Beginning in the fall at Grand Rapids Community College, Business Professor Brent Spitler will be teaching his applied statistics class out of a virtually free textbook.
“Essentially we’re going to a peer-reviewed, open-sourced textbook,” Spitler said. “It’s free, I don’t know how else to put it.”
The book, a simple yellow-covered bound textbook, is from OpenStax College, a grant-funded program allowing students to access free textbooks through a PDF or Web format, or a reduced price iBook or hard copy. Spitler’s hardcover statistics book will cost $33.50 through the OpenStax website.
The current loose-leaf statistics textbook costs around $135 through the GRCC bookstore. Spitler said it used to be a hard cover text costing students over $200.
For this reason, Spitler, who has been teaching at GRCC for eight years, is making the switch.
“It’s the right thing to do, in my case,” Spitler said. “The only incentive I have is to do what’s right for the students.”
OpenStax used to be known for specific research papers. The site, hosted through Rice University in Texas, has now evolved to include much more as a publisher of creative commons textbooks.
“Now they’re actually producing robust, peer-reviewed textbooks,” Spitler said.
The developing program now includes textbooks for many college classes such as sociology, biology and economics.
Dani Nicholson, Associate Director of Marketing and Communications for OpenStax, said there are 16 published textbooks in the core subject areas.
“Our mission is to provide textbooks for 25 of the nation’s highest enrolled introductory college courses,” Nicholson said. “We are also beginning to publish titles for Advanced Placement courses.”
GRCC President Steven Ender said there are benefits that come from using open source textbooks.
“This initiative provides an opportunity for GRCC students to save significant money in textbook costs,” Ender said. “I am hopeful that many of our faculty will find an appropriate textbook through this resource.”
The difference between these textbooks and other published textbooks is customization. Professors are able to take out and add in what they like and create their own custom version of a textbook. The textbooks are peer-reviewed much like a dissertation or a scientific study.
“This is a quality text,” Spitler said. “I would contend that this receives a lot more eyes and ears, if you will, than many of the individual texts that we use to this day.”
Hundreds of schools across the country have adopted OpenStax College since its launch in 2012. Mike Vargo, dean of the school of arts and sciences at GRCC, said it’s a perfect match for the community college setting. At GRCC, two-thirds of the student population are part-time, due to differing economic situations.
“Students who are taking classes that have (Open Education Resource) texts, they tend to take more credits in the subsequent year, suggesting that maybe they’re taking the savings, the money that they’re not spending on textbooks, and spending it on credits instead,” Vargo said.
A year’s worth of textbooks can cost over $1,000, almost equal to one semester’s worth of tuition, which averages around $1,500.
“The sooner we can get people through with their program, the more likely they are to finish it,” Vargo said.
According to Vargo, the GRCC Bookstore will be working hand-in-hand with faculty to order the physical copies of these textbooks. The price of these textbooks sold through the bookstore has not yet been determined.
Vargo said he is planning more efforts to reach faculty, as the deadline for faculty to choose their Fall textbooks is approaching.
“I’m really hoping people will tune into this and understand how valuable it is for our student population,” Vargo said. “It’s the rock-solid best decision for our student population.”
Statistical Techniques in Business & Economics
$132.75 in GRCC Bookstore
Publisher: McGraw Hill
New Open Source Book
Free PDF/$33.50 on Amazon
Publisher: OpenStax College