Open Educational Resources

CSU Libraries Make Open Resource Textbooks Available to Students

Thirteen California State University (CSU) libraries will now offer open educational resource (OER) textbooks to their 285,000 students. The libraries, which already represent the largest coordinated university library system in the United States, will now make available the textbooks from OpenStax College, an initiative begun at Rice University that provides free and low-cost digital and print textbooks to college students.

The 13 university libraries will begin displaying and distributing the textbooks during the spring semester, thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the Gary Michelson Twenty Million Minds Foundation, which typically seeds technologies to lower the cost of education.

Michelson, the founder of the foundation, called "the skyrocketing cost of textbooks an underreported financial burden on students."

The OpenStax initiative hopes to help those students by providing high quality, affordable resources for higher education.

The textbooks, peer-reviewed by educators, have been used in more than 1,100 college courses around the world since the initiative began two years ago, saving students what OpenStax College estimates to be $30 million. The College Board estimates the average college student spends $1,200 a year on books and supplies.

"Our books are opening access to higher education for students who couldn't otherwise afford it," said Rice Professor Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax College, last year. "We've already saved students millions of dollars, and thanks to the generosity of our philanthropic partners, we hope to save students more than $500 million by 2020."

The 11 textbooks already available have been downloaded more than 650,000 times. The initiative, funded entirely by philanthropic donations, plans to add 10 additional new titles within the next two years and will eventually cover 25 of the nation's most-attended college courses, according to the organization. Current topics covered by the texts include introductory physics, anatomy and physiology, sociology, statistics and biology.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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