We now have numerous options for open-courseware from various colleges and universities: course materials and (sometimes) video lectures from professors. Cost to people who use these materials? FREE But really, it is the tuition dollars of the students who go to these schools, the state and federal government, foundations who provide grantes, …
Now there is a call for instructors to use open textbooks: editable textbooks provided on the Internet, which can be printed on-demand for the cost of printing. Who’s really paying for this one? The author -who has spent a LOT of time to create the course materials. OR if the author is releasing the copyright on a book that is no longer in print, it is the students who paid for it in previous years that bore the cost. OR if the author’s school supported the project, it was the tuition dollars of THOSE students that paid for the book.
To the students, parents, open-textbook movements, and media representatives that are demanding free textbooks:
Why is there a demand for FREE resources for college education? In particular, why is there a demand for free textbooks? Do you understand that SOMEONE sits down for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of hours to write a decent textbook? And that a team of people spends a similar huge amount of time to put the textbook into a cohesive, well-designed book? And then a team of programmers writes code to create a complete system of online problems to go with this book? Somehow, this is not worthy of pay? This is to be pro-bono work? Seriously?
Then, why not demand that college instructors teach for free too. I mean, if you’re going to demand open-source free texts, then why not open-source education too? Why should your professor get paid to teach your class? Surely they should also volunteer their time to provide learning material for your education.
Or, since the argument is that you should be able to buy a textbook without all the bells and whistles (the bundles of stuff that some instructors DO demand and use), then why not be able to “unbundle” your education?
I’d like that math class without the homework or the final exam … all right, we’ll apply a 50% discount for the reduction in workload for the professor.
I’d like that English class without office hour support … all right, we’ll deduct your request from the instructor’s salary at a cost savings of $100 for you!
I’d like my tuition without supporting the Athletic department or Fine Arts please … all right, that results in a savings of $1200 on your tuition bill.
I’d like to come in and just be tested on the knowledge that I learned on my own … allright, that will be $150 and if you pass, we’ll give you a college degree. Oh, wait… we already have this system – diploma mills!
P.S. I’m not claiming that there aren’t some serious concerns about the cost of new textbooks, but I don’t think demanding free for everything is the answer. Would you do YOUR job for free?