Students in B.C. are celebrating four years of free open textbooks and up to $2.3 million in savings through the BC Open Textbook Project.

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The BC Open Textbook Project is the first government-sponsored initiative of its kind in Canada. It is estimated that more than 18,000 students in B.C. have benefitted from using open textbooks since the project was first announced on Oct. 16, 2012.

“Open textbooks are saving students hundreds of dollars when compared to the traditional books that they used in a class,” said Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson. “Uptake is growing as more students, professors and instructors realize not only the savings offered by open textbooks, but also the exceptional learning flexibility in the classroom.”

Currently, over 160 open textbooks are available for free online through the Open Textbook Project, ranging from the most popular first- and second-year areas such as math and business, to skills and technical subjects such as trades-foundation courses and adult upgrading. More than 200 faculty members at 23 public post-secondary institutions in B.C. are participating in the Open Textbook Project.

“Over the decades, I watched the rising cost of textbooks force more and more of my students to go without, and often do poorly in the course,” said Jennifer Kirkey, instructor and chair in the department of physics and astronomy at Douglas College. “Using an open textbook means all my students have the textbook, making my job easier. The students are happier, and their academic performance has improved.”

Government kick-started the Open Textbook Project with BCcampus in 2012 by providing $1 million in funding for open textbooks in the most highly enrolled first- and second-year academic subjects. In 2013, government made a platform commitment to expand the project, and provided further funding of $1 million to develop 20 additional open textbooks in skills and technical subjects. The project exceeded both commitments. Currently, the BC Open Textbook Project is proudly supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, an organization that is a passionate supporter and advocate for Open Education.

“The past four years have seen incredible growth and student benefits through the Open Textbook Project,” said Maxwell Nicholson, director of campaigns and community relations with the University of Victoria Student Society. “The University of Victoria Student Society is proud to support the affordability and adaptability that open textbooks offer, and we look forward to even more open textbook adoptions and student savings here at the University of Victoria and throughout B.C. Together, we can change the textbook industry.”

B.C. is recognized as a leader both nationally and internationally in the development of open education resources including open textbooks, and it is working collaboratively with other jurisdictions in Canada, the United States and abroad to support the creation and use of open educational resources.

“BCcampus is extremely proud that the BC Open Textbook Project has impacted such a diverse student population, from the Lower Mainland to the Interior to northern B.C.,” said Amanda Coolidge, senior manager of open education at BCcampus. “Institutions across the Province are showing commitment to the use of Open Educational Resources to both transform teaching and learning practices and save students money.”

In addition to open textbooks, the Open Textbook Project offers free open education resources including resources to make open textbooks more accessible to people with disabilities, an authoring guide to assist with creating or adapting open textbooks, and an open education resource toolkit. The toolkit provides information on how interested student societies can advocate for greater open textbook adoption on campus.

Projects in development through the Open Textbook Project include a new open textbook on Aboriginal knowledge and science education research, supplementary teaching resources and adoption packages for common core trades open textbooks.

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