Harper partners with OpenStax to increase use of free textbooks

The high cost of traditional textbooks – an average of somewhere between $600 and $1,400 per student each year, research shows – not only impacts students’ ability to attend college, but also their ability to complete coursework.

A new partnership aims to reduce those textbook and course material costs for Harper College students.

OpenStax, a Rice University initiative committed to improving access to quality learning materials, selected nine institutions including Harper for the 2018-2019 OpenStax Institutional Partnership Program to encourage use of free, peer-reviewed textbooks and other openly licensed course materials on campus.

“College affordability is extremely important to our students, and this partnership will support Harper’s efforts to remove financial barriers and provide immediate access to educational materials,” said Michael Bates, Dean of Teaching, Learning and Distance Education at Harper College.

According to OpenStax, selected schools demonstrated a willingness to drive adoption of open educational resources (OER), which are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research and other purposes.

One positive outcome, Bates said, is that students will spend less overall on textbooks and related course materials, which may enable them to enroll in more courses and complete their degree or certificate more swiftly.

To maximize impact, Harper will target high-enrollment courses and courses in which the entire department collaborates to adopt OER or no-cost/low-cost resources. Harper students have saved $300,000 already through OER adoptions in a variety of disciplines including computer information systems, English, math and sociology.

OpenStax will provide individualized consulting and access to their free, peer-reviewed textbooks. The program’s 2016-2017 cohort of partner schools saw a 150 percent increase in student use of OER in the 2017-2018 academic year, saving an additional 50,000 students a total of $4.9 million.