The Utah Open Textbook project is examining the deeper learning and cost savings that can be achieved when open textbooks replace traditional, expensive textbooks in public high school science classrooms.

Approximately 10 public high school science teachers in Utah are shelving their expensive, traditional textbooks in order to use open textbooks adapted from CK12.org materials for the 2010-2011 school year. Approximately 2,000 students will be impacted by the changes. Most will use printed versions of the books, while a few hundred students in one-to-one schools will use the online versions of the books on desktops, netbooks, or iPads. Teachers will continue to supplement these books with additional resources and activities as they have historically done.

Because the open textbooks are so inexpensive as to be considered “consumables” from a budget perspective, students will be able to engage these books through active study processes like highlighting and annotating. These active study strategies may promote deeper learning for participating students. Similar study strategies are prohibited for students using traditional, expensive textbooks, because expensive textbooks must typically be used by 5-7 generations of students.

At the end of the school year, Criterion-Referenced Test (CRT) scores of students in participating classrooms will be compared to the scores of students in comparable, non-participating classrooms. Participating student scores will also be compared with student scores from the same classroom for the previous year. We anticipate demonstrating modest gains in student performance for those participating in the study due to their ability to utilize active study strategies with the open textbooks.

Throughout the project we will carefully monitor costs associated with the use of the open textbooks for comparison purposes. At the end of the school year we will report on the comparative costs of using open textbooks in traditional public school science classrooms. We anticipate curriculum cost savings of approximately 50%.

OER have not yet had the impact they are capable of making. If we demonstrate that OER can simultaneously promote deeper student learning and save districts and schools significant financial resources, we expect to catalyze a significant increase of OER adoptions in US public schools.