Students frustrated with classes offered at the University of Houston have turned to free material offered by several other universities, including Rice University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.
Computer science junior John Cates said he takes the classes to further his understanding of the face-to-face courses he’s enrolled in at UH.
“I have found the MIT lectures to be more interesting, and it’s refreshing to take (courses) at your own pace,” he said.
Rice University began offering textbooks and course lectures online for free in February using Connexions, and other universities — like MIT — using OpenCourseWare.
Material from the courses — ranging from class notes to quizzes and paper assignments to full textbooks — is available free of charge on the websites.
Cates said the online classes have a downside, however. Without a professor to hold students to deadlines, it is easy to get behind schedule.
“If you want to take a class from OpenCourseWare, you just do it yourself,” he said.
Though UH students may use the sites, the University does not provide a similar service.
UH Executive Director of Media Relations Richard Bonnin said the University is aware of other higher education institutions with a “more robust funding structure” offering free materials online.
“The University of Houston does not offer any free classes at this time — online or otherwise,” Bonnin said.
Bonnin said UH uses part of the tuition and student fees to develop online classes.
“We are not currently in the position to offer the resulting materials to the general public at no charge,” he said.
Rice professor of electrical and computer engineering Richard Baraniuk began a non-profit publishing project 13 years ago called Connexions that aimed to make high-quality textbooks accessible to anyone online — at no cost.
“The OpenStax College is a new initiative out of Rice to develop a free library of open textbooks,” Baraniuk said. “These are books that are not just to be used at Rice University, but for two- and four-year colleges across the country.”
Baraniuk says that by implementing free online textbook initiatives, students can save money and finish their degrees more effectively.
“What we are striving to provide is high-quality learning materials that are really easy to adopt and they are saving students tremendous money,” Baraniuk said. “The more the students save, the more they can continue the program and finish and enhance the work force.”
Additional reporting by Audris Ponce, Eduardo Venegas, Courtney Johns and Kimberly Grady.