Oregon State University logo

Taking down college costs, one text at a time

College TextDianna Fisher, director of OSU Extended Campus’ Open Oregon State, doesn’t have to look far to see why she and her colleagues on campus and across the nation must succeed in their efforts to offer free textbooks for high-enrollment classes.

“One of the things we learned when we were getting started is that visits to our Emergency Food Pantry on campus increase when students have to buy their books,” she said. “We have students choosing between eating and buying required texts!”

Besides free textbooks, Open Oregon State includes several other initiatives, such as free online modules, and massive open online courses (MOOCs), to provide free access to teaching and learning resources. The open textbook program, aimed at making college less expensive, has received enthusiastic support from the OSU faculty – with one open text already published and several more in the production pipeline – and from Oregon legislators.

The open text project is a joint effort of the OSU Libraries, the OSU Press and Open Oregon State. Coordinating with similar programs on campuses across the nation, it aims to deliver – online and for free – peer-reviewed, academically sound, frequently updated texts, incorporating traditional and newer multimedia content, and focusing on lower-division, high-enrollment courses. Downloadable in several formats, the texts can be printed, read in PDF format on any computer or viewed in an e-reader such as a Kindle.

Fisher and her colleagues will share Oregon State’s open textbooks around the world and will watch for similar free texts from other campuses that OSU’s teaching cadre might use. The days of having dozens of expensive texts intended to teach the same standard subjects, each frequently re-released with minor edits so that students must buy new versions, may be numbered.

“Let’s face it,” Fisher said. “There are only so many ways to teach quadratic equations.”

Textbook authors who take part in the project don’t work for free; they typically receive stipends in the range of $10,000 – up to $15,000 for particularly ambitious projects – or in some cases they will be “bought out” of part of their teaching load while they’re preparing a text. A rigorous approval and review process will ensure that OSU’s open texts are up to date and effective.

Fisher noted that although it’s on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, the open textbook project is rooted in OSU’s oldest mission: to make knowledge more accessible.

To learn more about the program, and to gain access to a prototype text and see a list of other open texts in progress, visit open.oregonstate.edu/textbooks.

Fisher noted that although the response from current Oregon State faculty has been gratifying and is enough to get the project rolling, she would love to cast the net wider, and to include emeriti faculty and alumni who have pertinent expertise. She invites interested, qualified potential contributors of any open initiatives to contact her at dianna.fisher@oregonstate.edu.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *