Rice University's OpenStax College recently announced a new project that will use $9.5 million in grants to add 10 new titles to its library of free digital textbooks by 2017.
"Rice takes pride in being a leader in using technology in new ways to broaden access to education," Rice University President David Leebron said. "We're very grateful to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, John and Ann Doerr and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for enabling OpenStax College to provide a library of more than 20 free high-quality titles to college and university students and faculty around the world."
Started in 2012, the non-profit project aims to offer high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks online for free or at low-cost in print. The first seven textbooks have already saved students an estimated $13 million and have been downloaded almost 650,000 times for use in about 900 courses in high schools and throughout higher education.
The new grants will bring the total number of textbooks available to 21 titles.
"Our books are opening access to higher education for students who couldn't otherwise afford it," said Rice Professor Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax College. "We've already saved students millions of dollars, and thanks to the generosity of our philanthropic partners, we hope to save students more than $500 million by 2020."
So far the project has collected over $32 million in grants and funding for the textbook production.
OpenStax has also announced a new $9 million project for K-12 education in August that would allow for free digital textbooks that would offer personalized lessons to be used in high schools.
"The same sort of algorithms that might predict which songs or books you'll like can be used to deliver a personalized experience to every child in a classroom," said OpenStax founder Richard Baraniuk, Rice's Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering.
The digital textbooks will be able to decipher areas where more study is needed and offer additional lessons tailored to each student's individual needs. Students who do not require the extra help will also benefit from the textbooks more streamlined lessons.
Additional quizzes will also be included.
"The technology is already here, in the sense that most of us use it online every day," said OpenStax Managing Director Daniel Williamson. "However, the full potential of this technology has yet to be realised for education. The project will allow us to demonstrate that this technology is effective and can be used in the classroom to improve both students' and teachers' return on effort."