California senator proposes legislation to create Open Educational Resources to provide free access to digital textbooks for 50 lower-division courses in California; books would be available via computers, mobile device for free or in print for US$20
December 14, 2011
– Joined by students, educators, The Twenty Million Minds Foundation (20MM), and other supporters, California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg announced proposed legislation to establish a 21st century project that could save California college students hundreds of millions of dollars a year in higher education costs.
At a time when higher education affordability is at the forefront of national debate, this legislation would create Open Educational Resources (OER) in California that give undergraduate students free access to textbooks for 50 lower-division courses. These books would be available via computers and mobile devices through a digital open source library, with a print version offered for around $20.
"There's a clarion call from students and middle class families to make higher education more accessible and affordable," said Steinberg. "Open source digital textbooks can bring real relief of nearly $1,000 a year to each college student."
Dr. Barbara Illowsky of De Anza College has already authored one such textbook "Collaborative Statistics," this interactive open digital textbook is provided free to students today on Kno.com.
"Choosing to adopt the open digital textbook for my students spares them thousands of dollars in textbook expenses," said Dr. Larry Green, Lake Tahoe Community College professor using Collaborative Statistics, "and the book's academic quality is comparable, if not better, than the pricey versions offered by publishers."
Steinberg's legislation would create a competitive "Request for Proposals" (RFP) process challenging others to develop high quality digital open source textbooks and related courseware. All would be placed under a "Creative Commons" license that allows for free access and faculty customization. To ensure materials meet the rigorous standards of college curricula, they would be reviewed and approved by subject matter experts.
Students also unveiled an online petition calling on legislators and faculty to support the creation and use of OER: http://www.change.org/petitions/affordable-textbooks-now
OER has been supported by educational foundations for nearly a decade now, and 20MM has been instrumental in promoting innovative strategies to lower book costs for college students. "You are in the midst of a very large announcement nationally," said former Senate Majority Leader, now President of 20MM, Dean Florez, "Senator Steinberg is going to lead this nation and show every state it can be done." The hope is that others will join in and "live by the Steinberg rule, provide it for under $20."