This week, California took a big step forward in the march toward online education. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a proposal to create a website that will allow students to download digital versions of popular textbooks for free.
The new legislation encompasses two bills: One, a proposal for the state to fund 50 open-source digital textbooks, targeted to lower-division courses, which will be produced by California’s universities. (Students will be able to download these books for free or pay $20 for hard copies.) The other bill is a proposal to establish a California Digital Open Source Library to host those books.
On the textbook side, California will ask the California Open Education Resources Council, comprised of school faculty, to create and oversee a book approval process — which will include the development of a list of targeted courses “for which high-quality, affordable, digital open source textbooks and related materials would be developed or acquired” by the University of California, California State University, or California Community College systems. The council will then solicit bids to produce these textbooks in 2013. (The first free books are set to be available for the 2013-2014 school year.) And the bill makes clear that the council has the option to use “existing high-quality digital open source textbooks and related materials” if those materials fit its requirements.