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Nonprofit provides Fresno State students with free textbooks

Nonprofit provides Fresno State students with free textbooks

Nonprofit publisher provides open educational resource textbooks to students at nine U.S. colleges and universities

@TheSunGazette

FRESNO – As Valley college students began their semester at Fresno State last month, they may have noticed it was a lot cheaper to buy textbooks. In some cases, it was free.

Nine U.S. colleges and universities, including Fresno State, partnered with Rice University-based nonprofit publisher OpenStax last summer to provide students with free textbooks. OpenStax is a unique publisher of peer-reviewed textbooks given to students for free and made available under an open license that gives instructors flexible use of the material. After its launch in 2012, OpenStax quickly became the largest publisher of open educational resources (OER). With more than 35 titles currently in its library, OpenStax books are used in nearly half of all colleges and universities in the U.S. and over 1,100 institutions internationally. The partnership is expected to save thousands of students at the nine universities a collective $9.1 million on textbooks and other course material costs during the current academic year. 

OpenStax assisted nine colleges and universities last year in their efforts to encourage widespread use of OER from a variety of providers. The OpenStax Institutional Partner Program is now in its fourth year and has helped 46 institutions to date.

“The nine institutions that participated in the program for the 2018-2019 academic year had tremendous success with encouraging faculty to consider OER through their peer-to-peer teaching faculty advocacy, presentations during academic department meetings and grant programs to support faculty transitioning to OER,” said Nicole Finkbeiner, director of institutional relations at OpenStax. “Thanks to their dedication and advocacy, more than 100,000 students will have immediate and unlimited access to their course content, allowing them to be fully prepared for their courses.”

Each partner school receives individualized consulting from OpenStax and works with the other participating schools to support their goal of expanding OER throughout their institutions. Each school develops a strategic plan and works to implement that plan over the course of the year. The cohort model not only provides support but also encourages accountability.

The 2019-2020 cohort consists of 10 institutions, including Prairie View A&M University, the first historically black university to participate in the program.

“We have a diverse group of students that come from different countries, ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic groups,” said Yolander Youngblood, professor of biology at Prairie View A&M and an advocate for the university’s participation in the OpenStax program. “There are often culturally relevant situations that must be dealt with in the classroom, which creates a challenge for the instructor, It is a unique experience to show how open educational resources work under these circumstances and we are excited to be part of this year’s cohort.”

Other colleges in this year’s cohort are the Austin Community College District, College of DuPage, McHenry County College, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Millersville University, Muskegon Community College, North Carolina State University and Portland State University.

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