March 06, 2009
Free Textbooks at Foothill-De Anza: First Annual Report
Three years ago, at my request, the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees enacted the first ever Policy on Public Domain Learning Materials in the country. The policy made providing support to faculty who wish to create, use, or organize free public domain learning materials as substitutes for commercial textbooks an official purpose of our college district. It also instructed our administrators to report back to our board at least once a year on their progress.
This past year, 2008, marked the first full year of implementation of the policy and its associated programs under the leadership of the very able (brilliant, actually) Dr. Judy Baker, who is emerging as one of the most significant leaders in the international movement for Open Education Resources.
Among the highlights of her presentation was the news that at De Anza College in Cupertino students saved nearly $90,000 (a conservative estimate) in the very first quarter in the first classes where these free materials are being used. Even better, nearly 1,000 faculty members at twelve other community college districts have indicated they also want to follow Foothill-De Anza’s lead on this, which is practical now that our college district has organized an international consortium of community colleges, with more than 80 member institutions, to begin collaboratively developing and improving more free public domain learning materials.
We are now on track toward the goal I set last year: substituting free public domain learning materials for commercial textbooks in 1/2 of the top 25 community college classes in California over the next ten years, which will save students more than $1 billion dollars. Money that would go right back into their pockets while also providing them with free, high-quality textbooks they can print or not print, as they like, and also keep rather than be forced to sell back to their college bookstores. Exciting stuff. Here is a link to the powerpoint presentation Dr. Baker made to our board, which highlights the progress over the past year.
This project is pretty significant for community college students, of course, and for our economy in general, which needs to see more students succeed more quickly and at lower cost. But I also believe this progress illustrates how we can use innovative new approaches to improve the delivery of many other types of government services and in the process, rebuild critical public support for our most vital public institutions, including our schools.