Open source textbooks have gained much traction at UConn over the past year. The most successful endeavor was the creation of an open source book for general chemistry classes, which was financially supported by the Undergraduate Student Government. About 2,000 students have used this new textbook over the last couple of semesters, saving an estimated $600,000 in total. As more sections and other classes move towards this resource students could soon collectively save millions every semester.
So far, there have been next to no complaints about the new textbooks. This indicates that the substantial reduction in price has not led to any quality issues. Besides the price advantage, open source textbooks have the unique trait of being easily corrected because of their nature.
This move is especially important considering the condition of state funding for the university. Funding for UConn has been continually slashed for years, with another 10 percent cut expected for the upcoming fiscal year. This has prompted tuition and fee hikes that in many cases are wreaking financial havoc on students. Open source textbooks are one way in which the university can relieve some of this financial pressure.
A chemistry textbook, for example could cost around $150. Once the initial funding for an open source textbook occurs, it is essentially free to students going forward. It may not sound like a lot considering the scale of what tuition costs, but every reduction counts. More importantly, the university is not at the mercy of a third party when it comes to this effort. They can’t stop budget cuts, but it is in their power to invest in and develop open source textbooks.
The university has already begun this process. While USG got the ball rolling, the university has been offering incentives to professors who become acquainted with open educational resources as well as to those who put forward a plan to incorporate these resources into their courses. The UConn Co-op has been a great asset as well, donating $300,000 towards these initiatives.
Open education resources will play a critical role during the coming years in keeping costs down for students. The university should continue working with student groups and professors on campus to advance this initiative. If UConn puts in the appropriate resources they could lead many other colleges by example. The more places that have access to open source textbooks the better.