Continuing Adventures in OER Textbooks
Check out these awesome in-house-printed copies of the CK12 Flexbooks that we’re using for our middle school science program:
The process for making these was simple:
- Two days of curriculum writing was offered to interested teachers over the summer. During those days, teachers learned how to navigate CK12, and how to use the (new) Google Sites platform to place links to all of the topics they wanted in the sequence that they wanted.
- In September, I went through the Google Site they built and put every topic into CK12 Flexbooks (Grade 8 took care of it themselves).
- The Flexbooks export as a .pdf, which I placed into a publicly accessible folder on the district GSuite.
- Teachers sent the .pdf over to our publications department for printing on a small-scale basis. This is done for students that can’t access the CK12 site at home, who need physical copies of texts for their accommodations, or even just for their preferences. We’ve printed fewer than 50 copies of each book per grade level to this point in the year.
That’s it. To parallel this part of the electronic textbook rollout, we deployed an anonymous survey about the textbook for all students at the end of the first quarter. This helped me determine if the rollout was going well or not. The survey also had an optional space where students could elect to ask their teacher to check in with them about any difficulties that they were experiencing.
Student user experience has always been my main concern, but the cost dimension of this initiative shouldn’t be ignored, either. The cost to adopt a textbook for a grade-level is ~$35,000. The cost of in-house color printing like what is shown in the video above is ~$14.50 per book. If we print the innards in black and white, the cost per book drops to below ~$2.50. To put that in perspective, if we assume that we would adopt a new textbook every 10 years, even if we were to print 100 color copies per year (double our current amount), it would still only be a cost of ~$14,500 over the same time period. Multiply that savings by three grade levels, and you’re starting to get pretty close to saving enough money to hire one additional teacher for the department. And if I have to choose between a textbook and a teacher, I’m going with teacher every time.
The benefits of using an OER resource like CK12 become really apparent in a process like this. Aside from being available to use and post as we see fit in the district, the lack of overhead costs mean that not only is this a viable direction for the district when considering which texts to use, we'd be pretty dumb to use anything else. Which is not me taking a dig at for-cost textbooks, it's just a statement of fact. Unless textbook companies are about to put free, open-use, high-quality resources into the world I don't really see how they can compete into the future.