Texas leading on open education

By Anyi Fomengia

Texas recently passed legislation that takes steps toward expanding availability of open education resources (OER) for college and university students. Open educational resources are freely available materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared to better serve all students. OER include all kinds of content such as textbooks, lesson plans, assignments, games, and other educational materials, and can include printed materials, not just digital. This new bill will help transform classrooms throughout the state to use more OER in place of traditional materials.

Using OER textbooks and materials will not only save students and schools money but it will also provide high-quality, up-to date information that meet educational standards.

One example is Odessa College, located in west Texas, which saved their students a quarter of a million dollars using open education textbooks the Fall 2017 semester alone. Students can instead use that money to pay for their living expenses, such as food and transportation.

Similarly, just two years ago, Texas passed legislation to expand OER for K-12 students. Texas legislators provided $10 million to the development of open education resources to be used in state k-12 schools. With $5 million of those dollars going to open textbook publisher, OpenStax, to create textbooks for seven courses, the state saved million of dollars because purchasing the textbook for just one subject would normally cost the state close to $3 million dollars.

With these savings, Texas can make AP exams more accessible for students who can not afford the exam without state provided subsidies. This program will help Texas has set aside enough money so 2017-18 students will only pay $7 per AP exam, compared to the normal $93.

It is positive that Texas doubled their commitment with $20 million to produce more resources for teachers and students for the 2019-10 school year. The state will continue to work with OpenStax, a non-profit group that develops open educational materials such as textbooks for high school courses such as AP courses and college textbooks.

Through this monetary pledge, Texas has shown that they are dedicated to the success of every student, regardless of their economic status. If more states follow in the footsteps of Texas, more students would be able to pursue courses that interest them in fields that are otherwise out of their affordability. Furthermore, students will be able to take on a full-time class load, graduate earlier, and save money – so we encourage other states to follow this example.

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