The University System of Maryland is holding a pilot program in which students would not have to pay for textbooks. By having students use free “open-source textbooks” that are put together by their professors, this program would save an estimated 1,000 students more than a combined $130,000.
This is an example of a program that is fully capitalizing off of the digital age. Not only are most textbooks unreasonably expensive and dense, but also they are bulky and inefficient. More often than not, students don’t even open them until the day before a test — and until then, just use them as glorified paperweights.
These open-source textbooks would be made up of compiled material from various sources whose information is not protected by copyright. These online books would be interactive, with links to source material and other multimedia elements. They will also be created with an open license so anyone with Internet connection can access them.
In a generation where we spend most of our time online, it makes sense that education is moving in that direction as well. Many professors capitalize off of online articles to offer their students different perspectives and ways of learning and digesting the material. These articles are often more interesting and easier to read than the thousands of black and white words crammed onto a picture-less page.
However, since these textbooks are going to be “open-sourced,” the information will not be as regulated since it will come from outside, non-copyrighted material. One could argue that this lack of regulation and fact-checking will jeopardize the quality and credibility of the books. However, this open-sourced material will instead increase the quality of education and make it more applicable and entertaining to take in.
It does not make sense to have a student buy a new textbook for hundreds of dollars when they are not even going to read most of it — this is also a generalization. Yes, some textbooks are well-written and offer a lot of great information, but in today’s day and age, that same information can be found online, maybe even with a fun, interactive page attached to it.
And since we are becoming a more globalized world focused on educating everyone from all walks of life, the information students at prestigious universities receive should also be disseminated to those in more impoverished areas as well.
These open-source textbooks will not only help students save thousands of dollars during the college careers, but it will also help close that pesky achievement gap in our society as well.