Coursera and Chegg to Offer Free Textbooks to MOOC Students

May 8, 2013

Although MOOCs have made higher education more accessible to millions of students, MOOC professors still struggle to provide online students with adequate—and inexpensive—textbooks and materials. One MOOC provider announced a new partnership to address such a problem and provide online students with high-quality mainstream textbooks completely free of charge.

As The Washington Post reported, Coursera has partnered with student-services company Chegg to provide free textbooks to students enrolled in certain Coursera courses. Chegg will offer materials from large publishers such as Cengage Learning, Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, SAGE and Wiley through e-readers. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the materials cannot be printed or copied and pasted, but they will be available for free throughout the duration of the online course. Such an offering will be beneficial not only for students, but professors as well.

“Many instructors have been feeling a little hampered by how they must make their courses so self-contained,” explained Daphne Koller, one of Coursera’s founders to The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Even $40 for a textbook is way out of reach for some students, so instructors have had to teach in ways that they are not used to. They are unable to rely on any readings outside of the public domain.”

The first two courses to offer free texts via Chegg’s e-reader will be Georgia Institute of Technology’s “Introductory Physics I With Laboratory” and Ohio State University’s “Writing II: Rhetorical Composing”. For an idea of the potential student savings, the textbook for Introductory Physics, published by John Wiley & Sons, can cost more than $150. Beginning in June, free textbooks will expand to several dozen other Coursera courses.

“Our collaboration with Chegg and top publishers allows us to give Coursera students access to the reading material that is such an important aspect of many educational experiences, supporting our goal of learning without limits,” said Koller in a press release.

The Chronicle of Higher Education also pointed out that the partnership will allow publishers to collect important data on how students are using the electronic material. Likewise, this data can also provide online instructors with feedback so that they can personalize and improve the online classroom experience.

While the e-reader materials will be free during the length of the course, students will have the option of purchasing the full textbook or an abbreviated Coursera version for personal learning after the course has ended. Interested students can purchase the book through Chegg and Coursera will receive a small percentage of the profit.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


“Coursera Partners with Chegg to Deliver Digital Content to Millions of Online Learners,”, May 8, 2013

“Coursera to offer students free online textbooks, with conditions,”, May 8, 2013, Nick Anderson

“Partnership Gives Students Access to a High-Price Text on a MOOC Budget,”, May 8, 2013, Jake New

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