New California Ed Laws Address Textbook Costs with OER Initiative

CA HIGHER ED GOING DIGITAL: Governor Jerry Brown is on a roll this week, signing into law two bills that amend the Donahoe Higher Education Act (coincidentally signed into law in 1960 by the governor's father, Governor Pat Brown). SB1052 and SB1053 call for the development of "50 high-quality, affordable, digital open source textbooks and related material" to be housed in the "California Digital Open Source Library", and accessible by public universities and community colleges in the state.

As this infographic from OpenContent points out, the average California undergrad spends more than $1600 on textbooks per year. Under SB1052, this cost could drop to zero -- especially in the first two years when students are likely to take the "strategically selected lower division courses" that the law targets.

Entrepreneurs and educators have reason to rejoice, too. In January 2013, the California Open Education Resources Council -- that's fancy talk for a newly formed group of university and community college faculty -- is expected to establish an RFP process for "faculty members, publishers, and other interested parties [to] apply for funds" to produce content for the selected courses.

SB1053 calls for the California Digital Open Source Library, a digital tome in the cloud "for students, faculty, and staff to easily find, adopt, utilize, or modify course materials for little or no cost." The library, to be governed under a Creative Commons attribution license, is dependent upon formation of the OER Council outlined in SB1052.

Both laws along with SB1458 which redefines California's Academic Performance Index, were introduced by California State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

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