Online education resources gain footing in colleges via open textbooks - CNN.com
"College student Caitlin Ryen works two jobs to support herself and pay tuition at South Florida Community College. When a new semester rolls around, that usually means choosing which textbooks to buy, or not buying any at all, she says. The 22-year-old caught a break this term when she found out her physics course materials were free. Instead of asking students to buy a textbook from a major publishing company, Ryen's professor assigned a free digital textbook that he customized for the class. Ryen's professor, Erik Christensen, began exploring the format in 2007, when a student asked to borrow a textbook because he couldn't afford one. While looking around for affordable alternatives, Christensen came across the concept of open-source textbooks, or course materials offered for free online by their author under a non-restrictive license. This year, it saved Ryen from having to decide which books to buy, and enabled her to spend $230 on biology course materials, she says. It makes other parts of her life easier, too: She can read her physics textbook on her smartphone before her bartending shift or between classes ... Open textbooks are catching on among educators and institutions looking to save students money. A 2014 study by The Student Public Interest Research Groups, which advocates for open textbooks, found that textbook costs are deterring students from purchasing assigned materials and impacting their course selection -- and schools are starting to take notice ... Others believe open textbooks don't face the same academic or editorial scrutiny as proprietary texts, which is true with some versions. The nonprofit College Open Textbooks, which promotes awareness and adoption of open textbooks, said in a 2012 report that 'copy editing is an issue' with many open texts, noting that 'if [they] were to have the same editing quality as proprietary textbooks, they would proliferate faster.'It raises the question of which is better for students: an imperfect textbook or no textbook at all? To address this concern, publishers of open textbooks are beefing up academic oversight to offer peer-reviewed material that they say is comparable to proprietary textbooks -- and, they're finding an audience ... Born of the open source movement that gained steam in the 1990s, the first decade of open textbooks was focused on creating content and getting it online under a Creative Commons license that meant anyone could access it. Platforms such as MIT's OpenCourseWare, California's MERLOT system, Flat World Knowledge andRice University's Connexions emerged to offer lesson plans and course materials created by faculty. Under the open license, anyone could take the material and modify it to suit their needs ..."