California passes United States’ first open source textbook legislation

Saturday, September 01, 2012
Sacramento, California: Only a signature away, Governor Jerry Brown will have an opportunity to lower the cost of college textbooks by creating the nation's first free open source digital library for college students and faculty.

Today, the California State Senate unanimously passed the first of its kind open educational resource digital library, or (OER), offering students free access to textbooks in the most commonly taken lower-division courses at public postsecondary institutions.

"At a time when the cost of attending California's public colleges and universities is skyrocketing, relief is only a signature away as both SB 1052 and 1053 await Governor Jerry Brown's signature," said 20 Million Minds Foundation President Dean Florez. The foundation has been supportive of policy measures to create quality open source textbooks for college students throughout the nation. "This is the first time government has come in with substantial dollars that match philanthropic efforts to create a library where students can access free textbooks and faculty can utilize their skills to remix, revise and repurpose these textbooks for their students."

Introduced by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) in February, SB 1052 provides for the selection, development and administration of the free open digital textbooks for the most popular lower-division courses overseen by the establishment of the "California Open Education Resources Council" (COERC). COERC, established by the legislation, will be comprised of faculty members from the University of California, California State University and Community Colleges to determine which courses merit inclusion.  Its companion bill, SB 1053, creates the California Open Source Digital Library to house the open source textbooks and courseware.

The legislation creates a competitive "Request for Proposals" (RFP) process inviting faculty, publishers, and others to develop high quality digital open source textbooks and related courseware.  The materials would be placed under a "Creative Commons" licensing structure that would not only allow students and faculty free access, but would also allow instructors to create customized materials from the textbooks and other courseware.  To ensure the materials meet the rigorous standards of college core curricula, all material would be reviewed and approved by subject matter experts.
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