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Free Textbook Program Saves Hawaii Community College Students Millions

Abhi Sharma
CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

A free textbook program at the University of Hawaii's community colleges has saved students more than $3.4 million since 2015, officials say.

The UH Open Educational Resources initiative allows colleges to share and use information to teach for little to no cost. Within that program is a “TXT0” designation, which requires no payment from students.

The owners of the multimedia resources give others permission to use their content in a more flexible way than traditional textbooks, similar to the Creative Commons sharing of photos and other content.

At Leeward Community College 40% of classes use the program.

Wayde Oshiro, LCC’s head librarian, explained that with the open resources, educators can mix together materials to cater to their students.

“They can localize the materials and make it very specific to our students and their experiences,” he said. “Rather than relying on a textbook that was written by someone elsewhere and having examples that may not necessarily relate directly to our students, a faculty member could maybe swap out the examples, make it more related to what their experiences are.”

Oshiro is one of the leaders of the initiative along with Leanne Risley, LCC's media center coordinator.

Risley said the money that students save can help their long-term educational progress.

“They can get out of school faster because their money can go towards tuition to get them out faster, and because the resources are online and at their fingertips, they have those resources actually even before classes start,” she said. “They can also be a mixture of different types of media.”

Jacob Flores, a student at LCC working toward an associate’s degree in social science, used a free textbook in his anthropology class.

“I think that the free textbooks are actually pretty good,” he said. “I can definitely tell that my professor has spent a lot of time making sure that the quality of the content is on par with a textbook that would otherwise cost quite a bit.”

He noted that having a free textbook makes him want to take more classes.

“That’s less of a worry that I have to think about,” he said. “And I still get the same level of education.”

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