5 questions with Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani on open education and BCcampus’ Open Textbook Project

Dr. Jhangiani is an instructor at Capilano University who was a faculty reviewer of open textbooks as part of the BC open textbook project. He was recently featured in the provincial government’s news release about open textbooks.

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani

Dr. Jhangiani took an existing open textbook, revised it to meet his needs and then released it back to the commons under an open license for others to use. We wanted to learn more about his process and thinking. Here are our five questions:

1. How did you get involved with the Open Textbook Project?

Early last summer, I learned about the open textbook project.  I decided to get involved after listening to David Wiley talk at Thompson Rivers University about the open education movement.  I volunteered to review the Social Psychology textbook BCcampus identified as part of phase one. I also notified BCcampus of the existence of another open textbook (this one for Research Methods in Psychology) and asked if I could review that one as well.

My position on open textbooks has evolved over the past year. I was open to the idea, but concerned about quality. However, once I saw that the quality could be high, I became more of an advocate.

2. What motivated you to adopt and then adapt the Research Methods in Psychology textbook?

After I reviewed the research methods textbook, I made a list of its deficiencies. Knowing that I would teach a class in research methods during the fall, I had the opportunity to make the necessary changes and updates and actually do what I had dreamt of doing – provide my students with a high quality textbook for free. My revision took about three weeks (full time) to complete, and took place before BCcampus had announced phase two of their project. It was hard work, but it was a labour of love, and I view it as a service to my discipline.

The traditional and most popular textbook for the research methods course is excellent, but costs students about $120. When considering adopting the open textbook, I wanted to ensure that the coverage, currency, and clarity of the explanations were all high. I was looking for clear explanations and relatable examples. Happily, the open textbook satisfied all of these criteria.

3. What was the reaction from your students?

I still remember the looks on my students’ faces on the first day of class when I told them that the textbook had been posted on their course website for them to download for free. It is an understatement to say that they were happy.

They were also fully aware that they were rather like guinea pigs, as the first class of students in B.C. with a free textbook from the project. This discussion was important, as I needed to gather their feedback concerning the textbook through the semester.

4. What are some of the barriers that impact open textbook adoption and use? 

My peers often wondered why anyone would write a textbook without any compensation. They also occasionally expressed concerns about the quality of a free product as well as the lack of ancillaries (e.g., a test bank). I believe these concerns represent some of the major barriers to more widespread open textbook adoption. However, from my perspective, the advantages of open textbooks outweigh their disadvantages.

Aside from the significant cost savings to students, open textbooks published with a creative commons license often permit instructors to adapt and modify the text as necessary. This means instructors are free to update the textbook with the latest research findings and other developments in their field at a much faster rate than the traditional textbook’s five-year review cycle.

5. What’s next?

At the end of this academic year I plan to gather feedback from the second group of students using the textbook and work on further revising and refining it. There have been significant developments over the past year concerning the best practices for research in psychology.

My hope is that by the end of the summer of 2014 BCcampus will have the second Canadian edition of Research Methods in Psychology in their repository.

Notable Quotes

Education is not just about information; it is about how we think about the information and what we do with it. – Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani

We live in a time when students can easily bring up any and all of the information in their textbooks on their smartphones instantly and for free. – Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani

Here’s a startling statistic I picked up from David Wiley: We are living in a time when the total amount of student load debt in North America outstrips the total credit card debt in North America. The costs savings of an open textbook to students are significant. – Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani

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