The Saylor Foundation, a non-profit Free Education Initiative, announced Tuesday that it launched Wave II of its multi-million dollar Open Textbook Challenge (OTC), aimed to complement and expand its more than 200 free, college-level courses.

The Saylor Foundation’s open and free compilation of college-level textbooks provides resources to students who seek a higher education, yet face monetary or geographical barriers. The OTC helps expand this effort to provide increased access to courseware in spite of rising textbook costs.

“According to the Commonwealth of Learning’s Sir John Daniel, 158 million individuals are enrolled in secondary education today, a number that’s expected to rise to 263 million by 2025,” said Alana Harrington, Director of the Saylor Foundation. “To accommodate this demand, Sir Daniel has projected that four major universities would need to be established each week over the next fifteen years. Today, higher education institutes are already unable to realize the funding needed to serve this high level of demand. For example, in California, budget cuts to the state’s education system coupled with rising tuition costs recently resulted in a barrier to education for hundreds of thousands of college students.”

Through the OTC, the Foundation is offering $20,000 to each college textbook author who agrees to openly license his or her work under a CC BY 3.0 license. Submitted texts that pass the Foundation’s peer review process and align with one of the eligible courses on Saylor.org will be entitled to the $20,000 prize, and will be made freely available via Saylor.org.

“We’re excited about the submissions we received during Wave I of the Open Textbook Challenge,” said Charlie Adair, Open Textbook Challenge Coordinator for the Saylor Foundation. “With each accepted text, the Saylor Foundation and inspired textbook authors are able to provide access to a complete textbook for individuals who are otherwise unable to obtain these college-level course materials.”

The OTC also supports ongoing initiatives by the Open Educational Resources (OER) community. “The OER community has been fantastic in supporting our efforts with the OTC,” said Harrington. “For example, with the Hewlett Foundation showing full support as a strategic adviser of the Challenge, we hope to expand our reach to include even more educators during Wave II and ultimately provide a greater impact for knowledge-hungry students.”

Textbooks can be submitted via the OTC webpage through January 31, 2012: accepted texts will be announced by May 31, 2012.

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