The concept of an “open textbook,” commonly referred to in our field as a form of open educational resources (OER), enables learning materials that are produced and vetted by experts to be made available online for free through open licenses, allowing for the content to be easily accessible, printable and shared for the purpose of personalizing education for students.
The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) announced in a press release last week that it will support open textbooks to pave the way for students in K-12 education across the state to have access to up-to-date content.
The press release reads: “Texts get into classrooms quickly and can be updated as needed rather than on a publishing schedule – something that’s particularly important in science. The open textbook also adds to Utah’s reputation as the most cost-efficient school system in the country. This is a fantastic way to get the latest textbooks into the hands of Utah’s nearly 600,000 public school students.”
As education costs continue to rise, K-12 school districts often struggle to replace last century’s schoolbooks with materials better suited for 21st century students. However, in Utah, the USOE found that its OER pilot program enabled open textbooks to printed and provided to more than 3,800 high school science students, at a cost of about $5 per book, compared to an average cost of about $80 for a typical high school science textbook.
As a result, the USOE said it will encourage districts and schools throughout the state to consider adopting the new open textbook policy, which is on track to begin this fall and will focus on the key curriculum areas of science, mathematics and secondary language arts. Publicly funded educational materials should be available so that teachers can collaborate and customize instruction.
With nearly 600,000 public school students in the state of Utah, iNACOL commends the USOE for its support of OER policies in K-12 education. Students cannot prepare for 21st century challenges using obsolete textbooks. School districts and programs, and more importantly—students, can and must have access to high quality, accurate and up-to-date knowledge in order to grow and thrive in our increasingly competitive world.