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Doceo Center for Innovation + Learning Project Creates Free Textbooks

Moscow, Idaho – July 17, 2015 — The Doceo Center for Innovation + Learning is making strides in working with Idaho educators to increase affordability and accessibility of high-quality K-12 textbooks for underfunded schools. 

Through Open Educational Resources (OER) Institutes funded by the Doceo Center, textbooks are being created that are free to any school district. The Doceo Center is operated through the College of Education and the institutes are funded by the Albertson Foundation. 

Traditional copyrighted textbooks may cost between $80 and $120. School districts often have an adoption cycle of new textbooks between seven and as long as 15 years because of the expense. Schools are tasked with the difficulty of ensuring that the books withstand heavy use by restricting highlighting or writing in books as well as possibly limiting use outside the classroom at home. 

“Aside from cost, the long adoption cycle means content is not up-to-date,” said Royce Kimmons, former Doceo Center director and assistant professor who recently accepted an out-of-state position. 

On the other hand, Open Education Resources are free from copyright restrictions and hard copies cost as little as 90 percent less than copyrighted books. OER textbooks are created digitally and without restrictions, which schools can use free of charge. Classroom teachers may distribute the digital copies via email, on digital reading devices or print on-demand for as little as a few dollars each.

This summer, the Doceo Center held three Open Educational Resource Institutes that each spanned three days and hosted a total of several dozen teachers. The teachers utilized previously published, high-quality OER resources from nonprofit sources such as CK-12 Foundation and OpenStax, operated by Rice University. They adapted the materials for their grade level, subject matter and state standards and the Doceo Center funded printing a classroom’s worth of textbooks — or about 30 — for each teacher.

All textbooks created through the institutes are available through: http://courses.doceocenter.org/open_textbook_crash_course/open_text_library

“Teaching is a dynamic profession that requires educators to be problem-solvers, lifelong learners and informed citizens,” Kimmons said.

Having open adapted textbooks allows teachers to use those skills to continually update materials as needed to keep up with the evolution of knowledge and ensure the highest-quality content for students. The format also allows teachers to adapt the texts to an individual student’s needs. For example, they may convert the text into appropriate reading level for a student on an individual education plan using online conversion tools or allow students to make notes in the text to assist learning.

“Some do argue against OER because of concerns over quality,” Kimmons said. “Not all OER materials are created equal.”

However, in conjunction with the institutes, participants brought along their current textbooks and compared the quality of copyright-restricted, open and open adapted textbooks. Participants ranked each on a variety of items including accuracy, formatting, readability and timeliness of content. Both the open and open/adapted textbooks were ranked higher than the copyright-restricted textbooks.

“The Doceo Center’s mission is to improve teaching and learning,” Kimmons said. “This is a prime example of how teaching can break barriers of the pre-digital world.”

Contact

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Mailing Address:
College of Education, Health and Human Sciences
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive
Moscow, Idaho 83844-3082

Phone: 208-885-6587

Fax: 208-885-1071

Email: teached@uidaho.edu

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