Our Tectorian of the Week is the Tectoria-based BC Open Textbook Project.
The BC Open Textbook Project champions practical innovations in learning such as open-source textbooks, which reduce the cost of postsecondary education. Improving affordability makes education more accessible for everyone. More highly-educated people means more folks to fill the jobs being pumped out by the booming advanced technology industry.
Victoria is the hub of a massive BC initiative that has received relatively little press until BCcampus director Mary Burgess was recently interviewed by CBC’s Michael Enright on Canada’s most popular radio program.
Enright, who has two sons in university, has remarked how astoundingly expensive university textbooks are. Compounding the problem, frequent updates to information and citations mean textbooks are revised and reissued from year to year, making it difficult to recycle them.
And expensive textbooks can be a major barrier to education for cash-strapped students.
So Enright was happy to learn the project has developed 40 openly-licensed textbooks that are available to everyone – the textbooks will be free of charge to students (check out the OpenEd website to see what textbooks are available so far).
As the BC Open Textbook project’s Clint Lalonde notes on his personal blog (and this is a man who still keeps an actual web log of his daily activities):
Spent a morning doing some research on cost of textbooks for students taking introductory mining courses at various institutions in BC – suggested retail price:$108.55 for one of 9 first term courses in this mining program. Add in the $212 Chem book you need in this course and the $165.80 Math book for this one, and your first term costs for textbooks is already close to $500…for 1/3 of the 9 courses you need for your first term…of a four term program. You only have 33 more courses to buy books for (I didn’t go any further).
The solution? Open-source textbooks.
Other key players in the Victoria-based, provincially funded project include Amanda Coolidge and Laurie Aesoph, who both work directly with faculty managing the development side of textbook production.
Brad Payne, the team’s technical analyst, has done some absolutely incredible work on the project including a lot of custom development on Pressbooks and APIs to feed several different applications into what appears as our open textbook site in a seamless way.
Making sure students have access to textbooks is a big deal, since textbooks in college and university typically cost students thousands of dollars.
And by improving access to postsecondary education in BC, Clint and the BCcampus team are helping make sure there will be skilled workers available to fill all of the technology jobs created by Tectoria’s rapidly growing sector.