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Open Textbooks, Saving Over 50%, and Learning the Same Amount of Science

Our new article is out in IRRODL! Abstract below; read the whole article here: A Preliminary Examination of the Cost Savings and Learning Impacts of Using Open Textbooks in Middle and High School Science Classes.

Proponents of open educational resources claim that significant cost savings are possible when open textbooks displace traditional textbooks in the classroom. Over a period of two years, we worked with 20 middle and high school science teachers (collectively teaching approximately 3,900 students) who adopted open textbooks to understand the process and determine the overall cost of such an adoption. The teachers deployed open textbooks in multiple ways. Some of these methods cost more than traditional textbooks; however, we did identify and implement a successful model of open textbook adoption that reduces costs by over 50% compared to the cost of adopting traditional textbooks. In addition, we examined the standardized test scores of students using the open textbooks and found no apparent differences in the results of students who used open textbooks compared with previous years when the same teachers’ students used traditional textbooks. However, given the limited sample of participating teachers, further investigation is needed.

2 replies on “Open Textbooks, Saving Over 50%, and Learning the Same Amount of Science”

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There have been a lot of discussions lately about “open textbooks” and their usability in formal (institutionalized) education. It all seems like a great idea and possibly a great step towards improving access to education. However, what’s concerning, in my opinion, is the fact there has been little attention given to the very concept of “textbook”. What does it mean to use, provide, create a textbook for a particular course? How does a textbook change when we make it an open resource? Isn’t the notion (if not verbally, certainly acknowledged in practice in many schools) that a textbook suffice for mastering one’s knowledge on a particular subject one of the biggest drawbacks of textbooks and if so, how it is being avoided in creation of open textbooks? I would be very interested in learning your and others thoughts on these questions.

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