Open-education partners hope to save students $10 million by 2015

Lauren Williams's picture

Taking aim at the high cost of commercial textbooks, Rice University-based publisher OpenStax College today announced a partnership with open-education pioneer Lumen Learning that is projected to save students $10 million over the next two years by facilitating the adoption of free, online textbooks by colleges and universities.

The new partnership will combine OpenStax College's free textbooks with Lumen Learning's support services to help higher education institutions and faculty members successfully transition to using readily available "open-educational resources" (OER).

"Although a growing number of free, high-quality educational materials are available, many instructors and academic leaders are uncertain about how to begin taking advantage of these resources," said David Harris, editor-in-chief of OpenStax College.

With a combination of high-quality content and a well-supported pathway to OER adoption, OpenStax College and Lumen Learning expect to achieve significant textbook cost savings at both two- and four-year colleges and universities nationwide.

"When we work with faculty members to offer courses using high-quality open content like the textbooks from OpenStax College, student spending on course materials drops by almost 100 percent," said David Wiley, co-founder of Lumen Learning. "Our research indicates measurable improvements in student success when students have free digital access to all the materials they need to be successful from the first day of class."

OpenStax College provides peer-reviewed, open-education textbooks that meet the scope and sequence requirements of many college courses. Lumen Learning helps both two- and four-year institutions implement and sustain successful OER pilots and programs. Under the partnership, OpenStax College and Lumen Learning will offer open textbooks as well as faculty training and support for the adoption of OER-based courses that align course content with an institution's specific learning objectives.

"Our partnership with Lumen Learning illustrates that an ecosystem of services and resources is growing organically to support the long-term sustainability of OpenStax College textbooks," said Richard Baraniuk, founder of OpenStax College and the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice. "This is yet another step toward a bright future in which a student's access to high-quality educational resources will be limited only by their educational aspirations."

Lumen Learning clients already benefit from the partnership. For example, College of the Redwoods and Pittsburg State University now use an OpenStax College biology textbook. Santa Ana College and Wiley College are redesigning introductory sociology courses using OpenStax College's textbook.

Wendy Riggs, a biology instructor at College of the Redwoods, has used an OpenStax book for nearly two years. "Using open textbooks, my students don't have to wait for financial aid or make tough budgeting choices to buy the textbook," Riggs said. "They are also doing better. They hit the ground running from the very beginning of the course."

OpenStax College uses a funding model in which foundations underwrite the costs of producing high-quality textbooks that are published online free for all college students and instructors. The publisher's growing catalog includes titles for introductory physics, sociology, statistics, anatomy and physiology, and both majors and nonmajors biology, and it will eventually cover 25 of the nation's most-attended college courses. OpenStax College's textbooks have been adopted by more than 430 institutions and have saved students more than $5.5 million since June 2012.

Since its inception in 2012, Lumen Learning has supported open-education pilots and projects that have saved students an estimated $1 million. Its client base is scaling rapidly. By this summer it will provide adoption support for OER-based courses in approximately 50 high-enrollment subjects across multiple disciplines.

Lumen Learning

Lumen Learning provides sustained support for K-12 and higher education institutions to help them eliminate textbook costs, broaden access to educational materials and improve student success through the effective use of open-educational resources. Lumen’s OER Services help institutions transition high-enrollment courses to open content and provide training and support for faculty members to teach open courses and sustain the quality of these courses over time. Learn more at

OpenStax College

OpenStax College is dedicated to improving access to higher education by lowering the cost of textbooks and high-quality learning materials. Launched in February 2012 with a philanthropic model to offer free, high-quality, peer-reviewed, full-color textbooks for the 25 most heavily attended college courses in the nation, OpenStax College provides books free online for any student, anywhere. OpenStax College also partners with companies that provide fee-based products and services that enhance the value of its books for both instructors and students. OpenStax College is a nonprofit initiative of Rice University and is made possible by the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation, the Maxfield Foundation, the Calvin K. Kanzanjian Foundation and the Leon Lowenstein Foundation. For more information, visit

Rice University

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 2 for "best value" among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to