Saving Money with Open Textbooks

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One day a few years ago a student came to ask Sonoma State University Chemistry Professor Steve Farmer a question during his office hours. The student was shaking slightly. When he asked why, Farmer was shocked to hear it was because the student hadn’t yet eaten that day. It was then he realized the high cost of textbooks led to some students skipping meals to buy required books. Farmer knew at that moment he had to do something to help.
“I found out that one of my class’ books was $400 in our campus bookstore,” he says. “So I started looking into alternatives to these expensive books.”
In the eight years since that encounter, Farmer has become one of the most prolific users of the free, open-source textbook website LibreText (formerly ChemWiki).  Now, using open source information on the site, 200 Sonoma State chemistry students are able to save roughly $10,000 total per year on textbooks.
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Open source textbooks, are they making the grade

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Finally, a bit of good news on the college costs front: A study out of Brigham Young University finds that free open source textbooks do the job pretty darn well.

The study of nearly 17,000 students at 9 colleges found that open source textbooks (or open educational resources — OERs in academic lingo) found that students learn the same amount or more from the free books across many subjects. (Here’s a sampling of the sorts of texts available, via a University of Minnesota site.)

What’s more, 85% of students and instructors said open textbooks were actually better than the commercial ones. The research focused its results based on measurements such as course completion, final grade, final grade of C- or higher, enrollment intensity, and enrollment intensity in the following semester.
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