Justice Institute “goes big” in adopting OER and open textbooks

Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) students taking some introductory courses no longer have to worry about how much their textbooks for those courses will cost.

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JIBC has assigned open textbooks derived from the BCcampus Open Textbooks Project to its first-year English and Psychology courses. Their introductory Statistics course has been taught using openly licensed materials for three years already, making JIBC an enthusiastic early adopter of open educational resources (OER).

“It’s one thing to save money, but we’ve got to make sure the quality is there,” said Dr. Stuart Ruttan, Associate Dean for the Centre for Graduate Studies and Academic Planning. “The BCcampus framework for review [of open textbooks] has been very helpful, and we were able to make rational decisions based on feedback from colleagues across the province.”

Open resources benefit instructors as well as students. “Adaptability is one message I’m hearing,” said Dr. Ruttan. “Only two weeks into the fall semester, and it’s clear our ability to revise materials, and the opportunity to re-engage with colleagues, has benefits on the professional development side.

One of our instructors spent the summer making fairly major revisions to the English text. Once she has a chance to run it through her course this semester, she’ll upload her version [to the BCcampus repository] and share it.”

This academic year alone, 425 JIBC students will save $54,000 in textbook costs. That includes a specialized text: Applied Ethics in Law Enforcement, for JIBC students.

“We continue to be amazed by these numbers and are grateful for the contribution BCcampus has made in this area,” said JIBC Associate Dean for the Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation, Dr. Tannis Morgan.

Dr. Morgan attributes the successful adoption of open textbooks to the unique structure of the JIBC. “We choose textbooks according to program need here, rather than on a per-class basis,” she said. “Also, JIBC has no large-scale campus bookstore to compete with.”

Dr. Morgan and her team are embarking on a research project to measure the success of OER; to pinpoint the factors leading JIBC to get the jump on open textbooks. Research questions include: what OER are in use, for what programs? What are the reasons for OER, what are the drivers – by type of program or business model?

“This is something we’re going to keep moving forward with,” said Dr. Ruttan. “Not everything we do here is part of the big 40 texts, but we do have breadth here. We’ll keep approaching our course development and materials as open source, and make sure the quality and standards are where they need to be.”

Notable quotes

“We’re advocates – all in the name of working on behalf of our students,” – Stuart Ruttan.

“We continue to be amazed by these numbers and are grateful for the contribution BCcampus has made in this area.” – Tannis Morgan

“[Open textbooks] are lighter in the pocketbook and lighter in the backpack. Most of our students read electronic versions on their devices.”  – Stuart Ruttan

“Open Textbooks are part of a bigger, formal JIBC research project launched about OER -capturing the momentum that has grown quite a bit in last four years. We’re measuring what success looks like, hoping that it’s going to inform future direction around open textbooks and close the loop a bit on our open textbooks activity.” – Tannis Morgan

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