Open Textbooks – experiences from BCcampus in Canada

There has been some interest of late in the potential of open textbooks across different sectors of Scottish education so we are happy to present this guest blog post from BCcampus in Canada on their Open Textbooks initiative.

In October 2012, the British Columbia (Canada’s westernmost province) Ministry of Advanced Education announced its support for the creation of open textbooks for the 40 highest-enrolled first and second year subject areas in the province’s public post-secondary system. A year later, it announced funding for a further 20 textbooks in areas of trades training. BCcampus is tasked with co-ordination of the project because of our 10-year experience funding open educational resources (OER) through an online program development fund.

A look at the BCcampus Open Textbook Project from BCcampus on Vimeo.

The goal of the Open Textbook Project is to provide flexible and affordable access to higher education resources in B.C. by making open textbooks available for use by B.C. faculty, and digital versions of the texts free of charge to faculty and students. Printed copies are also available on demand for a low cost. Here is our progress to date:

BC Open Textbook Project at a glance

Two Projects:

  • 40 openly licensed texts for the most highly enrolled subjects in BC Public Post SecondaryFunding: $1 million
  • 20 openly licensed texts for subject areas which align with provincial skills gap and the BC Jobs PlanFunding: $1 million Specific subject areas: under review

Project goals:

  • Increase access to higher education by reducing the cost of learning resources.
  • Enable faculty greater control of resources by enabling modification of existing open resources.


  • Adopt existing textbooks from the Commons and fund reviews
  • Fund adaptations of existing OER to form BC appropriate, high quality open texts
  • Fund creation from scratch where no appropriate existing resources exist

Available Textbooks:

Textbook Reviews:

  • 19 have been reviewed by B.C. faculty
  • 51 total reviews
  • More reviews are underway and more are needed

Known Adoptions as of May 2014:

  • 21 known adoptions
  • Of the known adoptions of Open Textbooks in British Columbia, we have a total known savings of $234,770 (savings are based on all students buying new textbook)

Current Creations:

  • Year 2 Accounting
  • Year 2 English
  • Year 1 History

Current Adaptations:

  • Year 1 Psychology • Year 2 Psychology
  • Year 1 Sociology • Year 1 Chemistry
  • Year 1 Computer Science • Year 1 Business Information Systems

Call for creation from scratch, adaptations and further reviews remain open.

Feedback from our stakeholders about Open Textbooks has been very good:

“I can make edits that are a closer match to my course’s needs, e-books are reasonable to ask students to bring to class every day, and I control the revisions and edition changes. When edition changes are under my control, nothing gets changed that I didn’t ask for or do for myself. I can control the timing. I’m not going to use the exact same textbook for my entire career, that’s not the point. the point is it’s under my control, and I didn’t have to write my own book from scratch.”

– Takashi Sato, Physics Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

“I still remember the looks on my students’ faces on the first day of class when I told them that the textbook had been posted on their course website for them to download for free. It is an understatement to say that they were happy.”

– Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, Capilano University

For more information: