By Savannah Stover
Volunteer State Community College is one of 12 colleges selected for the Institutional Partnership Program with OpenStax, one of the largest OER (Online Educational Resources) providers. Housed under the prestigious Rice University, OpenStax textbooks are being used in over 60 percent of colleges and universities in over 100 countries. With their emphasis on free, open-source, peer-reviewed digital textbooks, OpenStax has saved students over $1.2 billion, with $272 in student savings last year alone.
“Rice University’s educational technology initiative, is vastly expanding its library of free textbooks, working toward a goal of ensuring that no student ever has to worry about textbook costs again,” said Jeff Falk, Rice University’s Director of National Media Relations.
“Each year a large applicant pool endures the competitive OpenStax application process to be included in their International Partnership Program, ultimately selecting only 9-15 institutions,” said Symphonie Swift, OpenStax Communications Specialist.
Vol State was chosen for OpenStax out of a large pool of applicants.
“In the interest of cost-savings and increasing online course efficiency, especially in our current COVID climate, Vol State has made a commitment to OER,” said Livy Simpson, VSCC librarian and OpenStax campus representative. “VSCC President Dr. (Jerry) Faulkner and VSCC Vice President Dr. (Jennifer) Brezina are both big supporters.”
“Vol State students have to think about textbook costs. Even the inclusive access model, such as DEI and Cengage, can be frustrating for students, creating a cost barrier that forces them to have to drop classes because they can’t afford the textbooks. OpenStax provides Open Education Resources (OER) that can be reused, revised, remixed, allowing anyone to use the free digital textbook as they best see fit for their course. This availability allows students to have a free open-sourced digital textbook that can be viewed online, downloaded as a pdf for offline usage, and viewable on a mobile phone,” said Barbara Gooch, a VSCC student and OpenStax Intern.
“For Vol State students, acceptance into this elite group has major cost-saving benefits. Not only will they see reduced costs for their textbooks, but they will have instant access to their books the first day of class,” said Simpson.
A benefit for students who have a textbook-based assignment the first day of class.
“Many faculty appreciate that they can use OER to replace their textbooks or as a supplement to the primary text because of the creativity it gives them in designing the courses and to help students master the content,” said Rhonda Gregory, Dean of Academic Support.
Faculty further benefit from OpenStax Tutor. Gooch said it as a platform that professors can utilize for homework, much like IncludEd. It is available for physics, biology, sociology.
Another added benefit, for students without consistent access to broadband internet is that digital textbooks can be downloaded for free and accessed anywhere, anytime. For students who would still prefer a printed copy of their textbooks, Gooch said you can still purchase it directly from OpenStax at a much lower price than big publishers, another significant cost savings.
“OpenStax has many high-quality textbooks available online with plans to double the textbook course offerings within the near future. This sets them apart as a forefront in open-sourced digital textbooks with equality for all students in mind,” Gooch said.