Open-education Partners Hope to Save Students $10 million by 2015

Lumen Learning, OpenStax College aim to expand reach of free, high-quality textbooks

Taking aim at the high cost of commercial textbooks, Rice University-based publisher OpenStax College today announced a partnership with open-education pioneer Lumen Learning that is projected to save students $10 million over the next two years by facilitating the adoption of free, online textbooks by colleges and universities.

The new partnership will combine OpenStax College’s free textbooks with Lumen Learning’s support services to help higher education institutions and faculty members successfully transition to using readily available “open-educational resources” (OER).

“Although a growing number of free, high-quality educational materials are available, many instructors and academic leaders are uncertain about how to begin taking advantage of these resources,” said David Harris, editor-in-chief of OpenStax College.

With a combination of high-quality content and a well-supported pathway to OER adoption, OpenStax College and Lumen Learning expect to achieve significant textbook cost savings at both two- and four-year colleges and universities nationwide.

“When we work with faculty members to offer courses using high-quality open content like the textbooks from OpenStax College, student spending on course materials drops by almost 100 percent,” said David Wiley, co-founder of Lumen Learning. “Our research indicates measurable improvements in student success when students have free digital access to all the materials they need to be successful from the first day of class.”

OpenStax College provides peer-reviewed, open-education textbooks that meet the scope and sequence requirements of many college courses. Lumen Learning helps both two- and four-year institutions implement and sustain successful OER pilots and programs. Under the partnership, OpenStax College and Lumen Learning will offer open textbooks as well as faculty training and support for the adoption of OER-based courses that align course content with an institution’s specific learning objectives.

“Our partnership with Lumen Learning illustrates that an ecosystem of services and resources is growing organically to support the long-term sustainability of OpenStax College textbooks,” said Richard Baraniuk, founder of OpenStax College and the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice. “This is yet another step toward a bright future in which a student’s access to high-quality educational resources will be limited only by their educational aspirations.”

Lumen Learning clients already benefit from the partnership. For example, College of the Redwoods and Pittsburg State University now use an OpenStax College biology textbook. Santa Ana College and Wiley College are redesigning introductory sociology courses using OpenStax College’s textbook.

Wendy Riggs, a biology instructor at College of the Redwoods, has used an OpenStax book for nearly two years. “Using open textbooks, my students don’t have to wait for financial aid or make tough budgeting choices to buy the textbook,” Riggs said. “They are also doing better. They hit the ground running from the very beginning of the course.”

OpenStax College uses a funding model in which foundations underwrite the costs of producing high-quality textbooks that are published online free for all college students and instructors. The publisher’s growing catalog includes titles for introductory physics, sociology, statistics, anatomy and physiology, and both majors and nonmajors biology, and it will eventually cover 25 of the nation’s most-attended college courses. OpenStax College’s textbooks have been adopted by more than 430 institutions and have saved students more than $5.5 million since June 2012.

Since its inception in 2012, Lumen Learning has supported open-education pilots and projects that have saved students an estimated $1 million. Its client base is scaling rapidly. By this summer it will provide adoption support for OER-based courses in approximately 50 high-enrollment subjects across multiple disciplines.