$1,240,856 in open textbook savings! Where’d you get that number?

Open textbooks have saved Langara students an estimated $1,240,856 since 2013. This makes Langara the heaviest user of open textbooks amongst all B.C. colleges and universities.

$1,240,856 is a significant figure. You might be wondering: Where does it come from?

The College’s Open Education Advisory Committee, Open Langara, began recording open textbook adoption data in collaboration with BCcampus in earnest in 2017. To calculate cost savings, BCcampus employs a formula commonly used within the open education community: The price of the commercial textbook previously used in the class multiplied by the total number of students currently enrolled in the class. So, if BUSM 4850 previously used a textbook that cost $100 and there are 100 students enrolled in four sections of the course, the total cost savings is $10,000.

A number of multi-section Langara courses now use an open textbook universally (i.e. across all sections)–BUSM 4850, CHEM 1114, CHEM 1118, CHEM 1120, MATH 1152, NUTR 1100, and PHYS 1118, among them. These form the foundation of the data we compile each semester.

The Langara Bookstore has become an indispensable partner in identifying new open textbook adoptions, thanks to its established communication channels with instructors. The ‘open’ nature of open educational resources (OER) makes use difficult to track. Every semester, Bookstore staff reach out to Langara instructors to see which textbook they are using. When they learn that an instructor has given up a commercial textbook in favour of an open textbook, they share this information with Open Langara and note the adoption in the Book List Tool for students.

Langara’s open textbook data is not without its weaknesses. It assumes that every student enrolled in a class would have purchased a new copy of the required textbook. (Let’s be honest – this is highly unlikely!) It also fails to account for the fact that some students use a single textbook for multiple classes. For example, students enrolled in CHEM 1118, 1120, 1220, and 1154 previously used the same commercial textbook.

In spite of these shortcomings, open textbook adoption data illustrates an important trend in education –namely, that instructors are embracing open educational resources in greater numbers than ever before. In the spring 2020 semester alone, forty-nine Langara classes listed an open textbook as the required course text.

Beyond impressive cost savings for students, OER have pedagogical benefits. Unlike commercial textbooks, which are protected by traditional copyright, open textbooks are openly licensed. Open licenses allow educators to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute content (popularly referred to as the 5 Rs of Open) without payment or permission from the copyright owner. This allowed Langara NUTR 1100 instructors to incorporate Canadian data into an open Nutrition textbook authored in the U.S.

Recording open textbook adoption data also allows BCcampus and other open education partners to form communities of practice. For instance, Digital Marketing is a fast-changing field. BCcampus can leverage the collective expertise of instructors using an open textbook like eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Online Marketing to ensure currency and facilitate development of ancillary resources (powerpoint slide decks, question banks, etc). As the saying goes, many hands make light work.

For more information, including a visualization of Langara’s open textbook data, visit Langara’s open education website or contact Open Langara at open@langara.ca.

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