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Could 'open textbooks' be the answer to reducing student costs?

Last Updated Sep 12, 2015 at 3:49 pm PDT

(Courtesy iStock)
Summary

More students and professors can turn to free online textbooks as an alternative to the expensive alternative.

Nearly 100 free online textbooks now available for BC students.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – University and college students know all too well the cost of textbooks.

Last week we told you of the continuing challenge for post-secondary students to pay for their textbooks, which can cost hundreds of dollars each.

Luckily, the textbook landscape is changing, with more titles available online for free.

Kwantlen psychology professor Rajiv Jhangiani calls himself an evangelist for the movement to get more materials online for students and trots out some startling stats: the cost of university textbooks has risen 1,000 per cent in the last 35 years.

He’s a key player in in BC’s Open Textbook Project – an effort to get major university textbooks accessible on the web.

He has researched the movement, reviewed and revised online editions and has used them in his classes.

So far nearly 100 titles have been adapted for online use, thanks to the textbook project which was launched three years ago.

He calls the system self-sustaining: faculty involved in the project are compensated for revising and developing the textbooks, but no royalties are paid.

He says cutting costs for students will have far-reaching effects.

“As students start to save money, we see improvements in program completion rates and student retention rates. We see students do better and get out into their respective industries sooner.”

He points out another bonus is how much more adaptable online material is.

“It’s exciting to see textbooks become more flexible, more personalized. Access is not as much of a barrier as it has been historically. For me, open education is very much a social justice issue.”

Is there pushback from traditional publishers? Jhangiaini says they can see the writing on the wall, and admit their product is fast becoming outdated.