OpenStax, a Rice University educational technology initiative, recently announced an ambitious plan to expand its free digital offerings from 42 textbooks to 90, starting with a $12.5 million investment from the Charles Koch Foundation, the Stand Together community, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
OpenStax resources already have saved 14 million students more than $1 billion since the initiative published its first book in 2012. These new gifts will allow OpenStax to bring additional savings to more than 10 million students over five years. The funding also will position OpenStax to go one step further in implementing its vision for infusing the best practices gleaned through learning science into the technology that personalizes each student’s learning journey on its platform.
“Nine years ago we dreamed about solving the textbook affordability and access crisis for students,” Rice’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice and the founder and director of OpenStax. “Now, with this and future support, we will be able to not only accelerate educational access for tens of millions of students but also drive innovation in high-quality digital learning, which has become commonplace due to COVID-19.”
OpenStax resources have been a particularly important resource during the coronavirus pandemic. In the six months since remote instruction began in March, OpenStax has seen a 217 percent increase in usage from the same period in 2019. Earlier this spring OpenStax partnered with the Association of College and University Educators to offer a suite of resources to support faculty and students. More than 7,000 educators already have accessed ACUE/OpenStax’s “just-in-time” webinars that equip teachers with ready-to-access online course materials and best practices for online learning.
In a video posted during the spring 2020 semester, Baylor University student and OpenStax intern Gabby Kennedy explained OpenStax books offer every student the opportunity to learn regardless of internet availability or ability to pay. Kennedy also cited OpenStax’s open access platform, which allows students to continue accessing content after their courses have ended.
The Charles Koch Foundation and Stand Together community will provide up to $5 million toward the $30 million goal for the expansion.
“Cost is a barrier to education for too many students, and we continue to be excited to support OpenStax’s vision to open access to a wider pool of students,” Charles Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “Even more exciting is the potential to dramatically improve how students learn more, better and faster. Through advanced technology that leverages insights gained through student learning data, OpenStax will be able to continuously refine and improve the education experience for students.”