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The Internet is Beautiful

Using online resources in a curriculum as an alternative to eliminate the high cost of textbooks

Photo of Blake
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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

The target audience for this idea would ideally be professors, to understand the vast amount of online resources available that they could use in place of textbooks. While textbooks may still be utilized for those who are willing to buy them, online resources would be much more cost effective for less affluent students.

When I can't fully understand a concept from class, or need additional resources, I usually never turn to my textbooks for answers, thinking that these authors will give me a long, drawn out explanation that may never fully clarify my confusion.

In fact, in taking Calculus II (Integral Calculus), the website saved my GPA and allowed me to continue my collegiate career. In some instances, the instructor there taught me much more easily and effectively than my professor during class.

In my opinion, the efficacy of textbooks in a college course seems to be drastically low for the price paid - hundreds or thousands of dollars per semester. Why not pull all of your resources from credible, online sources and remove the costly pasted pages altogether - or, at the very least, provide online sources as an alternative to the traditional approach?

The idea is simple. Work with professors and faculty on college campuses to construct a curriculum and syllabus with textbook cost savings in mind. The structure of classes essentially remains the same, except with required readings and articles pulled from online sources like credible news journals or websites devoted to that particular subject.

Students may search through the approved online content at their disposal, in order to pick and choose the understanding they are lacking. Need some sort of financial information? Head over to Looking for another way to learn a specific Calculus lesson? Check out 

Not only are there a vast number of online resources for essentially every topic, there are forums available online too. For example, Reddit is a community in which people seek help for a wide array of problems, and most are solved quickly and with easy explanations by people across the world.

In conclusion, the Internet's resources are sorely misused and under-utilized by the current method of teaching at universities, and tapping into these resources could be an extremely cost-effective way to save possibly a couple thousand dollars a year per student.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I, or a group of students, will not buy a textbook in a particular class, and will only use available, free online resources; we will then see how we fare in our various classes chosen next semester. This is only a possibility.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

I would like to understand the drawbacks to this idea - any potential flaws or red tape from universities that could inhibit the effectiveness of it - do most universities have contracts with textbook companies? Also, it would be interesting to create an actual curriculum to see what it looked like with only online resources utilized.

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Photo of Srihari Sridharan

This certainly is a great idea in using online resources, instead of expensive text books, especially for population like in India. However, there would be a need for a standardized content among some faculty, to ensure a certain quality and reliability in data. If you could address that particular problem, it would certainly help a lot of student from middle class backgrounds. 

Photo of Blake

Good insight, thanks for this response. Yes, there definitely would be a great need for communication among faculty to have some sort of standardized (and reliable/unbiased) resources for identical classes taught by different professors and teachers, but it would definitely be well worth it. Once the system is in place, it can be built upon and improved over time, just like with anything else! A big issue could indeed be the unreliability of information online, but if sources can be verified in some way as credible, then that would eliminate this issue.

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