Moving to the next chapter on free online textbooks
Education, Families Monday, April 8, 2013 11:00 AM

VICTORIA - Textbooks for some of the most popular first- and second-year post-secondary subject areas in British Columbia are expected online by September, reducing costs significantly for students.

In October 2012, the B.C. government announced the move to become the first province in Canada to offer students free, online, open textbooks for the 40 most popular subject areas. Those 40 subjects have now been identified and the project will move to a phased implementation that will result in 10 to 20 of the open textbooks available online by this fall.

An open textbook is typically published under an open licence and can be read online or downloaded at no cost, or printed at a fraction of traditional textbook costs.

Once available, these open textbooks will be another option for faculty and instructors who will still have the ability to determine the educational resources, including textbooks, they wish to use for their courses. Furthermore, because open textbooks are digital and open, they can be modified and adapted by instructors to fit their unique instructional needs.

Open textbooks will be created through an open Call for Proposals process, and will be reviewed by B.C. advanced education faculty for quality and relevancy.

The open textbooks project is being co-ordinated on government's behalf by BCcampus, a publicly funded organization that aims to make higher education available to everyone through the smart use of collaborative information technology service.

British Columbia is working together with other jurisdictions to share expertise and maximize the opportunities and benefits that flow from open textbooks. This week B.C. is hosting an open textbook summit that is bringing together higher education representatives from Alberta, California and Washington, as well as other agencies and organizations involved in open textbooks from across the United States and from as far away as South Africa.


Ralph Sultan, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology -

"Having spent years in the post-secondary sector as a student and on faculty I know that making textbooks available online for no cost will really help students and their families, freeing up money for rent, food and other expenses and giving students greater flexibility in their education choices."

"Our development of open textbooks makes post-secondary education more accessible, and supports our Families First Agenda for British Columbia, which helps make life more affordable, support vulnerable families and keep communities safe."

Dianne Crisp, professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University -

"Open textbooks not only provide exceptional benefit for students and their costs, they allow a level of flexibility in content that faculty can leverage to update material, include new resources, and respond to the digital age in ways never before possible."

Adrienne Watt, instructor at Douglas College and Northwest Community College -

"It is my expectation that through this project we will be able to promote information sharing and collaborating with faculty members all over the country. Moreover, we will have the opportunity to create really robust text books that will fit classroom needs and provide quality textbooks for our students."

Quick Facts:

  • When fully implemented, up to 200,000 students each year could benefit from B.C.'s open textbook project.
  • It is estimated students spend more than $100, and in some cases, more than $200 per textbook. Open textbooks, or just the portion a student needs, by contrast can be printed directly by students for the cost of printing and binding at much lower prices, typically around $30 each. Alternatively, students can keep their open textbooks as e-versions and pay nothing.
  • Faculty can readily customize open textbooks to better meet their local teaching and learning needs.

Learn More:

The B.C. Open Textbook Project:


Families First Agenda for British Columbia:

A backgrounder follows.


Dan Gilmore
Communications Manager
Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology
250 956-6400


Implementation plan for B.C's open textbooks project

BCcampus, working with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology has identified the 40 most highly enrolled first- and second-year subject areas in the provincial post-secondary system.

The list contains 26 first-year subjects and 14 second-year subjects in 27 different disciplines across the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, formal sciences and applied sciences. Some or all of these courses are delivered by almost all of B.C.'s public post-secondary institutions.

The open textbooks will be rolled out in three phases. In the first phase, existing open textbooks that link to the 40 high-enrolment courses will be reviewed for use in British Columbia. A Call for Proposals for reviews will be issued in April 2013. It is anticipated that 10 to 20 existing open textbooks will be adopted and available online for B.C. students and faculty by September 2013.

In the second phase, existing open textbooks will be adapted and remixed for use in British Columbia. And in the third phase, new open textbooks will be created as required for courses that cannot be served by existing or adapted open textbooks.

In order of course registrations per year, starting with the highest, the 40 courses are:

English - 1st year

Math and Stats - 1st year

Psychology - 1st year

Economics (macro and micro) - 1st year

Biology- 1st year

Math and Stats - 2nd year

Accounting - 1st year

Chemistry - 1st year

Physics and Astronomy - 1st year

Sociology - 1st year

Philosophy - 1st year

Computer Science - 1st year

Chemistry - 2nd year

Business, Business Administration and Management - 1st year

Psychology - 2nd year

Criminology - 1st year

Accounting - 2nd year

Economics (macro and micro) - 2nd year

Marketing - 1st year

Biology - 2nd year

Commerce - 2nd year

Anthropology - 1st year

Business Information Systems/Business Computer Systems/Business Information Technology - 1st year

Visual Arts, Media and Design - 1st year

Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science - 1st year

Kinetics/Kinesiology- 1st year

Communications - 1st year

English - 2nd year

Geography - 1st year

Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour - 2nd year

Applied Science - 1st year

French - 1st year

History - 1st year

Political Science - 1st year

Visual Arts, Media and Design - 2nd year

Communications - 2nd year

Sociology - 2nd year

Applied Science - 2nd year

Political Science - 2nd year

Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour - 1st year


Dan Gilmore
Communications Manager
Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology
250 956-6400

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