Thursday, April 28, 2016

Freeing the Textbooks: Open-Source Textbooks and the Next Generation of Education

Sticker-shock isn’t just something that happens at a car dealership. Each semester, college students across the country are faced with an increasingly expensive tab at their school bookstore as they struggle to afford the textbooks that are required materials for their courses. While financial aid helps millions of students afford college, the funds often don’t cover expenses such as textbooks and course materials, even if they are required.

Many students with limited financial resources are forced to make a tough choice – depend on high-interest credit cards to pay the bill, or try and get by without buying the textbooks for certain courses, which can put their academic performance in jeopardy.

Recent studies reflect the growing financial burden on students. The College Board estimates that the average American college student will spend upwards of $1,200 per school year on textbooks and supplies – including some textbooks which may cost more than $200 each. Further, the Government Accountability Office has found that over the past decade, the cost of college textbooks has risen dramatically – some 82% – nearly three times the rate of inflation.

Surely this trend is an unsustainable one, and has the potential to create significant barriers for many students who are seeking to pursue their education but simply cannot meet the financial costs. There are tactics for trying to decrease or eliminate the costs of textbooks. As with many problems, the prohibitive cost of textbooks creates an opportunity ripe for an entrepreneurial solution (like Bookboon or Bigwords).

There has been some movement by Congress  to address this growing concern. Both the House and the Senate are discussing proposals that would provide grants to support open-source pilot programs at schools across the country. These programs would focus on the expansion of open-source academic resources, such as fully-licensed textbooks, that are easily available to students online.

A local professor has taken action to help students limit their textbook expenses. Irene Duranczyk, a University of Minnesota professor, uses an open-source textbook for her statistics course. This online resource saves her students $180, and she says it is even more beneficial than the actual textbook because she can customize the material to fit her teaching style.

Textbook companies have begun to respond by offering some digital content, but it is often offered only as an additional service for students who purchase the physical textbook – or is hidden behind online paywalls, with their own high price tag.

One thing is for sure, the digital revolution is causing more and more students to question why they are forced to pay so much for material that could be delivered to them at a fraction of the cost. As online content becomes more and more accessible, it would seem that the traditional textbook could, like the music album or DVD, become a relic of the past.

No comments :

Post a Comment