Open textbooks mean money saved for KPU psychology students

Faculty to incorporate free resources in exchange for traditional textbooks

Ashraf Saleh / Flickr

Canada’s first open textbook project is coming to Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s psychology department this summer, enabling students to save tens of thousands of dollars on fees. For the individual student, that amounts to hundreds of dollars spared out-of-pocket every year.

The project is managed by BCcampus and funded by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education. Together, they are working with post-secondary institutions to make open textbooks more widely available and accepted province-wide. The end goal is inspiring more people to seek a higher education while giving professors the option to tailor their classroom resources to relevant learning outcomes.

So far, 149 open textbooks are available for free download on the BCcampus website. Each has been reviewed by over 138 post-secondary professors and deemed suitable for use in Canadian classrooms. Out of all those involved, KPU is one of the leading institutions whose faculty have contributed reviews, which can be accessed online.

A KPU psychology professor and reviewer of open textbooks, Rajiv Jhangiani, is a strong supporter of all open educational resources. Along with providing reviews, he has co-authored two open textbooks, edited several others, researched the impact of open educational resources, and advocated the potential of open textbooks to his fellow faculty members. In addition, Jhangiani has adopted them in the courses that he teaches at KPU.

Jhangiani believes that the biggest obstacle to the success of open textbooks is a lack of awareness and flexibility.

“Many faculties still don’t know that there are high-quality open textbooks available for their courses,” he says. “I think that tradition and inertia play a big role as well, if you’ve been using a textbook for a long time and you believe that it’s a lot of work to switch. And in some departments, it’s a committee decision to adopt an open textbook, so faculty do not have the individual authority to do what they want…[Finally,] Some tend to believe that what is available for free can’t possibly be high quality, but of course, that ignores the millions of dollars of funding that have been poured into open textbooks by philanthropic organizations and government.”

Despite these obstacles, Jhangiani is proud of KPU “for being recognized by BCcampus as the institution in BC with the highest number of course adoptions for open textbooks.” He recounts that “there are over 100 course adoptions, which is more than twice the number of adoptions of the second-highest adopting institution of BC.”

Jhangiani believes that open textbooks encourage student program completion and retention rates, thusly boosting their overall success in school. A study that he and his colleagues ran comparing the performance of students using traditional textbooks versus open textbooks last year found that “the difference actually favoured the students using the open textbook,” which he suspects, “has a lot more to do with access and the fact that a majority of students at this point do not purchase at least one of their course textbooks because of cost.” Other studies done by the Open Education Group have reached similar conclusions.

Right now, open textbooks at KPU are only available for the highest-enrolled courses, a majority of which are in the psychology department. However, any student can visit BCcampus’ website for a free, reliable resource on a subject of their choice, where there are 27 disciplines to choose from.

For those who prefer to study from the pages of a book, BCcampus has printed versions of open textbooks available at a discounted cost.

Correction: This article previously stated that the number of open textbooks on the BCcampus website was 14 instead of 149, and that they have been reviewed 38 times instead of 138 times. We regret this error.