Los Angeles Times Covers our Free Textbook Project
Many thanks to Gale Holland at the Los Angeles Times for her story this week about our Community College Consortium for Open Education Resources, one of the fruits of the policy on public domain learning materials I worked to enact as a community college trustee. Here is a link to the full story, and some excerpts:
From the Los Angeles Times
By Gale Holland
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 18, 2008
The annual college textbook rush starts this month, a time of reckoning for many students who will struggle to cover eye-popping costs of $128, $156, even $198 a volume.
Caltech economics professor R. Preston McAfee finds it annoying that students and faculty haven't looked harder for alternatives to the exorbitant prices. McAfee wrote a well-regarded open-source economics textbook and gave it away -- online. But although the text, released in 2007, has been adopted at several prestigious colleges, including Harvard and Claremont-McKenna, it has yet to make a dent in the wider textbook market.
"I was disappointed in the uptake," McAfee said recently at an outdoor campus cafe. "But I couldn't continue assigning idiotic books that are starting to break $200."
McAfee is one of a band of would-be reformers who are trying to beat the high cost -- and, they say, the dumbing down -- of college textbooks by writing or promoting open-source, no-cost digital texts.
Thus far, their quest has been largely quixotic, but that could be changing. Public colleges and universities in California this past year backed several initiatives to promote online course materials, and publishers and entrepreneurs are stepping up release of electronic textbooks, which typically sell at reduced prices....
Open educational resources is an amorphous category for publishers, but basically it includes e-textbooks, courses, videos, taped lectures, tests, software and other materials released online free to the public without restriction on use.
Universities for more than a decade have experimented with open-source educational sites and online libraries as a way to spread knowledge more equitably. Some seek to change the nature of the textbook by offering "chunks" of instruction that professors can mix and match to create their own content "collections."
One of the biggest pushes for open educational resources has come from California community colleges, where students devoted nearly 60% of their education spending in 2007-08 to textbooks, according to a California State Auditor's report released last week.
The Foothill-De Anza Community College District in the Silicon Valley has teamed with the state's other two-year colleges to encourage faculty to create, use and select digital textbooks. The California Community Colleges Board of Governors voted in May to back open educational resources.
"One of the most heartbreaking things you can see is a student in the bookstore with a course catalog in one hand looking at the book prices to see what courses he can afford to take," said Hal Plotkin, a Foothill-De Anza trustee who was instrumental in the drive.
Several experts said a strong shift by California's public universities to open-source textbooks could be the jolt that brings them into wider use.