The Open Textbook Project
Any individual who has attended college or university remembers the financial burden of buying expensive textbooks. Studies have shown that the cost of books can be one of the primary barriers to higher education. The Open Education Resources (OER) movement is playing a central role in the solution, providing outstanding resources at a much lower cost.
In partnership with BCcampus, and in the footsteps of other provincial online learning centres like OpenEd Manitoba, eCampusOntario has created this new virtual Open Textbook Library, established to offer learners a repository of resources which are licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed. With 180-texts available, and growing, educators from a variety of colleges and universities reviewed these texts to assess their quality and alignment to popular, post-secondary subject matter. Learners can download any of the textbooks for no cost or print at low cost.
Working in Partnership with BCcampus
BCcampus, eCampusOntario’s counterpart in British Columbia, has been a pioneer in the open educational resources arena since 2003. Together the two organizations are also developing systems and processes designed to support Ontario’s post-secondary educators in the review and adoption of open textbooks.
“One of the things that we’re trying to do is broaden the impact of open from 5% to a higher adoption rate and the key is to work directly with educators and post-secondary institutions”, said David Porter, CEO, eCampusOntario. “We also need to collaborate more broadly to better communicate and share the benefits of open education across Canada’s post-secondary sector.”
Why Open Textbooks?
Traditionally-published textbooks are produced under closed copyright, meaning they cannot be shared, re-used or re-purposed. They are usually costly (hundreds of dollars each) with new editions published frequently, making textbooks only a year or two old out of date. Even if they are published digitally at half the cost, these traditional books are still expensive and often come with digital rights management (DRM), mearning they only appear for a short period of time (4-6 months) on a learner’s e-reader.
Open textbooks are similar to traditional texts, but more flexible. The open licensing of textbooks allows for collaborations on, and improvements to, textbooks from contributors around the world. The ability to make minor changes or updates to a textbook or create an abridged version of the book, without requiring learners to purchase an entire book, is a bonus. The pedagogical advantage is the opportunity for educators to make changes, or adapt, the textbook to match different classrooms’ instructional needs and style.