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Free e-textbooks could save Oklahoma college students hundreds of dollars

If University of Oklahoma student Mandi Gatlin had enrolled in Introduction to Sociology last year, she could have expected to pay between $50 and $100 for the course's textbook. But because she enrolled in the class last semester, Gatlin got her book for free.
by Silas Allen Published: May 13, 2013

To make matters worse, he said, companies tended to publish new editions each year, so students couldn't buy used copies or sell their textbooks back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.

So Damphousse, the associate dean of OU's College of Arts and Sciences, began looking elsewhere for a cheaper option for his classes. He considered writing his own book using open-source materials.

But then he came across Rice University's nonprofit OpenStax program, which offers free online college textbooks. Besides the fact that it was free, Damphousse said he was attracted to the book because it seemed to move easily across platforms, so it would work for every student, no matter what kind of technology he or she had available.

“Everyone in my class has equal access to the book,” he said.

Making the book free and openly available could help student performance in the class, he said. In semesters past, he has noticed that many students don't buy the book because it's simply too expensive. OU places copies of the book in the library, but that still isn't ideal, because the number of copies is limited, and students still need to go to the library to find it, he said.

Richard Baraniuk, a Rice engineering professor and the founder of the program, said the project is limited in scope for now. OpenStax offers only five titles, he said, but he hopes to see that number expand with additional funding from private foundations.

“Just imagine a textbook where every kid gets their own book, because every kid is different,” he said. “That's really the future of education.”

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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