Open, Online Textbook Initiative Aims To Drive Down College Costs

Sep 29, 2016

Rhode Island College has already signed onto the initiative, with pilot program using open texts for a biology course.

State officials say a new initiative to increase the use of digital textbooks will cut costs for many students and make higher education more accessible for everyone, including English language learners.

The open-license, digital textbooks are generally free and can be downloaded on a student’s computer. They can also be updated or changed the professor giving the course.

"This is about more than just cost, it’s also about making sure we have the most relevant materials in front of our students,” said Rhode  Island Chief Innovation Officer Richard Culatta. “When examples need to be updated, if it’s a digital version, that can happen instantly and be pushed out.”

Seven public and private universities in Rhode Island, including Brown and Rhode Island College, have pledged to look into increasing their use of digital textbooks. RIC piloted the initiative in a biology course, saving students an estimated $100,000, according to Culatta. In addition to the cost, Culatta sees additional benefits to the online textbooks.

“The digital versions of these open text books are more accessible, and so if you have a student that is maybe a second language learner, that needs to be able to click and translate a word, all of those things are much easier to do,” said Culatta.