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Introduction to Open Education

 Curso LATIn_Educacion Abierta

Open Textbooks

Curso LATIn_Libros de Texto Abiertos


Funded by:

ALFA Programme, an initiative of EuropeAid

Among the most important barriers for accessing and succeeding in the Latin American Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are the costs of being a university student. Even if there is not tuition to be paid, as in the case of most public HEIs in the region, or through scholarship from the government in private HEIs, other often overlooked costs, most notably the cost of textbooks, are real impediments for low-income prospective and actual students.

It had been found that the average yearly cost for textbooks to study a program in the biggest public University of Brazil (Universidade de São Paulo) is 1,900€. That corresponds to the 67% of the Brazilian minimum wage (2.820€ per year). This make almost impossible for low-income families to support the university study of even one of its members. Even for Argentina, whose minimum wage, the biggest of the region, is 4.092€ per year, the cost of books would represent, in average, 46% of the total family income. The situation is only worse in other Latin America countries.

This problem has been traditionally addressed through the existence of university libraries that lend copies of the textbooks for free to the students. However, university libraries do not have the budget to meet the demand from low-income student as the costs for acquiring the material is too high for the purchasing power of most families.

One of the roots of the high cost of the textbooks is that most of them are produced outside the region. This root problem is not related with the lack of production capacity, but with the difficulty that local professors/authors have to publish and distribute their books. The problem with the origin of the textbooks have several additional consequences beside their cost: most textbooks are not tailored to the context of Latin American Higher Education, the most current versions are not available in a language in which most professors and students are fluent and it creates the harmful perception among students that knowledge always comes from outside the region.

This project will address the problem of high cost of textbooks for Higher Education in Latin America. The main actions will be the creation and dissemination of a Collaborative Open Textbook Initiative for Higher Education tailored specifically for the region. This initiative will encourage and support local professors and authors to contribute with individual sections or chapters that could be assembled into customized books by the whole community. The created books will be freely available to the students in an electronic format or could be legally printed at low cost because there is no license or fees to be paid for their distribution. This solution will also contribute to the creation of customized textbooks where each professor could select the sections appropriate for their courses or could freely adapt existing sections to their needs. Also, the local professors will be the sink and source of the knowledge, contextualized to the Latin American Higher Education system.

Professors and academic authors will be the main users of the proposed solution, however the low-income students will be the main beneficiaries of the freely available textbooks produced by the initiative. During pilot implementation of the initiative that is one of the proposed actions of this project, it is expected that the solution will help 144 courses in 9 different universities, with at total benefited population of more than 4.500 students in 6 months. The created textbooks will remain freely available to reuse, translate, adapt and remix.

LATIn Project (DCI-ALA/19.09.01/11/21526/279-155/ALFA III(2011)-52)

Funded by the ALFA Program, an initiative of EuropeAid