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OER Pioneer OpenStax Launches Personalized Learning Tool for 3 Courses

The Rice University non-profit that has released almost two-dozen free textbooks into academia is beta-testing a new personalized learning system that works with its materials. OpenStax, which stated that it provides open educational resources to a million students each year, has been developing OpenStax Tutor for three years. The new service will be available this fall for three courses: college physics, biology and sociology.

The tutoring service, which is available online, uses web-based OpenStax textbooks to deliver content, simulations, videos, "spaced" practice questions and instant feedback. There is no software to download. While students study, Tutor "learns" how they learn and what areas they struggle with and then uses that information to "tutor" them. The program personalizes the assessments and schedules practice optimally to help users focus effort on areas that need extra work and support them in remembering what they've already learned in the course.


The "ultimate goal," according to OpenStax Managing Director Daniel Williamson, is "to provide students with the tools they need to achieve their educational goals."

While the textbooks are free in digital form, the tutoring system will cost $10 per student per course.

The development team for OpenStax is working on integration with the most popular learning management systems to help instructors adopt the software easily and enable students to access it with their existing course login.

The work to date was funded by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation, all of which have also supported creation of the OpenStax collection of textbooks. Currently, the organization is also seeking funding from philanthropic partners to cover expansion of the Tutor service to other OpenStax courses.

OpenStax is running webinars to explain the new service and inviting faculty members to sign up for access to the beta service. More information is available on the OpenStax Tutor site here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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