Open Textbooks as an innovation route for open science pedagogy

Authors : Robert Farrow, Rebecca Pitt, Martin Weller

The paper introduces the UK Open Textbook project and discusses its success factors with regards to promoting open practice and open pedagogy. Textbooks remain a core part of educational provision in science.

Open Textbooks are openly licensed academic textbooks, wherein the digital version is available freely, and the print version at reduced cost. They are a form of Open Educational Resource (OER). In recent years a number of openly-licensed textbooks have demonstrated high impact in countries including the USA, Canada and South Africa.

The UK Open Textbooks project piloted several established approaches to the use and promotion open textbooks (focusing on STEM subjects) in a UK context between 2017 and 2018.

The project had two main aims: to promote the adoption of open textbooks in the UK; and to investigate the transferability of the successful models of adoption that have emerged in North America.

Through a number of workshops at a range of higher education institutions and targeted promotion at specific education conferences, the project successfully raised the profile of open textbooks within the UK.

Several case studies report existing examples of open textbook use in UK science were recorded. There was considerable interest and appetite for open textbooks amongst UK academics.

This was partly related to cost savings for students, but more significant factors were the freedom to adapt and develop textbooks and OER.

This is consistent with a range of research that has taken place in other countries and suggests the potential for impact on UK science education is high.


Analysis of an Open Textbook Adoption in an American History Course: Impact on Student Academic Outcomes and Behaviors

Authors : Penny Beile, Aimee deNoyelles, John Raible

Textbook costs can have a significant impact on the purchasing behaviors and academic success of higher education students. Open textbooks promise significant cost savings, yet perceptions about quality and efficacy still linger. This study explored the impact of an open textbook adoption in an American history course on student academic outcomes and behaviors.

Using a mixed-methods design, significant savings were realized with no decrease in student academic outcomes. Further, students reported having a positive experience using the open textbook, perceived the textbook as being of high quality, and expressed gratitude about the free cost.

The authors describe the respective roles of the librarian/instructional designer team and note the importance of working collaboratively with instructors to ensure successful implementation of open textbook adoptions.

URL : Analysis of an Open Textbook Adoption in an American History Course: Impact on Student Academic Outcomes and Behaviors


Motivations for textbook and learning resource publishing: Do academics want to publish OA textbooks?

Authors : Ellen Collins, Graham Stone

The affordability of textbooks and unsustainable commercial models are issues that many libraries face. As an alternative, there is a growing movement in the United States around open and affordable textbooks.

However, to date there has been less activity in the UK despite the introduction of a range of policies that encourage or mandate open access publication of research outputs such as journal articles or monographs.

These policy changes have affected academics’ attitudes to open access, but it is not yet clear whether the opportunity to publish in open access would affect researchers’ propensity to create non-research outputs such as textbooks and learning materials.

In 2017, Jisc Collections proposed a study into author incentives for textbook publishing in order to understand whether open access would motivate authors to publish learning materials and thereby support a transition to open access for e-textbooks.

The study consisted of a survey, focus groups and interviews. This article discusses the results of the research and provides several key insights and future opportunities for those wishing to explore open and affordable textbooks.

URL : Motivations for textbook and learning resource publishing: Do academics want to publish OA textbooks?


Determining Textbook Cost, Formats, and Licensing with Google Books API: A Case Study from an Open Textbook Project

Authors : Eamon Costello, Richard Bolger, Tiziana Soverino, Mark Brown

The rising cost of textbooks for students has been highlighted as a major concern in higher education, particularly in the US and Canada. Less has been reported, however, about the costs of textbooks outside of North America, including in Europe.

We address this gap in the knowledge through a case study of one Irish higher education institution, focusing on the cost, accessibility, and licensing of textbooks. We report here on an investigation of textbook prices drawing from an official college course catalog containing several thousand books.

We detail how we sought to determine metadata of these books including: the formats they are available in, whether they are in the public domain, and the retail prices.

We explain how we used methods to automatically determine textbook costs using Google Books API and make our code and dataset publicly available.

URL : Determining Textbook Cost, Formats, and Licensing with Google Books API: A Case Study from an Open Textbook Project


Secondary Students’ Perceptions of Open Science Textbooks

Authors: Rebecca Morales, Alesha Baker

In an attempt to align instructional resources with new state standards and to increase teacher awareness of these standards, one large suburban public school district piloted the development and adoption of open secondary science textbooks.

Open textbooks created by teachers in grades six through nine replaced conventional science textbooks provided by mainstream publishing companies. Therefore, grade nine students were not included in this study.

At the end of the first quarter, middle school students (grades six through eight) who used the open textbooks were surveyed. Survey responses required respondents to consider their learning before and during the use of the open textbook. The survey included quality and presentation of content questions, as well as an opportunity for students to explain their responses.

There were qualitative and quantitative indications that students’ perceptions of an open textbook in place of a standard textbook are improving students’ attitudes and behaviors toward learning.

URL : Secondary Students’ Perceptions of Open Science Textbooks




A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post-secondary students


In some educational settings, the cost of textbooks approaches or even exceeds the cost of tuition. Given limited resources, it is important to better understand the impacts of free open educational resources (OER) on student outcomes. Utilizing digital resources such as OER can substantially reduce costs for students. The purpose of this study was to analyze whether the adoption of no-cost open digital textbooks significantly predicted students’ completion of courses, class achievement, and enrollment intensity during and after semesters in which OER were used. T

his study utilized a quantitative quasi-experimental design with propensity-score matched groups to examine differences in outcomes between students that used OER and those who did not. The demographics of the initial sample of 16,727 included 4909 students in the treatment condition with a pool of 11,818 in the control condition. There were statistically significant differences between groups, with most favoring students utilizing OER.


The cost and quality of online open textbooks…


The cost and quality of online open textbooks: Perceptions of community college faculty and students :

“Proponents of open educational resources (OER) claim that significant cost savings are possible when open textbooks displace traditional textbooks in the college classroom. We investigated student and faculty perceptions of OER used in a community college context. Over 125 students and 11 faculty from seven colleges responded to an online questionnaire about the cost and quality of the open textbooks used in their classrooms. Results showed that the majority of students and faculty had a positive experience using the open textbooks, appreciated the lower costs, and perceived the texts as being of high quality. The potential implications for OER initiatives at the college level seem large. If primary instructional materials can in fact be made available to students at no or very low cost, without harming learning outcomes, there appears to be a significant opportunity for disruption and innovation in higher education.”