Rice University's OpenStax textbooks are now being made available through digital access programs from VitalSource and RedShelf at bookstores run by Follett and Barnes & Noble Education. These mainstay digital textbook providers allow colleges and universities to operate inclusive access programs in which students are billed for all their digital textbooks and resources at registration. Now these same institutions will be able to include OpenStax content for free or for a "marginal platform fee."
The open educational resources textbook provider also recently announced a relationship with a company that will help the organization develop additional OER content.
The model of inclusive access is also known as "all students acquire," "day-one access," "includED," "digital discount," "digital direct access," "enterprise solutions" and "first day." Students don't have to hunt for their own textbooks; they're charged for course materials at the start of the semester or term to gain access to the content even before classes begin.
RedShelf and VitalSource distribute digital materials to the majority of campus bookstores in the U.S., including independent stores and stores operated by Barnes & Noble Education and Follett. By including the OpenStax books in their catalogs, the materials will be more "discoverable" and easy to access as any other publisher content on the digital platforms.
"OpenStax is committed to providing our free textbooks to all students," said Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax and a Rice professor of engineering, in a press release. The partnerships, he noted, would enable the organization to "meet faculty and students where they are by providing our content in the delivery methods that work for them and alongside the value-added services they prefer."
Jennifer Kneafsey, a biology instructor at Tulsa Community College, said she anticipates that the arrangement will bring the open textbook model to more schools, faculty and students. "In a way, OpenStax is the original 'inclusive access' — their books have always been available on day one because they are freely available online," she said. "I'm glad that OpenStax is making sure that free, peer-reviewed, openly licensed options are still available to students in this new model."
OpenStax will also be tapping the talents of military spouses in a new work arrangement with Freedom Learning Group, a company that develops digital courseware. FLG employs remote workers, many of whom are stationed overseas.
The subject matter expert teams "consist of PhDs, attorneys, scientists, college professors and a variety of other exceptional fields," explained Stacey Ecelbarger, FLG vice president and co-founder. "Military spouses are an underemployed American resource, and OER is an underutilized education resource. We're excited to be a catalyst for the success of both.''
OpenStax is a nonprofit initiative of Rice, supported by multiple philanthropic partners, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Arthur & Carlyse Ciocca Charitable Foundation and Ann and John Doerr.