Online Texts Saving Okanagan College Students Money

Okanagan College students are saving big with an innovative provincial program that gives access to free textbooks.

Ryan McAllister, a second-year environmental studies student at the College, has already felt the positive impacts from using open textbooks in four of his courses. Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 12.41.02 PM

“The biggest perk of open textbooks are the cost-savings - saving money as a student will always come first,” he says.

Okanagan College ranked third in open textbook adoptions out of 31 participating post-secondary institutions in BCcampus’s 2015-16 Annual Review of their Open Textbook Project. (Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Camosun College ranked first and second, respectively.)

BCcampus’s Open Textbook Project, an online repository of open educational resources (OERs), allows students and educators to use textbooks at no cost under a Creative Commons license. It currently has more than 170 books on a wide range of common post-secondary course subjects ­– everything from social science and business to trades and adult literacy upgrading courses.

“Okanagan College is committed on a number of fronts to minimizing barriers to post-secondary education,” explains Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “It’s encouraging to see our professors supporting the Open Textbook Project and helping students save on the cost of their education.”

“The speed at which you can move through an online text to search or reference a specific topic and the ability to access your text anywhere without having to carry a book is great,” adds McAllister. “I find I spend more time reading further into the subject matter when using the online format.”

Dr. Arthur Gill Green, a geography professor at the College, has been an advocate of OER since 2010 when he discovered three of his students sharing a textbook because they couldn’t each afford to purchase one. Green became involved with the Open Textbook project in 2012 and doesn’t just teach with the materials, he creates them. In 2014, he co-wrote British Columbia in a Global Context, which is published and available in the online repository.

BCcampus reports that since 2012, 1,260 Okanagan College students have saved more than $190,000 across 76 different course sections where faculty and instructors have adopted an open textbook to replace a primary textbook or educational resource that must be purchased.

Since the launch of the project in 2012, more than 22,000 B.C. students have used Open Textbook for a savings of more than $2 million. BCcampus projects that Open Textbook will save students more than $800,000 in the 2016-17 academic year.

“Students are responding really well to open textbooks on multiple levels,” explains Green. “They appreciate the cost savings and the freedom of not having to rely on a heavy book that becomes out of date as soon as they purchase it. The biggest benefit is the ability for students and faculty to work together to actively create materials that further student knowledge linking to educational and occupational outcomes.”

Green’s support of the Open Textbook project hasn’t gone unnoticed. He was named one of BCcampus’ provincial Faculty Fellows for 2016-17. He is one of two B.C. educators named as an International OER Research Fellow with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, an American grant-making foundation that has been a longtime supporter of OER.

The Open Textbook Project is the only one of its kind in Canada. Though in its infancy, it has major support from the Province and is now receiving international backing. Open Textbook is funded by an operating grant from the Ministry of Advanced Education and recently received a $525,000 per annum grant from the Hewlett Foundation to expand its operations.

OERs are peer-reviewed to maintain quality standards and offer the added benefit of allowing for collaboration among educators and students. Open Textbook content can be edited and updated instantly and students can view the resources in various online or printable formats.

Because they are openly licensed, OERs can be used and re-purposed by others. This allows for adaptation to a specific course and enables access to students with learning challenges.

For more information on the Open Textbook Project visit

Original article from: Okanagan College

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