Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson dropped by Camosun's Interurban campus on Tuesday to learn about the use of open textbooks in a number of the college's trades courses. Since 2012

Open textbooks provide big savings and benefits for Camosun students

To date, Camosun students have saved $115,000 using open textbooks

Lugging a backpack full of books across campus is becoming a thing of the past at Camosun College, thanks to its adoption of open textbooks across numerous programs and courses.

On Tuesday, Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson met with students in Camosun Interurban’s plumbing and pipe trades programs to learn about open textbooks, free digital learning materials developed by instructors. Since 2012, Camosun students have saved more than $115,000 on textbooks developed through the government-sponsored B.C. Open Textbook Project with the post-secondary support organization BCcampus.

“The students are getting state-of-the-art stuff for free and saving themselves a ton of money,” said Wilkinson. “This is the front edge of a very important wave in education, and we’re doing it right here in B.C. We’re way ahead of the rest of the country.”

Camosun trades instructor Rod Lidstone, who is the lead developer and writer in the Open Textbook Project for BCcampus, said the opportunity to create open textbooks came up during his work using learning management systems for students.

“We’re very often restricted by textbooks because of copyright issues, so I always knew that we needed a textbook designed to be used with electronic learning management systems,” he said. “We found out that there was potential funding from BCcampus to make open textbooks.

“We contacted them with the idea and they supported us, and we got funding through the ministry to do these textbooks.”

In the last year, Camosun has used open textbook for numerous trades programs, including pipe trades, electrical, sheet metal and refrigeration. Lidstone said students have gravitated to using the digital textbooks in their courses.

“There’s the obvious savings in money, but beyond that, there are many other benefits,” said Lidstone. “The textbooks are available as digital PDF files and EPUBs, which are designed to be read on your smartphone or tablet. That flexibility is really a benefit.”

In addition to the benefits for students, instructors are able to adapt and customize digital course materials to keep open textbooks up to date and relevant.

Currently, 23 of the trades books are also available as free audiobooks, making them more accessible to students with physical or learning disabilities.

jacob.zinn@saanichnews.com