Washington lowers textbook costs

Instead of paying $100 for a paper textbook, community college students in Washington state will be able to download “open-source” textbooks for as little as $10, reports Katherine Long in the Seattle Times.

Because they’re digital, books produced this way could be adapted or updated on the fly to fit different classes.

. . . They could lower the cost of a two-year degree, with some studies showing students spend up to $1,000 a year on textbooks.

Faculty at the state’s community and technical colleges are assembling “open-source” textbooks and course materials for the 81 most popular classes.

The open-source textbook drive is part of a larger state effort, called the Open Course Library, to assemble all curriculum materials — including the course syllabus, videos, lecture notes and exams — for the 81 most popular courses, said Cable Green, director of elearning and open education for the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC).

The project will be funded by $750,000 in state funds and a matching grant from the Gates Foundation.

Bellevue College received a $783,000 grant from the Department of Education to buy 500 netbook computers and load them with electronic textbooks. “A netbook loaded with course materials for one class will rent for $35 a quarter, and could save a full-time student up to $600 a year,” Long writes.

Commercial publishers are now offering to sell electronic versions of texts that expire after a quarter for $30.

The textbooks and curriculum materials are being developed this fall and winter for the first 43 classes with the highest enrollment in the state’s two-year colleges, including English Composition I and II, General Psychology, Introduction to Sociology and Introduction to Chemistry. By fall 2012, textbooks and curriculum materials will be completed for all 81 of the most popular classes.

Sometimes, the best materials for a class may not be textbooks at all, Green said. The Open Course Library will tap into materials from such highly respected sources as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University, which offer free videos, lecture notes and exams.

Some four-year college students are trying to persuade their professors to assign open-source textbooks.

Via Washington Monthly’s College Guide.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON November 10, 2010

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Open-source textbooks for $10? — Joanne Jacobs

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