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Boundless as a free text option

Boundless is a new, free open source textbook replacement or alternative service designed for university students.

But it may be a part of the solution for many of us in high schools unable to keep up with the rising cost of textbooks and the aging of our own limited print resources.

The service connects college students with selected open educational resources based on their textbook and course searches.

We work directly with pillars of the Open Educational Resources (OER) community and have an esteemed set of advisors and investors with substantial experience in education, publishing, and OER. Boundless curates the best open content to create a free learning platform that saves students money and helps them learn more efficiently.

How it works

The Boundless FAQ page explains its philosophy:

Knowledge SHOULD be free. Over the last 15 years, there has been a wealth of Open Educational Resources created by governments around the world, as well as leading individuals and institutions like MIT, Rice & Yale, in order to boost access to knowledge. Boundless samples this content, filling in gaps and improving its quality.

The service is currently available for the following subjects:  Biology, Psychology, Economics, Physiology, American History, Writing and Sociology.

More subjects areas are in the works including: AP High School and introductory classes in American History, Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Business, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, and Writing.

I experimented with a search for a basic psychology textbook, imagining I was a freshman at a local university.  I entered an ISBN (from Amazon) and my course name.

What resulted was an aggregated digital text with chapters I could pop open, copyright-friendly images, hyperlinked pop-up definitions, and opportunities to search, highlight, take notes, and create a notebook within the interface.

Chapters appear in sections and include flashcards and quizzes.  Boundless promises no expiration dates on these books. I could store multiple books for my multiple courses.

I suppose the big question is, are Boundless titles an exact or an acceptable alternative for assigned texts?

I suppose the specific professor may be the best arbiter of that.

As for worrying about the assignment of specific portions of text, the FAQs note that students will be able to search for assigned page numbers, topics, sections or chapters they need to study.

As for text-based problems and question sets the FAQs note that fewer and fewer professors use those these days and that friends who do by the book, friends, and the professors themselves may be willing to share those with you.

I did not have this particular text, or any other college texts at hand, to make an adequate comparison, but I was able to see that the chapters for the book Boundless aggregated matched the chapters of the commercial title listed in Google Books version fairly well.  I do not know how closely the actual text matches and I cannot speak for the quality of that text.

If Boundless texts do provide an acceptable alternative to high-priced print texts, the service may prove a threat to the commercial services and a welcome option for students.

For me, I am going to share it with our faculty on Monday, especially as an option for some of our newer electives.

Explore this pathfinder for more OER resources.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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