B.C. Open Textbook Collection Through the Years: 2017

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. In this monthly blog post series, we’re looking back and highlighting some significant milestones of the project.

By Lauri Aesoph, manager, Open Education Operations

By the time 2017 rolled around, B.C.’s faculty had adopted so many open textbooks that the almost 79,000 students who had used them were collectively saving $9.5 million. It was gratifying to see the financial impact of replacing one commercial textbook with a free, openly licensed one. 

But the open textbook team had thoughts: What if an entire program used open textbooks and free library resources? How much would students save then? And what else could be done to support open education in the province?

In the same year the B.C. Open Textbook Project began in 2012, the idea of a zero-textbook-cost program was proposed by David Wiley, chief academic officer of Lumen Learning, during a panel discussion at a Virginia Community College System chancellors’ retreat. Daniel DeMarte, executive vice president for academic and student affairs at Tidewater Community College (TCC), was in attendance that day and liked this idea. As a result, in 2013, with Wiley’s help, TCC became the first accredited post-secondary institution in the United States to offer a “a degree in which students pay nothing for required textbooks.”

Five years later the B.C. Open Textbook Project followed suit.

Zed Is for Zero

In 2017 BCcampus posted its first call for proposals for a Zed Cred (Z-degree) Grant. (We changed the program name from Z-degree to Zed Cred so the American pronunciation of Z (zee) could be altered to the British/Canadian zed. Eventually this label was standardized in Canada and the U.S. to ZTC or zero textbook cost.)

When we announced the grant recipients, Krista Lambert was appointed as their BCcampus project manager. The successful applicants and targeted programs were:

  • Kwantlen Polytechnic University — Certificate in Arts
  • Thompson Rivers University — Certificate in General Studies
  • Justice Institute of British Columbia — Law Enforcement Studies Diploma

The funds provided by this grant proved to be money well spent as they not only bankrolled the first ZTC programs in Canada but also were the impetus for B.C.’s colleges, institutes, and universities to independently develop more ZTC programs.

Later, thanks to additional funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training in 2019, ZTC projects took off for Business, Health, and Trades programs. The launch of the ABE ZTC program in 2022 was particularly impactful when its set of free open textbooks were paired with free tuition for all domestic students in B.C.

Support 2.0

While our grantees were busy creating textbook-free programs, ancillary resources for existing textbooks, and other open educational resources (OER) projects, BCcampus was taking steps to uphold and improve the quality of the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. In 2017 the B.C. Open Textbook Project team began calling on subject-matter experts to evaluate curated books being considered for the collection. Open textbook staff attended Articulation Committee meetings to both inform members about open textbooks and gather input on the needs of specific disciplines and programs. The introduction of the Report an Error form that year allowed instructors and students to more easily inform BCcampus about a mistake in an open textbook.

By 2017 instructors who had adopted open textbooks for their courses — and the librarians, teaching and learning staff, and others who supported them — had become more knowledgeable and adept in using OER, and their requests for help from the B.C. Open Textbook Project team reflected this. In response BCcampus developed more advanced support resources, such as the Adaptation GuideAdoption GuideOER Student Toolkit, and Pressbooks Guide. When many faculty authors moved beyond the basics of using Pressbooks, BCcampus introduced Pressbooks Training Webinars with both introductory and intermediate sessions scheduled each term. 

In an effort to encourage inter-institutional support, sharing, and collaboration in open education, communities of open education practitioners were launched for physics and psychology.  

Open Education on Campus

In addition to B.C. Open Textbook Project trainings and webinars, open education events in 2017 were increasingly offered by the province’s post-secondary institutions. For example, in honour of Science Literacy Week, libraries from BCIT, Kwantlen Polytechnic, Simon Fraser University, and University of British Columbia (UBC) hosted a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in which post-secondary students, staff, and researchers were invited to edit and add content to the free and openly licensed Wikipedia encyclopedia.

So many institutions were forming open education working groups in 2017 to support OER work on their campuses that BCcampus set up the B.C. Open Education Working Group listserv to assist with cross-institutional working-group communication. That same year, several individuals from B.C.’s working groups began planning the Working Group Guide, an effort led by BCcampus secondees Lucas Wright from UBC and later Krista Lambert from the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

In 2017 BCcampus began to officially recognize the dedication and contributions made to open education in B.C by individuals or teams in the post-secondary sector with the BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education. Since then, 44 individuals and teams from 19 B.C. post-secondary institutions and organizations have received this award.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the B.C. Open Textbook Collection, and we’re celebrating the collection all year long. Stay tuned for the next post in our B.C. Open Textbook Collection Through The Years series as we revisit the milestones from 2018. Always get the latest information on news and events by subscribing to the BCcampus newsletter.

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