INSTRUCTORS: Adopt an Open Textbook

5 Open Textbooks

Drilling down into OER more deeply we find open textbooks, a subset of OER. Simply, an open textbook is a textbook that has been released with an open licence, typically a Creative Commons licence.

The open licence allows the textbook to be copied, shared, and revised. This means that the textbook can be distributed to students for free. It also means that educators have the right to change the content of the textbook, allowing textbooks to be customized to meet the specific needs of learners.

Knowledge belongs to everybody

This TEDxKyoto talk was delivered by Dr. David Ernst, Chief Information Officer in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota (video length is 6:43). In this presentation, Dr. Ernst explains what open textbooks are and explains some of the problems open textbooks are trying to solve. Dr. Ernst leads the Open Textbook Network hosted at the University of Minnesota.

Faculty perspectives on open textbooks

The following two videos are of faculty expressing the reasons why they use open textbooks (video lengths are 1:26 and 1:38, respectively).

Nicole Allen on open textbooks

In this video, Nicole Allen discusses the problems with the current textbook paradigm and the promise of open textbooks (video length is 2:44). She is the Director of Open Education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and was formerly the Make Textbooks Affordable Campaign Director at the Student Public Interest Research Groups (SPIRG).

The tension of open textbooks

There is tension around textbooks. On the one hand, textbooks are considered an antiquated format, almost taboo to champion in the 21st century. On the other hand, textbooks are the most common educational material used in formal education, and a format with which teachers are very familiar.

At the same time some are pushing for abandoning textbooks, others see the textbook format as the best way forward for open educational resources.

Discussion Prompts

If open educational resources become too closely associated with the textbook format, will it help or hinder their adoption? What do you think would be the best two or three strategies for proponents of open educational resources to use in encouraging their adoption?[1]


The Knowledge Belongs to Everyone: David Ernst at TEDxKyoto 2012 video by TEDx Talks is used under a CC BY licence.

The Why use open textbooks? Benefits for students video by BCcampus is used under a CC BY licence.

The What instructors say about open textbooks video by BCcampus is used under a CC BY licence.

The Open Education Week – Open Textbooks.m4v video by Nicole Allen is used under a CC BY licence.

  1. Adapted from Activities for From OpenCourseWare to Open Educational Resources and Open Textbooks by David Wiley and released under a CC-BY licence


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Adoption Guide - 2nd Edition by BCcampus is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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