Tag Archives: Textbooks

Open Source Textbook Study: Students Save Substantial Sums


By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

A study from Student PIRGS (Student Public Interest Research Groups) across the nation has found that college and university students could save over $1000 per year if all textbooks were provided open source materials.

The report is based on pilot programs at 5 different university campuses, and is available here. It notes that “According to the College Board, the average undergraduate student should budget between $1,200 and $1,300 for textbooks and supplies each year. That’s as much as 40% of tuition at a two-year community college and 13% at a four-year public institution.” The report notes that the college textbook market is artificial, since there is no direct consumer – producer link, as indicated in the figure below. A handful of academic publishers dominate the traditional textbook market.


Image from “Open Textbooks: The Billion Dollar Solution”, Ethan Senack, The Student PIRGS, February 2015

Open textbooks are high quality, faculty-written and peer-reviewed materials. They are available online and for electronic distribution in .pdf or other formats. The cost to students for open source materials is minimal.

The findings are based on 21,697 students enrolled in OER courses at Kansas State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), the University of Minnesota, and Tacoma Community College. The aggregate results indicate that students could save on average about $128 per course. Extrapolated to an academic year this is over $1000 per student per year. If all the 11 million full-time undergraduates in the U.S. were using only open textbooks, the aggregate savings would be well over $1 billion per year.

As the growth of open textbooks spreads at the university level, we at Curriki expect increasing activity in the K-12 space as well. State and local authorities could save substantial amounts from their education budgets by moving to open textbooks. Curriki is a repository for a wide variety of open source educational materials, including full courses and textbooks. We’d like to call your attention to several high school level mathematics courses:

Curriki Algebra 1 – http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_kathyduhl/Algebra1?bc=&viewer=info

Curriki Geometry – http://www.currikigeometry.org

Curriki Calculus – http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_Group_CurrikiCalculusCollection/CurrikiCalculusIntegralCalculus?bc=&viewer=info

There are also many full textbook resources on Curriki. A search for high school math level textbooks alone reveals over 200 resources. We encourage you to search at Curriki for core or supplementary textbook resources that you can use in your classroom!

Curriki Annual Survey for 2014

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Last month, Curriki completed our annual global survey of the 400,000 strong Curriki member community and of our followers on Twitter and Facebook. We have a very diverse set of users, from dozens of countries around the world. Nearly 4000 of you responded to the survey, and we thank you for your time. The largest number of responses came from the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan and South Africa, but many countries were represented.

We asked about age and gender. Almost half of the respondents are between the ages of 35 and 54, and the remainder are equally divided between those who are age 55 and above and those who are younger than 35. Regarding gender, 5/8 of the respondents are female and 3/8 are male.



This first pie chart shows the distribution of responses to the question: What is your role? Teachers, educators, administrators, parents, students and other categories were represented. Just over half of the respondents are teachers. After teachers, educators, students and parents were the most represented roles.



We also asked about affiliation. This second pie chart shows the responses to that question, indicating nearly half of the members who replied are working in public school districts. The next most populated categories are those at private schools and home schoolers.

Primary Reason to use Curriki

Primary Reason to use Curriki

The third chart (a bar chart) shows the responses to the question: What is the primary reason you visit the Curriki site? Some respondents provided more than one reason, so the total exceeded 100%. The top 3 are:

  1. Find resources for students to use
  2. Find teaching resources (e.g. lesson plans)
  3. As a source of new ideas

Other major reasons were to find resources for their own children, to connect with others in the education community and to contribute resources to Curriki.

We also asked about usage of Curriki groups (there are almost 800 groups at present). One out of 8 respondents participates in one or more of these groups. If you are not a group member, you may want to check these out – there is sure to be one of interest to you. Or you could start your own group around your favorite topic!

Thanks again to all those who participated in the survey!


Nelson Mandela and Education


KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

The world is mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela. Cosmologist Neil Turok, whose family is from South Africa, wrote this interesting tribute for a major Canadian newspaper – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/mandela-politics-his-profession-education-his-passion/article15800318/

Quoting: ”But for me, Mr. Mandela’s greatest legacy won’t be his strength of character, or his capacity for forgiveness, or his towering intellect, or his passion for our homeland. What was most striking about him was his passion for education. He said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ ”

Neil Turok’s parents fought against the apartheid system in South Africa and went into exile from South Africa to the U.K. Neil became a cosmologist (astrophysicist focused on the properties and evolution of the universe at large) and is now based in Canada. He is also a founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and its Next Einstein Initiative, whose goal is to build 15 centers across the continent during the next 8 years. Their mission “is to enable Africa’s brightest students to flourish as independent thinkers, problem solvers and innovators capable of propelling Africa’s future scientific, educational and economic self-sufficiency.”

Dr. Turok notes: “Mr. Mandela foresaw the potential of Africa’s children: ‘It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.’ ” Or maybe a cosmologist or the next Einstein.

Curriki shares the same belief in education as the means to change the world, and to allow everyone to fulfill their potential. This is why we are providing Open Education Resources freely to anyone with an Internet connection – which increasingly means anyone in the world. In Africa, Internet penetration lags the rest of the world. It stands at 16% as of the end of 2012, but is also very rapidly growing.

As one example of OER on Curriki, we have Free High School Science Texts from the FHSST project begun in South Africa, and available here: http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Demo/fhsst

The project that created these was initiated by Mark Horner, a University of Cape Town (South Africa) post-graduate physics student, and it has since grown to a much larger group of contributors including students, lecturers and people in industry. It now brings together scientists from around the world who are willing to contribute, for free, to the writing of the books.

FHSST believes that science education is about more than learning subjects like physics, chemistry and mathematics. It is about learning to think and to solve problems. These are valuable skills that can be applied through all spheres of life. Teaching these skills to young people will equip them to make a positive contribution to their future and the future of the rest of the world.

Dumb Phones Become Smart Textbooks

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

In the Philippines, very few students can afford tablets or smartphones. In fact even in Manila only about 10% or so of all mobile phones are smartphones and those are mainly in the hands of adults, of course. Families generally have older style mobile phones used mostly for texting.

Students also typically carry a heavy load of textbooks to and from school each day. What can be done to move toward digital learning and to alleviate the physical burden of textbooks?

The SMART Communications telecoms provider in the Philippines, together with advertising agency DM9, has initiated a campaign known as Smart Txtbks to place textbook materials into an SMS format, residing on the SIMS of old analog mobile phones. So now the “dumb” phone becomes an e-textbook, acquiring smarts. Phones are upgraded from texting to textbooks!

The campaign is active at a number of schools and has helped improve both attendance and test scores. It is now expanding with more subject disciplines being added, and spreading across additional schools the Philippines.

Watch a short video on this fascinating digital learning effort here:

(If you can’t see the video in your browser, then click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nqhdq76YXJc )

And here’s an article on the project:


Open educational resources are very well suited to this kind of solution. Because OER materials such as those found on Curriki are open source licensed, they can be modified and reformatted as needed, in order to adapt to different educational needs and different devices and formats. They also can be translated to different languages. We applaud this innovative campaign, and encourage its growth. And we stand ready to supply OER materials to programs of this type.

We also send our condolences and heartfelt concern to those impacted by the Haiyan typhoon which affected so much of the Philippines these past 2 days.

Curriki Continues Rapid Growth

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

Thank you to our members and user community! Because of you, Curriki has continued to grow rapidly during 2013. We have surpassed a third of a million in membership (educators, students and parents) and are on track to exceed half a million members during 2014. The recent growth rate in membership is fully 28% per year.


We have had over 9 million unique page views, which is triple the number from 3 years ago. And recently, usage of Curriki from mobile platforms has been growing rapidly. And during 2013, the number of free online resources at Curriki has grown to more than 53,000.

Usage of Curriki is growing very rapidly internationally. The top countries for Curriki are in North America, South Asia, Southeast Asia (the 10 ASEAN nations) and in Africa. The most rapid growth today is occurring in the ASEAN countries of Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia. Open educational resources (OER) can play a special role in developing nations with limited budgets for the latest curricular materials.

While the large majority of our materials are in the English language, we encourage content contributions in all languages.

The top 8 countries accessing Curriki resources at present are:

  1. U.S.
  2. India
  3. Philippines
  4. Malaysia
  5. Sri Lanka
  6. South Africa
  7. Canada
  8. Indonesia


We have recently introduced a full high school course in Curriki Geometry to accompany our previously released Curriki Algebra 1 course. Curriki Algebra 1 was evaluated by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Washington in the U.S. This was a rigorous evaluation process of half a dozen OER algebra courses. Curriki Algebra 1 scored highly, including a strong rating for promoting deeper learning. Both of these courses, like all Curriki materials, are absolutely free to educators and students around the world.


Thanks to you, we expect continued rapid growth for Curriki during the next few years. We encourage you to contribute resources, or contribute financially if you are able. And we encourage everyone to continue to look to Curriki for new, free, open educational resources that can be used in your classrooms and schools. Encourage your friends to join, or if not a member already, please join at welcome.curriki.org!


Common Core and Open Educational Resources Working Together

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, Curriki CEO

Open Educational Resources are important enablers in support of Common Core standards. An article in Education Week entitled “Common Core Drives Interest in Open Education Resources” can be found here: http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/10/17/01open.h06.html


The article notes that Common Core standards are driving increased interest in open digital resources. For example, the state of Utah in the U.S. is creating textbooks made entirely from OER materials, and in the state of South Dakota educators have built a repository of OER content in support of the Common Core. The pilot projects for open textbooks in Utah were highly successful, so the open textbook project was expanded to be statewide during this current school year.

I was interviewed by Katie Ash, who wrote in the article:

“Such projects are exactly what the common core can now make possible”, says Kim Jones, the chairman and chief executive officer of Curriki, a nonprofit K-12 repository for open education resources based in Cupertino, Calif.
“We’re seeing a lot of teachers starting to contribute OER materials that are aligned to common-core standards,” says Jones. “We’re very excited about that and think it’s going to make a huge difference in allowing people across the U.S. to leverage what teachers are doing in other places.”

The article also noted Curriki’s work with the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, which is working to categorize and tag OERs to make them more accessible and easier to search. Also mentioned was Curriki’s launch during 2012 of a free Algebra 1 course aligned to Common Core standards.

“It’s an exciting time for education, between OER really crossing the chasm and common-core standards coming out, and just the work that’s going on around technology,” says Jones, from Curriki. “It’s all coming together at a great time, and it’s really going to have a positive impact on education going forward.”

For more information on how OER supports Common Core standards implementation, we encourage you to read the full article at: http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/10/17/01open.h06.html

Do Textbooks Have a Future?

By Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

According to Wikipedia the textbook market is a “broken” market.

“The textbook market does not operate in exactly the same manner as most consumer markets. First, the end consumers (students) do not select the product, and the product is not purchased by faculty or professors. Therefore, price is removed from the purchasing decision, giving the producer (publishers) disproportionate market power to set prices high.”

In a recent article, Tom Segal, analyst at Rethink Education points out that:

* The modern textbook style dates from the 1960s, congruent with the surge of school enrollment of the Baby Boomers.

* Today’s textbooks are not just for content, but are also guides to teaching strategies and projects, roadmaps for pedagogy.

* Digital augmentation has been taking place since CD-ROM inserts in textbooks began in the 1990s.

* Now curricular content is becoming rapidly unbundled and disaggregated in response to all the new developments in technology and resulting market pressures.

Tom says:

Some of the big names in online content generation include sites like BetterLesson, TeachersPayTeachers, Curriki, and MasteryConnect — communities built around teachers where lesson plans are aggregated, ranked, swapped, and purchased, creating a network for content where the most effective lessons will organically rise to the top

“The success of these networks will soon put the textbook market to the test, as we can now take the most effective lesson plans and literally recreate them in classrooms across the nationHow can we continue to justify the costs of textbooks in an era when “free” is the name of the game, when a simple Google search yields a gaggle of information previously reserved for an elite, doctoral few? The answer, of course: we cannot, and we will not.”

Certainly one advance is the free e-textbook, with many organizations developing these, including the CK-12 Foundation, Free High School Science Texts, MIT Courseware, the Open Content Alliance and Wikibooks. These are excellent initiatives, and we host some of their content on Curriki, but these initiatives don’t address all the issues.

Content is becoming increasingly digital, increasingly dispersed, and more and more it is accessed via mobile clients. Online learning and digital learning allow for greater personalization. Students are generating and sharing in the classroom more content developed on their own, enabled by the digital, web and mobile revolutions and the wealth of available tools on the Web for content creation and manipulation.

Matt Greenfield, a managing director at Rethink Education asks in another blog “Is it Time to Stop Using the Word ‘Textbook’?”

“I cannot say which of today’s educational products and practices will contribute to our future and which are evolutionary dead ends, but I can say which ones make me uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable with students renting paper textbooks or licensing digital textbooks for a limited period. Charging $162 for a textbook may or may not be morally acceptable, but I am pretty confident that it will soon cease to be commercially sustainable.

A single textbook chosen by the professor or the school board is unlikely to be the optimal or the complete solution for all of the different students in a class. And if course content is to be a life-long possession, it must be extensible and must grow with its user.

Curriki is pleased to be a leader in this grand global endeavor to expand beyond the boundaries of the textbook. The purpose is to modernize education by incorporating the benefits of technology that range from digital media to mobile devices to social media and to Web and cloud-based provision of content and resources. These technologies are enabling mass customization of education to better fit the needs of each student and each learner, whether the context is K-12, the university, in business or for life-long learning. Thank you for your participation and contributions to this endeavor, whether it is to Curriki’s free and open curricular resources or through your financial support.

The Rethink Education blog is located at http://rteducation.com/blog/