Houston, Tex. – Eleven U.S. colleges and universities that partnered with Rice University-based nonprofit publisher OpenStax last summer to encourage the use of freely available learning materials expect to save their students nearly $17.4 million on textbook and materials costs in the coming academic year. Most of the projected savings -- $10.7 million -- are a result of initiatives implemented during OpenStax's institutional partnership program.
OpenStax produces high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free online and low-cost in print. Since its inception in 2012, OpenStax has become the largest publisher of open educational resources (OER), with 29 textbooks used in 48 percent of colleges and universities in the U.S. In 2015, OpenStax revised its institutional partnership program to help campuses develop strategies to increase OER use on their campuses, make their existing initiatives more effective and work together to learn from and support each other.
Eleven schools were chosen from 42 applicants for the 2017 cohort: California State University, Fullerton; College of Lake County (Illinois); DeAnza College (California); Florida International University; Grossmont College (California); Houston Community College System; Saddleback College (California); Sinclair Community College (Ohio); State University of New York System; University of Hartford (Connecticut); and University of Kansas.
"These schools worked exceptionally hard to increase student savings, student access and faculty academic freedom by encouraging faculty to consider OER for their courses," said Nicole Finkbeiner, director of institutional relations at OpenStax and founder and facilitator of the partnership program. "Thanks to their efforts, the number of students using OER on their campuses has almost tripled."
"The OpenStax institutional partnership has been a valuable asset to the growth of OER and our zero-textbook degrees at Houston Community College (HCC)," said Stephen Levey, associate vice chancellor of academic instruction at HCC. "Its activities and contribution to our overall OER effort align directly with several of our strategic objectives, including improving the student experience, increasing innovation in teaching and learning and expanding the use of technology throughout the institution."
HCC students are expected to save an extra $1.4 million this school year over 2017-18, an increase of nearly 100 percent, and other institutions have experienced similar growth.
"Our partnership with OpenStax has allowed us to scale our efforts at a much more rapid pace than if we had done it alone," said Joseph Riquelme, assistant vice president of Florida International University Online, which has reported over 13,500 students using OER and $714 thousand in additional student savings. "It's like having an OER coach to train us and teach us best practices, keep us motivated and make sure that we stay focused on the initiative."
During the monthly conference calls with Finkbeiner, OER advocates from each school compare strategies and discuss which tactics have been successful and which have proven ineffective.
"Hearing what challenges others were having and what they were seeking input on was valuable -- this put our situation into perspective, helped us finalize decisions and allowed us to steer away from tactics that hadn’t worked for others before we wasted time and resources," said Lergia Olivo, instructional design manager at Florida International University Online.
OpenStax recently announced nine new partner schools for the 2018-2019 program: Arkansas State University, Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Palomar College (California), San Diego City College, San Jacinto College (Texas), Santa Monica College (California), Thomas Nelson Community College (Virginia), University of Missouri System and William Rainey Harper College (Illinois).
Current partner schools from previous years are Alamo Colleges (Texas); Auburn University (Alabama); BCcampus (British Columbia); Central New Mexico Community College; College of the Canyons (California); Grand Rapids Community College (Michigan); Lansing Community College (Michigan); Maricopa Community Colleges (Arizona); Northern Essex Community College (Massachusetts); The Ohio State University; Pasadena City College (California); Salt Lake Community College (Utah); South Florida State College; Tarrant County College (Texas); Tulsa Community College (Oklahoma); UMass Amherst; University of Arizona; University of Connecticut; University of Idaho; University of Georgia; University of Oklahoma; University System of Georgia; University of Texas, San Antonio; Utah State University; Virginia Tech; and Washington State University.
As Rice University's nonprofit education technology initiative, supported by philanthropic foundations, OpenStax is committed to improving access to quality learning materials. In addition to college textbooks, OpenStax also provides Advanced Placement textbooks developed and peer-reviewed by educators, along with low-cost, personalized courseware that helps students learn. For more information, visit http://OpenStax.org.