Researchers find free textbooks are just as effective as costly ones

From the Provo Daily Herald:

In a result that will make college students rejoice, a group of researchers at Brigham Young University have found that a free textbook is just as effective as an expensive one.

BYU’s Open Education Group studies open educational resources, free and open-access educational resources they’ve found that can teach students just as well as paid resources.

The group’s research not only showed that students using the free materials do just as well, and in some cases better, than if they were using a pricey textbook, but that the students were also more likely to stick in a course and not drop out.

. . . .

Lane Fischer, a BYU counseling psychology and special education chair and member of the Open Education Group, said many students will wait to buy their textbooks until weeks after classes begin when their financial aid comes or until they decide they need the textbook for the course. By the time the students get their books, they’re behind and might drop the course.

“That cycle continues for these folks who have lower educational resources,” Fischer said. “This is our most vulnerable group who most need an education and we are making them slow down and hurting them in the process.”

At community colleges, the price of textbooks can be half of the price a student pays for their education.

Fischer said the cost of textbooks over time, compared to inflation, has grown astronomically and that the textbook market in general doesn’t follow traditional supply and demand.

“It is a broken economic system because the normal laws of supply and demand don’t apply,” said John Hilton III, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU and member of the Open Education Group. “The professor doesn’t have to pay for it, and the students don’t have a say in which one they chose.”

Fisher said about half of professors know how much their required textbooks cost.

. . . .

“If students perform just as well without the textbooks, it is like giving every student a $1,000 scholarship if students are using open education resources,” Hilton said.

With new editions constantly coming out in subjects that don’t change, like algebra, once a student buys a textbook, a new edition can make it nearly impossible to sell the used one.

Link to the rest at Daily Herald

7 thoughts on “Researchers find free textbooks are just as effective as costly ones”

  1. Been saying for years and years that textbooks are a racket. Let changes come. And I say that as a gal with a hubby whose textbook is on its third edition, so I know it’s a racket from the side of treatment of the writer, too. Peanuts advance, peanuts royalties, and that with a publisher with 5K employees and publishing in a couple dozen countries.

    Hubby’s next one is gonna be self-pubbed.

  2. To play devil’s advocate, there is a case to be made that free materials do not support the creation of those materials.

    To slay my own client, very little of the revenue from textbooks goes to content creators and very little of the monies needed to create textbook content comes from publishing.

  3. It’s hard to tell if this is serious or sarcasm. No one really thought the cost of a textbook was related to the quality of the information, did they?

    But a racket for sure. I once had a scholarship for $1000 that I specifically set aside for textbooks. I was astonished that I didn’t get two whole semesters with that money. I don’t spend that kind of money on books for fun!

    very little of the revenue from textbooks goes to content creators

    Oh. In that case I won’t be so outraged when I see pirated textbooks.

    very little of the monies needed to create textbook content comes from publishing.

    Just out of curiosity, where does the money come from? History books are about the only e-books I will buy for more than $10, but I’m guessing KDP is not the main source of funding for the writers.

    • Textbooks, by and large, are written by academics. Journal papers are all very nice, but if you have your name on the textbook for your field among your credentials, that’s the Golden Ticket.

      So, many students are partially paying for the textbook creation (the taxpayer picks up the rest in most cases) – and then paying for the textbook.

    • very little of the monies needed to create textbook content comes from publishing.

      Just out of curiosity, where does the money come from? History books are about the only e-books I will buy for more than $10, but I’m guessing KDP is not the main source of funding for the writers.

      Research grants, endowments, revenue from investment or patent portfolios held by universities or other institutions, and other sources. In many cases textbook authors aren’t even paid a reasonable fee (by the publisher) for the work involved in preparing the text.

      There used to be posters in university bookstores that had a pie graph showing “Where does you textbook dollar go?” I haven’t seen one in years, perhaps because the increase in textbook prices has gone disproportionately to the publisher pockets.

  4. free good oats and costly good oats taste same to horses

    rancher would be considered a fool beyond fool to buy high cheap food, for the filler wont nourish.

    Horses know more about decent to great content than most pubishers. lol

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