Praise for library project

Tuition at community colleges might be rising faster than a tide in full flood, but students at Washington state’s 34 public institutions have saved more than $5 million in textbook expenses since the Open Course Library launched in the fall of 2011.

The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) spearheaded creation of the OCL, which was completed this week, to provide students with alternative texts – accessible online for free, and printed versions for about $20 – for 81 of the most popular courses.

It’s a brilliant idea that helps make higher education affordable for students and their families. Students save an average of $96 per course, according to the SBCTC, over traditional hardbound textbooks that can cost hundreds of dollars apiece.

College faculty wrote the alternative texts for the OCL, including Alexandra Gouirand, Anne Kelly-Glasoe, Mary Soltman and Lourdes Flores of South Puget Sound Community College, who co-authored French and Spanish course texts.

The $1.5 million cost was equally shared by taxpayers and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Faculty course designers were selected through a competitive bid process, and created the OCL materials for use in their own instruction. In addition, the materials are openly licensed so they can be used and modified by other faculty at other colleges, or anyone else.

Best of all, students in the targeted courses have embraced the online library. A survey of students showed that 97 percent prefer to take courses that offer open course resources through the OCL than those requiring purchase of textbooks.

To the probable dismay of authors and publishers of hardbound texts, we hope SBCTC can find the funding to expand the project.