Rice to participate in US’s Arabic open education program

Secretary of State Clinton unveils Arabic-language Open Book Project

The State Department has chosen Rice University’s open textbook initiative OpenStax College as one of the founding partners in a new U.S. initiative to expand access to free, high-quality textbooks and educational resources in science and technology in Arabic. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the Open Book Project in Washington Jan. 28.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the Open Book Project in Washington Jan. 28.

The project is an initiative of the State Department, the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization and leading open education innovators like OpenStax College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare. Clinton said the goal of the Open Book Project is to expand free access to open educational resources in Arabic, particularly for materials related to science and technology and online learning.

“We see educational diplomacy as the means for fulfilling the obligation to try to match reality and actions with the aspirations and hopes of the men and women across the Arab world,” Clinton said.

“Top universities like Rice University are creating free online textbooks and saving students money in their studies,” she said. “Science education websites like Khan Academy go viral. There are other examples, and these are all fruits of technological progress, but also of a commitment to make more learning materials open – free, open licensing for anyone to use, adapt and share.”

Open educational resources are materials that are released under open licenses that allow free use, sharing and adaptation to local context. Clinton said that offering access to these resources in Arabic will help create educational opportunities, further scientific learning and foster economic growth.

Rice's OpenStax College textbook initiative hopes to save a million college students $95 million within five years.

“The announcement by Secretary Clinton underscores the tremendous impact of open education resources,” said Daniel Williamson, managing director of Rice’s Center for Digital Learning and Scholarship and project manager at OpenStax College, who was present at the U.S. Department of State for Clinton’s announcement. “By making Connexions and OpenStax College materials available to the Middle East, we will both better prepare students for the technological age and help to break down traditional cultural barriers.”

OpenStax College, which launched in February 2012, is using a philanthropic model to offer free, high-quality, peer-reviewed, full-color textbooks for the 25 most heavily attended college courses in the U.S. In their first six months on the market, OpenStax College’s first two textbooks — College Physics and Introduction to Sociology — were downloaded by more than 30,000 students and adopted by educators at more than 100 schools. OpenStax College’s next three titles will be published this spring. With its first two books, OpenStax College has already saved students at least $1.6 million, and the group plans to save a million college students $95 million within five years.

OpenStax College is a nonprofit and is made possible by the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation. For more information, visit http://openstaxcollege.org.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.