The Open Course Library Can Save Students $100 Per Course

This week, the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges launched the Open Course Library, a set of free or low-cost educational materials that have the potential to save students millions of dollars.

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By Stacy Redd

Open Course Library Means Millions of Dollars in Savings for Students

Washington State officially released open-source educational materials for 42 of the state's most popular community college courses on Monday, October 31 and announced that another 39 courses will be available for students in 2013.

Most Accessible Award Winner

Even though these resources have the potential to save the students of Washington over $40 million in just one year (if every instructor in the state adopted Open Course Library materials, but adoption is, and should be, optional and at the instructor's discretion), the benefits aren't limited to students in the state. Because these materials are open, students and instructors around the world can use them for their own courses for free.

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Quality and Quantity

The Open Course Library, winner of's OCW People's Choice Award for Most Accessible Resource, is designed to help students save money on their education by counteracting the rising cost of textbooks. Michael Kenyon, a calculus instructor at Green River Community College, reports that his course's textbook costs almost $200, but now that he has adopted Open Course Library course materials for his class, students can get a textbook for as little as $20, or they can use the online version absolutely free!

Kenyon wanted to ensure that quality would not be compromised in the name of a lower price and was happy to report that the textbook was considered among the best available. 'There are some people who think this is the best book out there,' he said.

The next step is to encourage as many instructors as possible to adopt these high-quality, low-cost OCL materials for their own courses. For every instructor who agrees to adopt Open Course Library materials, the estimated savings per student per course is $102. If a student takes four courses per semester, that's potentially $800 saved a year! Because the materials are open-source instructors can adjust them to meet the needs of their classes without increasing the cost for students.

open course library

The Open Course Library is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the Washington State legislature. Representative Reuven Carlyle, who declares that Washington is 'moving toward an era of radical openness,' supports the initiative so strongly that he plans to implement a similar program at the K-12 level in the coming year.

Want to learn more about the Open Course Library? Check out our interview with OCL project leader Tom Caswell.

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