March 20, 2015 8:37 pm
Updated: March 20, 2015 11:38 pm

Educators lean toward open source textbooks to cut costs for students

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It’s no surprise that getting a college or university degree comes with a hefty price tag and for some students, there’s still some amount of ‘sticker shock’ when buying their textbooks for the year.

For many students, textbooks are too expensive and some do not buy them at all; which educators say needs to change.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University psychology professor Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani says when he saw a growing number of his students not buying books, he made the switch from the traditional method to something more modern.

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That’s when Open Textbooks was born and now, some B.C. schools are taking part in this open source solution.

Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a book that will be out of date in a few years, students can log on and download digital versions of those books. They can be kept on a phone, a tablet or the student can print them off.

What kind of savings does this mean for students?

It means they can save themselves as much as $1,500 a semester and it means they will actually read the books; which in turn, will help their grades.

“I think students are winning over here because they have access to a resource that they normally couldn’t afford,” says Jhangiani.

“A growing number of them choose not to purchase the textbooks for a number of their courses, and so they are winning. They get to keep it forever, they don’t have to feel compelled to re-sell an expensive textbook at the end of the semester.

“As an instructor, I’m able to modify and customize the textbook to suit the course goals.”

British Columbia is one of the first provinces to widely use Open Textbooks. Since 2013, educators along with the Ministry of Advanced Education have been working to provide the free textbooks for the 40 most highly enrolled subjects in B.C.’s colleges and universities.

But educators are also pointing out that it’s important to remember these books are still fairly new and might need some tweaking. Research is now underway on the Open Textbooks to see how these new books stack up against the competition.

“We have to move ahead in a thoughtful kind of way,” says psychology professor Dr. Farhad Dastur at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“I think it does require study so that we understand what are the pros and what the cons. I wouldn’t say that we should rush into it with our eyes closed.”

~ with files from Nadia Stewart

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