What is an open textbook and how do you use it?

Open textbooks are open educational resources (OER) which are important to the higher education system in B.C. because they have the potential to:

  • increase access to higher education by reducing student costs,
  • give faculty more control over their instructional resources, and
  • move the OER agenda forward in a meaningful, measurable way

These instructional resources are created and shared in ways so that more people have access to them. That’s a completely different model than traditionally-copyrighted materials. OER are defined as “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others” (Hewlett Foundation).
In our collections of open textbooks and other OERs, we do our best to adhere to the five Rs of open education as defined by David Wiley, which are:

  1. Retain– i.e. no digital rights management restrictions (DRM), the content is yours to keep, whether you’re the author, instructor or student.
  2. Reuse– you are free to use materials in a wide variety of ways without expressly asking permission of the copyright holder.
  3. Revise– as an educator, you can adapt, adjust, or modify the content to suit specific purposes and make the materials more relevant to your students. This means making it available in a number of different formats and including source files, where possible.
  4. Remix– you or your students can pull together a number of different resources to create something new.
  5. Redistribute– you are free to share with others, so they can reuse, remix, improve upon, correct, review or otherwise enjoy your work.

Open textbooks are available to read online, download in PDF, ePub and mobi (Kindle) formats for free. You also have the option to purchase (at cost) a bound and covered print copy of the textbook through one of our partner institutions’ print on demand service. Should an institutions wish to implement their own print on demand service they are welcome to do so using the PDF of each open textbook.
Since the B.C. Open Textbook Project began in 2012, only 6.3% of students using open textbooks have purchased the bound version through the print on demand services offered through Simon Fraser University.
Further studies have shown that*:

  • Open textbook format (Print vs. Digital) did not impact course performance
  • Students using open textbooks performed the same as or better than those using traditional textbooks
  • Students rate the open print textbook as higher in quality than the traditional textbook
  • Students place a fair price of ~$50 for both traditional and open textbooks

Want to help us spread the OER word? Feel free to download and use these resources to help share the open textbook love. This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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