1.3 Open Textbooks

Drilling down into OER more deeply, we find open textbooks, a subset of OER. Simply, an open textbook is a textbook that has been released with an open license. Usually this license is a Creative Commons license, which we will discuss more in week 2.

The open license allows the textbook to be copied, shared and revised. This means that the textbook can be distributed to students for free. It also means that educators have the right to change the content of the textbook, allowing textbooks to be customized to meet the specific needs of learners. Later on in week 4, we'll look at a case study from the Houston Community College which will illustrate how adaptation of a textbook is an important component of open textbooks.

Knowledge Belongs to Everybody

This TEDxKyoto talk (6:43) was delivered by Dr. Dave Ernst, Chief Information Officer in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. In this presentation, Dr. Ernst explains what open textbooks are and explains some of the problems open textbooks are trying to solve. Dr. Ernst leads the Open Textbook Catalog hosted at the University of Minnesota.

Faculty Perspectives on Open Textbooks

In the following two videos, you will hear from faculty who are using open textbooks and the reasons why.

Why use open textbooks? Benefits for students from BCcampus on Vimeo.

What instructors say about open textbooks from BCcampus on Vimeo.

Nicole Allen on Open Textbooks

In this video (2:44), Nicole Allen discusses the problems with the current textbook paradigm and the promise of open textbooks. She is the OER Program Director at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and was formerly the Make Textbooks Affordable Campaign Director at the Student Public Interest Research Groups (SPIRG).

The Tension of Open Textbooks

There is tension around textbooks. On the one hand, textbooks are considered an antiquated format, almost taboo to champion in the 21st century. On the other hand, textbooks are the most common educational material used in formal education, and a format with which teachers are very familiar.

At the same time some are pushing for abandoning textbooks, others see the textbook format as the best way forward for open educational resources.

Discussion Prompt

  • If open educational resources become too closely associated with the textbook format, will it help or hinder their adoption? What do you think would be the best two or three strategies for proponents of open educational resources to use in encouraging their adoption?

Attribution: Adapted from Activities for From OpenCourseWare to Open Educational Resources and Open Textbooks by David Wiley and released under a CC-BY license.


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