-source textbooks provide student benefit
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 14, 2012 14:10
In late September, California Gov. Jerry Brown approved a proposal for the state to fund 50 open-source textbooks for use in lower-level public postsecondary classes. The bill will ultimately allow for the creation of a California Digital Open Source Library that legislators hope to expand during the coming years.
The Student Public Interest Research Groups found that providing students with open and affordable access to necessary textbooks saved students 80 percent or more compared with traditional textbook publishers’ costs. Financial benefit is obviously a prominent benefit for students struggling with college costs, but this legislation opens the door in more ways than one might think.
Open textbooks provide instructors of both higher education and K-12 the flexibility not available with traditional textbooks. Traditional textbooks are often updated frequently, forcing instructors to deal with new editions and updating their class curriculums. Many open textbooks are also licensed in a way that allows instructor modification to tailor the content to fit specific class curriculum while still providing the information resources.
Florida’s postsecondary-student population would benefit greatly from legislation like the one passed in California. In 2009, the Florida Open Access Textbook Task Force Survey was created to push the initiative. House Bill 5201, which provides funding for postsecondary education, was passed the next year. The bill aims to “work with public postsecondary education institutions in developing a standardized process for the review and approval of open-access textbooks,” but open-access textbooks are not currently being used by UCF just yet, and very little information is available about their use in other Florida public universities.
The Orange Grove, Florida’s self-proclaimed digital repository, offers many online textbooks in a wide range of subjects, but few are actually being utilized in the classroom. Florida legislators seem to have dropped the ball halfway through the project, passing legislation that funds and promotes the technology, but does not put it into practice. Florida college students should not have to wait any longer when the potential for a fiscally sound alternative to traditional textbooks is waiting to be utilized. A statewide program that all public universities participate in can offset millions of dollars spent by students each year on textbooks.
Digital textbooks and the move toward open-sourcing education have the potential to revolutionize the way higher education is viewed. Not only does it free students from footing the bill for overpriced textbooks on top of tuition, but it also provides anyone who has a desire to learn with the educational resources to do so at one’s leisure. With today’s widespread Internet accessibility, learning has taken on new forms and has provided many with resources to gain knowledge. College enrollment is not the final frontier for those who desire to learn for their own betterment and curiosity.