VANCOUVER - Imagine you’re a college or university student. Now imagine you can access your required reading at the click of a button or the touch of a tablet, on campus or at home - without paying a dime.
A student’s dream come true? Definitely. Cutting-edge? Certainly. Post-secondary textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars per year, and B.C. has become a leader in open education by promoting and developing the Open Textbook Project (bccampus.ca) , which aims to get free - yes, free - openly licensed digital textbooks into the hands of students and faculty across the province.
As B.C. marks Open Education Week from March 9-13, there is cause for further celebration: the Open Textbook Project - announced in October 2012 - has already saved more than $600,000 for at least 4,600 B.C. students. There are more than 70 open textbooks available online covering the most highly-enrolled first and second year subjects in B.C., with more than 20 new textbooks for skills and trades in the works. The Province wants to help save students money and make it easier for instructors to adapt teaching materials for their classrooms.
As a psychology professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (kpu.ca) and open learning faculty member with Thompson Rivers University (tru.ca) , Rajiv Jhangiani is a big fan of open textbooks. He is one of more than 50 faculty members across the province using open textbooks in his courses, and he has also reviewed two open texts and revised two others to create Canadian editions. He says open educational resources are all part of a shift to a more open learning philosophy, and there is potential for broad use in videos, tutorials, assignments and more.
“The cost savings to students are significant,” Jhangiani says. “Open textbooks are also more convenient, flexible and portable for students. As a faculty member, I am able to adapt an open textbook to fit my goals.”
As a Canadian leader in the development and adoption of open textbooks, B.C. is taking the initiative to develop new materials. In 2014, BCcampus (bccampus.ca) —which coordinates the Open Textbook Project on government’s behalf—held its first textbook-development “sprint.” The event gathered faculty members and professionals together for an intensive four-day brainstorming session to write, edit and publish a textbook from scratch. This May, BCcampus will continue to encourage discussion on open education by hosting the annual Open Textbook Summit in Vancouver. The summit will bring together leaders in open education - including faculty, librarians and government officials from Canada and the U.S. - and it will feature the summit’s first-ever student-led keynote presentation.
Student Chardaye Bueckert, president of the undergraduate student society at Simon Fraser University, is one of the keynote speakers at the Open Textbook Summit this year. She says the focus of her talk will be on international improvements in open education and her experience as an open textbook advocate—though she says there are some exciting developments happening closer to home.
“The BC Open Textbook Program is the first of its kind in Canada and has already saved students hundreds of thousands of dollars in textbook costs,” Bueckert says. “It is also exciting that the B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan governments recently signed an agreement to work together to develop and share open textbooks.”
As open education picks up steam, one thing is for sure—open textbook technology is creating innovative ways for faculty to deliver information while saving students valuable dollars toward education.
For more information about the Open Textbook Summit, please visit: open.bccampus.ca