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Open textbooks gain momentum

By Fabian Mayer, October 13 2015 —

Open textbooks are gaining momentum at the University of Calgary after being used in several philosophy and math courses this semester.

The Students’ Union is hoping to promote further adoption by creating a new Open Educational Resources (OER) network. The network will bring together advocates for OERs from around campus.

SU vice-president academic Stephan Guscott is pushing for wider adoption of open textbooks among U of C faculty.

“It’s really about raising awareness so that we understand what open educational resources are so we can use them more effectively,” Guscott said.

He hopes to get the network up and running by the end of October.

“The sooner we get started the sooner we can start doing stuff,” Guscott said. “It’s at the top of my priority list.”

U of C philosophy professor Richard Zach is developing an open textbook with fellow faculty member Nicole Wyatt. The logic textbook will be used for a second-year logic course at the U of C.

Zach also used the book for a course he taught at McGill University last year. He believes open textbooks offer several advantages over traditional textbooks.

“There are two things that students care about. One is ‘does the text help me learn’ and ‘is it going to cost me a lot of money,’” Zach said.

Zach thinks the work required for instructors to switch over to open textbooks is a big part of what keeps professors from using them more.

“Switching textbooks is always hard for an instructor. It’s almost like preparing a new course,” Zach said. “It’s a lot of work, but just keep in mind that by not doing that, you’re making your students pay a lot of money.”

He also touted the advantages open textbooks offer instructors over traditional ones.

“It’s also flexibility for the instructor. That was one of the reasons we started this open textbook project because we just weren’t happy with the textbooks that were out there,” Zach said.

The textbook was developed with grants from the faculty of arts, the Alberta Open Textbook Initiative and the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

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