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Textbooks and alternatives

Why open education resources?

Open Education Resources (OER) include textbooks, course readings and other teaching and learning content available online at little or no cost.

These resources are produced by libraries, universities, government agencies, archival organizations and individuals, and can be used, reused and modified depending on how they have been licensed by the creator of the content.

One of the driving factors for the adoption of OER, such as open textbooks, is they are free. But cost savings is not the only benefit of using OER – they are an essential part of an open pedagogy, and can be used to create a powerful learning experience for your students. Studies have revealed a “positive relationship between the use of OER and student academic achievement” [PDF] and suggest that OER may help to decrease withdrawal rates while increasing overall student grades.


Paul Stacey, in the comprehensive article on the Economics of Open,  articulates why open education resources should be adopted, OER can: 

  • Increase access to education
  • Provide students with an opportunity to assess and plan their education choices
  • Showcase an institution’s intellectual outputs, promote its profile, and attract students
  • Convert students exploring options into fee-paying enrollments
  • Accelerate learning by providing educational resources for just-in-time, direct, informal use by both students and self-directed learners
  • Add value to knowledge production
  • Reduce faculty preparation time
  • Generate cost savings – (this case has been particularly substantiated for open textbooks)
  • Enhance quality
  • Generate innovation through collaboration

To learn more about open resources see the Open Resources guide. 

Choosing an Open Education Resource

BC Campus provides access to hundreds of open textbooks across all disciplines.   Some of the textbooks are adapted from other open education projects and many have been produced in BC, by British Columbian instructors.     A complete catalogue of the resources can be easily searched and explored. 

BC Campus has set high standards for the quality of the textbooks it supports, and has suggested criteria for instructors to consider when choosing an open textbook: 

  • Comprehensiveness – The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary.
  • Content Accuracy – Content, including diagrams and other supplementary material, is accurate, error-free and unbiased.
  • Relevance/Longevity – Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.
  • Clarity – The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used.
  • Consistency – The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
  • Modularity – The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
  • Organization/Structure/Flow – The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.
  • Interface – The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader.
  • Grammatical Errors – The text contains no grammatical errors.
  • Cultural Relevance – The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
  •  For what level would this text be appropriate (i.e. First Year, Second Year, etc)