Open textbook combines high quality with cost savings for students

By Elsa Johnston Posted: October 29, 2017 9:00 a.m.

Dr. Harvey King is a big supporter of Open Textbooks and will use open textbook for his macro economics course in Winter 2018.
Dr. Harvey King is a big supporter of Open Textbooks and will use open textbook for his macro economics course in Winter 2018. U of R Photography

Dr. Harvey King is no stranger to using open educational resources in his university courses.

King, a professor of economics at the University of Regina and director of the Centre for Continuing Education, started developing and using his own teaching materials for his courses over 20 years ago.  

“I have created my own class notes for distribution in several classes in the past, and either had them printed and sold for cost to the students or mounted in PDF format on my class webpage,” explained King. “I guess in essence that was a case of open textbooks, I just didn't realize that.”

As the cost of university textbooks continues to rise, university professors, such as King, are adopting, adapting, and creating open textbooks – a no - or low-cost alternative to traditional print textbooks for students. Open textbooks are openly licensed and, depending on the type of open license applied, can be customized or tailored by an instructor for his or her particular course.

open text event

Students: Your textbooks could be free

Join Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani on October 30 from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm in RIC 119 for his presentation on open educational resources. Find out about open textbooks, a free or low-cost alternative to expensive educational resources.
Details here.

“First and foremost, the prices of textbooks are out of whack related to what is being delivered. $159 for a one-semester book is ridiculous,” said King. “I think mostly for this reason, students do not buy the textbooks, and so do not read them as I would like.”

After careful consideration, King decided to adopt the Open Stax textbook Principles of Macroeconomics for his course in Summer 2016 and again in Spring 2017. King estimates that his decision to use an open textbook has saved 110 students around $9,400 in total over those two courses.

King stressed that although textbook cost is very important when he is assigning textbooks for his courses, the textbook must meet his minimum standards. The textbook has to be peer reviewed and King knew the reputation of the open textbook author, Dr. Timothy Taylor. King, himself, has written for textbooks in the past and was looking for a textbook that included instructor materials, such as power points, solution manuals, and test banks.

“The textbook was free online, free as a PDF, and only $5 as an iBook,” said King.

“It had very good explanations of the needed course materials, interesting examples, and good exercises built in,” said King.

In addition to these materials, King has created his own videos, hosted on YouTube, to explain core concepts and developed his own study questions.

According to King, the advantage of open textbooks for students and faculty is that they are inexpensive, but high quality.

“They are available as e-books so they are very portable and flexible for students. The current one I use has a Creative Commons licence that would allow me to adapt portions of it as I would need, if I wanted to—and if I had the time,” he says.

The student response to his use of an open textbook has been very good.

“It’s been positive on the whole, and the cost savings seem appreciated,” said King.

He will be using the open textbook again for his macro economics course in Winter 2018.

King offered encouragement for other instructors or professors who are considering using an open textbook in their courses.

“Be open to the concept. The textbooks are as good as anything that costs $160,” said King. “They come with all the bells and whistles, although I did have to do a bit more work with the test bank, etc.”

The University of Regina Press is currently developing and adapting seven open textbooks and resource materials, one to be released this fall and six others coming in Spring 2018. Please visit here for more information.