The WISE Awards

OpenStax CNX

Activity: Personalizing learning by sharing and constructing knowledge through an open-source platform

Name of the Organization: Rice University

Headquarter: United States of America

Geographical reach: Global

Number of beneficiaries: Millions each month from nearly every country

Project Representative: Prof. Richard Baraniuk


OpenStax CNX

About the Project

OpenStax CNX ( is a content platform that enables the free and open use of high-quality educational materials by a global community of authors, teachers, and students. Used by millions of people each month, OpenStax CNX unbundles traditional textbooks into small modular blocks, like Legos, that each deal with a single conceptual topic. These blocks can be combined and customized in different ways. The system demonstrates that knowledge is dynamic: the ever-changing blocks can be linked in a web, support interactive and immersive elements, and also encourage participation by a global community of students, educators, and practicing experts. All of the modular blocks and the underlying software platform are free and open-sourced in order to promote the broadest possible use and innovation.

OpenStax CNX’ global author community has expanded to encompass the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering at all educational levels. OpenStax CNX now hosts over 18,000 modules collected into over 1,300 e-text collections in 40 languages. To further improve access to high-quality educational content, OpenStax CNX launched OpenStax College ( in June of 2012, which is professionally developing and publishing a series of 25 college textbooks.

Context and Issue

OpenStax CNX is addressing the need for affordable and ubiquitous access to educational materials by democratizing access to educational publishing. OpenStax CNX enables teachers to author, adapt and publish content, making it available to learners in a myriad of formats for free.

The cost of education, and educational materials in particular, has increased dramatically in recent years. According to a recent Student Public Interest Research Group report, 7 out of 10 students in the US are no longer purchasing the requisite materials for their college classes, resulting in increased attrition from college and overwhelming debt for many students.

The Solution and Impact

Since 1999, OpenStax CNX has provided a platform that enables the free and open use of high-quality educational materials by a global community of authors, teachers, and students. Now OpenStax CNX supports millions of users each month from nearly every country around the world and content is available in more than 40 languages.

Since the launch of the platform in 2009, it has reached 50 million unique learners. 

OpenStax CNX directly benefits teachers by democratizing access to educational content and allowing faculty a toolset to create and customize content to meet the needs of their individual students. OpenStax CNX also directly benefits students by providing them access to freely available and high-quality educational resources. This can significantly reduce the financial barriers related to education.

Future Developments

In June 2012, OpenStax CNX launched OpenStax College. This new initaitve is a new type of publisher that uses the OpenStax CNX platform to create high-quality peer-reviewed textbooks for the top 25 highest-enrolled college courses. Over the next five years, OpenStax CNX will continue to produce new textbooks via OpenStax College. 

In addition, OpenStax CNX is releasing a new and improved version of its authoring toolset that will make it easier than ever for teachers to create and adapt content for their specific needs. This new toolset will also improve the user experience for learners.  

As of January 2014, OpenStax College has published 6 textbooks and has an additional 15 books in production. The final 4 books should begin production around May 2014.

The new OpenStax CNX toolset will be made available starting in April of 2014. However, improvement will continue to the new site indefinitely.