Adoption Guide - 2nd Edition

Adoption Guide - 2nd Edition

A reference for instructors, institutions, and students on adopting open textbooks

Lauri M. Aesoph

Caroline Daniels; Farhad Dastur; David Harper; Inba Kehoe; Gail Morong; and Lucas Wright


Victoria, B.C.



Accessibility Statement

BCcampus Open Education believes that education should be available to everyone,d which means supporting the creation of free, open, and accessible educational resources. We are actively committed to increasing the accessibility and usability of the textbooks and resources we produce.

Accessibility features of the web version of this resource

The web version of the Adoption Guide has been designed with accessibility in mind and incorporates the following features:

Other file formats available

In addition to the web version, this book is available in a number of file formats, including PDF, EPUB (for eReaders), MOBI (for Kindles), and various editable files. Here is a link to where you can download this book in another file format. Look for the “Download this book” drop-down menu to select the file type you want.

This resource links to a number of external websites. If you are accessing this book in a print format, words that are linked will be underlined in the text, and you can find the full web address in the back matter of the book.

Known accessibility issues and areas for improvement

While we strive to ensure that this resource is as accessible and usable as possible, we might not always get it right. Any issues we identify will be listed below. There are currently no known issues.

List of Known Accessibility Issues
Location of issue Need for improvement Timeline Work around

Accessibility standards

The web version of this resource has been designed to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, level AA. In addition, it follows all guidelines in Appendix A: Checklist for Accessibility. The development of this toolkit involved working with students with various print disabilities who provided their personal perspectives and helped test the content.

Let us know if you are having problems accessing this guide

We are always looking for ways to make our resources more accessible. If you have problems accessing this resource, please contact us to let us know so we can fix the issue.

Please include the following information:

You can contact us one of the following ways:

This statement was last updated on September 30, 2019.


Exceptions to CC BY Licence

This Adoption Guide, 2nd Edition is released with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence, except where otherwise noted.

BCcampus has received one-time permission from the copyright holders to include the below items in this guide. Because these items are not covered by an open-copyright licence, they cannot be 1) used outside of this guide or 2) included in an adaptation of this guide.

How to Track

Publish Stats


About This Guide

This is one of many support guides from BCcampus Open Education. It is designed to supplement the central resource: Self-Publishing Guide.

This second edition is an update and expansion of the Adoption Guide created by BCcampus Open Education and several faculty and staff who attended the Adoption Workshop Development Sprint on March 31–April 1, 2016 in Vancouver.

BCcampus Open Education began in 2012 as the B.C. Open Textbook Project with the goal of making post-secondary education in British Columbia more accessible by reducing students’ costs through the use of open textbooks and other OER. BCcampus supports the post-secondary institutions of British Columbia as they adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices to enable powerful learning opportunities for the students of B.C. BCcampus Open Education is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training and the Hewlett Foundation.

Open educational resources (OER) are defined as teaching, learning, and research resources that, through permissions granted by the copyright holder, allow others to use, distribute, keep, or make changes to them. We consider this publication—along with our guides, slide decks, and other support materials—as a type of OER that trains faculty, staff, and students to build, customize, and use open textbooks.

The BCcampus Writing Guidelines for Articles and Web Content and BCcampus Open Education Style Guide, along with the attached style sheet [Word file], were referenced during the copy editing and proofreading phases of this guide.

To ensure that standard barriers are addressed for maximum access by as many readers as possible, this guide meets the criteria laid out in the Checklist for Accessibility—including an Accessibility Statement—and is flagged as “Accessible” in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection.

This guide does not come with an index. Instead, use the search field located in the top-right of each page in the online version to locate a specific topic.

If you find an error in this guide, please report it using the Report a Textbook Error form. For other feedback or comments, contact BCcampus Support.



This guide was created by BCcampus Open Education with the assistance of several faculty and staff who attended the BCcampus Adoption Workshop Development Sprint on March 31–April 1, 2016 in Vancouver. Participants included Caroline Daniels and Dr. Farhad Dastur (Kwantlen Polytechnic University), Inba Kehoe (University of Victoria), Dr. David Harper (University of the Fraser Valley), Lucas Wright (UBC), and Gail Morong (Thompson Rivers University).

In the three years since then, open education has grown and matured in British Columbia and elsewhere. In response to those changes, information and links have been updated throughout this guide.

Reported open textbook adoptions have grown in B.C. from a cumulative savings of $5 million in textbook costs in 2016 to over $13 million in 2019. This increase is the result of enhanced awareness and the acknowledged benefits of using these openly licensed resources; the ongoing creation and customization of quality open textbooks for the B.C. and Canadian post-secondary curricula; and better tracking of open textbook usage in the classroom. These factors, and BCcampus’ three additional years of experience in this area, have provided the knowledge and examples used for new material in this guide.

This adoption guide is now divided into four parts. The first sections address three distinct groups involved in open textbook adoption: instructors, post-secondary institutions, and students. Section 1, Instructors: Adopt an Open Textbook is an updated carryover from the original guide, as is the last part called Learn More. The third section was written for students interested in taking an active role in advocating for open textbooks on their campus.

The second and most expansive new section focuses on the why, what, and how aspects of open textbook adoption for individuals and institutions that support faculty in this area. It outlines the operational aspects of surveying instructors about, tracking usage of, and reporting about open textbooks (and other OER). This procedural information is based on BCcampus’ six years of experience working with faculty and open textbook adoptions. Many real life examples are included to illustrate how B.C.’s colleges, institutes, and universities have incorporated open textbook information into their course descriptions, bookstore order forms, library catalogues, and other institutional processes in an effort to standardize and simplify open textbook adoptions.


INSTRUCTORS: Adopt an Open Textbook

Section Topics

This section provides instructors with background on open textbooks. Subjects covered include:

  • Definitions of open education and and open educational resources
  • The steps to take before using an open textbook in the classroom
  • An overview of Creative Commons (open; open-copyright) licences


The Adopting Open Textbooks Workshop and Handbooks

The four week Adopting Open Textbooks workshop (originally offered January 12–February 6, 2015 by BCcampus) remains online and available to anyone who would like to learn more on this topic.

Other helpful resources include:


Steps to Adopting an Open Textbook

If you are an instructor looking for an open textbook to assign to your class, here are some ways to go about using a textbook from the B.C. Open Textbook Collection.

First, BCcampus often receives questions from people outside of British Columbia about whether or not they can use textbooks in our collection. The answer is yes. You don’t have to be from British Columbia to use our open textbooks; open textbooks are not geographically limited. Anyone from Canada, the United States, or any other country in the world can use these resources.

Using an open textbook for your class

  1. Find the right textbook. Search the B.C. Open Textbook Collection or other OER repository.
  2. Review and evaluate to see if it matches your criteria based on content, presentation, online accessibility, production options, platform compatibility, delivery options, interactivity, consistency between online and printed versions, and available supplementary material (test banks, PowerPoints, etc.).  For more information, see Faculty Checklist for Evaluating Course Materials from Open Oregon Educational Resources.
  3. Decide if you want to use as is or modify it. One of the benefits of open textbooks is flexibility to modify and customize them for specific course designs as much or as little as you desire. If you want to make edits or append content, make sure the Creative Commons licence allows for that (every CC licence except the non-derivative licence allows for modifications). If you are interested in modifying an open textbook, check out our section on how to modify an open textbook.
  4. Distribute to your students. There are a number of ways in which you can do this.
    • If you’re using a textbook from this site, provide the link to the textbook to your students. They can either select which file type they would like to download, or they can purchase a low-cost printed version from the BCcampus print-on-demand service.
    • Alternatively, download copies of the book and put them on another site. Some examples of where book files can be added are:
      • Your institutional LMS (learning management system). Load the book files into your Moodle, Desire2Learn, Blackboard, or Canvas site and make the books available to your students via the LMS.
      • Use an online file-sharing service like Dropbox or Google Drive. Upload copies of the book files to Dropbox or Google Drive and send your students the link.
      • If you have a faculty website, put copies of the files on that website and send students to your website to download your copy of the textbook.
  5. Inform the bookstore or print shop on campus to see if print-on-demand copies of the book can be made available for students. Keep in mind that textbooks that have a specific non-commercial clause (CC BY-NC) cannot be sold with a markup or for profit. However, charging a modest cost-recovery fee for physical textbooks is legal.
  6. Inform the college or university library. Ask if a hard copy of the assigned open textbook can be added as a reference to the library stacks.
  7. Report open textbook adoptions to your institution, and to BCcampus through the Adoption Form.


What Is Open Education?

“Open education” is a phrase that encompasses a number of different activities in education and, depending on who you speak to, can mean different things to different people. One useful definition of open education comes from UBC, which define open education as a “collection of practices that utilize online technology to freely share knowledge.”

Under the umbrella of open education, there are a number of specific ways in which this sharing of knowledge happens in higher education. These practices can include:

While this is not an exhaustive list, it should give you an idea of the types of activities that the phrase open education encompasses.

Why open?

While the above definition and list should give you an overview of the type of practices that open education encompass, it doesn’t answer the questions “Why Open?” and “Why do educators choose to take on these activities and call themselves open educators?”.

To help answer the question Why Open?, please watch this TEDx Talk from Dr. David Wiley and read the article Openness in Education [PDF in Google Drive] by David Wiley and Cable Green (video length is 14:55).

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

Discussion Prompts

  • What does open education mean to you? Are there activities in the list that are part of your regular educational practice? What are they and why do you participate in them? What value do they bring to your educational practice?
  • What roles do you think digital technologies and the internet have played in making open education possible? Are there types of open educational activities that are dependent on digital technologies and the internet?
  • Thinking of your own teaching practice, have you ever revised learning content to make it better suited for your course? Why did you revise it? Did you have to get permission before you revised it?


The TEDxNYED – David Wiley – 03/06/10 video by TEDx Talks is used under a CC BY licence.


Open Educational Resources

The previous section discussed open education. This section narrows the focus from open education to open educational resources (commonly referred to as OER) and, specifically, open textbooks.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

There are a number of different definitions for open educational resources, but they all contain similar elements.


UNESCO first defined the term open educational resources (OER) in 2002 as teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution.

Hewlett Foundation

The Hewlett Foundation defines OER as teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.


A third definition comes from Educause. In their June 2010 white paper titled 7 things you should know about Open Educational Resources [PDF file], they define OER as “any resources available at little or no cost that can be used for teaching, learning, or research. The term can include textbooks, course readings, and other learning content; simulations, games, and other learning applications; syllabi, quizzes, and assessment tools; and virtually any other material that can be used for educational purposes. OER typically refers to electronic resources, including those in multimedia formats, and such materials are generally released under a Creative Commons or similar license that supports open or nearly open use of the content. OER can originate from colleges and universities, libraries, archival organizations, government agencies, commercial organizations such as publishers, or faculty or other individuals who develop educational resources they are willing to share.”

The 5R Framework

Each of the above definitions of OER is built around the 5R framework. The 5R framework, developed by David Wiley, is a useful tool to help understand whether a teaching resource is, in fact, an open educational resource. The 5R framework defines the rights of a user over content, i.e., what a user must be able do with the content in order for it to be considered an OER.

  1. Retain — the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  2. Reuse — the right to reuse the content in its unaltered/verbatim form
  3. Revise — the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content
  4. Remix — the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new
  5. Redistribute — the right to make and share copies of the original content, a revision of the content, or remixes of the content with others

How open educational resources work

The following video was created by Nadia Mireles and won third prize in a recent U.S. Department of Education open education video contest (video length is 3:31). It does a good job of explaining OER, including how they can be shared, reused, and remixed in different educational contexts.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:


The Open Education Matters: Why is it important to share content? video by Nadia Mireles is used under a CC BY licence.


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.

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

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).

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

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).

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

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?


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.

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


Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons (CC) is an internationally active, non-profit organization that provides free licences for creators to use so they can make their work available to the public. These licences allow creators to give permission for others to use their work under certain conditions.

Every time a work is created, such as when a journal article is written or a photograph taken, that work is automatically protected by copyright. Copyright protection prevents others from using the work in certain ways, such as copying the work or putting the work online.

A CC licence allows the creator of a work to select how they want others to use the work. When a creator releases their work under a CC licence, members of the public know what they can and can’t do with the work. This means that they only need to seek the creator’s permission when they want to use the work in a way not permitted by the licence.

The great thing is that all CC licences allow works to be used for educational purposes. As a result, teachers and students can freely copy, share, and sometimes modify and remix a CC work without having seeking the permission of the creator.

Discussion Prompts

The background of Creative Commons as well as the video resources below should help in furthering your understanding of the non-profit organization and why it is so critical and valuable to open education.

  • Have you had experience with Creative Commons?
  • If so, provide an example of what you have done using Creative Commons.
What is Creative Commons? by Smartcopying is licensed under CC BY.


Choosing a CC Licence

Licence terms

Creators or copyright holders who wish to apply Creative Commons licences to their work can choose to allow their work to be copied and reused with any one or more restrictions, or certain combinations of restrictions. The four restrictions are:

  1. Attribution. You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the licence, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  2. Non Commercial. The material cannot be used for commercial purposes.
  3. Share Alike. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same licence as the original.
  4. Non Derivative. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.

Attributing Creative Commons licences

All Creative Commons licences require that users of the work attribute the creator. When providing attribution to a CC-licensed work, you should include:

For a more detailed look at how to attribute CC resources, review Resources: Captions and Attributions from the Self-Publishing Guide and Creative Commons’ Best Practices for Attributing Content. This latter resource has examples of how to correctly attribute different types of CC-licensed content.

The different Creative Commons licences

Creative Commons offers six different licences that allow copyright holders to apply different restrictions to how their work may be reused. When using a specific CC-licensed work, it is important to pay attention to the CC licence and its restrictions. All Creative Commons licences require attribution. The different licences are listed on the Creative Commons website.

Creative Commons offers a tool to help you choose a licence, aptly named Choose a License. This tool helps with both licensing and proper attribution. We have included a link to a tutorial video that helps guide you through the steps of using the tool.

The below video on how to choose a Creative Commons licence starts at 57 seconds (video length is 4:55).

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:


  • The below video on creating OER and combining licences is intended to help you choose compatible open educational resources (OER) and then a valid licence for your work (video length is 9:15).

An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

  • The National Copyright Unit and Creative Commons Australia have jointly developed the Creative Commons Information Pack for teachers and students. The pack explains what CC is, how to find CC material, and the best way to attribute CC material.


The Creative Commons License Chooser Demo video by Sarah Morehouse is used under a CC BY licence.

The Creating OER and Combining Licenses – Full video by TheOGRepository is used under a CC BY licence.

Retrieved from


Examples of Creative Commons in Use

Here are examples of how others are using Creative Commons licences:

Other examples from around the world can be found on the Team Open website.

Open textbook publishing

Article: Open Textbook Publishing: This is Joe Moxley’s story about his experiences creating the Writing Commons. It started as a textbook published by Pearson. Joe received copyright back from Pearson, and then released it as an open textbook.

After reading the article “Open Textbook Publishing,” answer the questions below posted in Discussion Prompts.

Discussion Prompts

There are many layers to Joe Moxley’s story: the thought processes around choosing licences, the desire to create community around a resource, the need to work through priorities, and the transformation of roles.

  • What are your reactions to Joe’s story?
  • Were there any surprises?
  • Would your story be different?


Evaluating an Open Textbook

Evaluating an open textbook is similar to evaluating any textbook. To begin, let’s look at the qualities that make a good textbook, whether it’s open or not.

What are the qualities of a good textbook?

You have probably reviewed many textbooks in your career and have your own set of evaluation guidelines. Before we begin looking at the criteria that various open textbook projects are using to evaluate the textbooks in their collections, let’s review some of the qualities and structures that make up a textbook.

Pedagogical aids for textbooks

When it comes to textbooks, there is no doubt that the content of the book is important. You want to be sure that the content in the textbook aligns with the learning outcomes of your course and that the content is written at the right level for your learners.

However, a good textbook is more than a collection of facts. Textbooks also contain a number pedagogical aids, which are features or attributes of the book that help a learner understand the content being presented.

There are a number of common pedagogical aids in textbooks, including:

Usefulness of pedagogical aids in textbooks

Of these pedagogical aids, which are the ones that students actually use and find useful? Weiten, Guadagno & Beck (1996) surveyed 134 students asking them how familiar they were with the different pedagogical aids in their textbooks. They also asked the students the probability they would use each pedagogical aid and their perceived value of each aid. With their research, Weiten, Guadagno, and Beck showed that the top three pedagogical aids that students used in textbooks were boldfaced technical terms, chapter and section summaries, and glossaries.

In his 2003 research Pedagogical Aids and Student Performance, Gurung surveyed more than 200 undergraduate students and asked them to rate the usefulness of 10 pedagogical aids and instructional techniques. Gurung’s research wasn’t specific to textbook aids, but did include a number of textbook-specific aids, like outlines, chapter summaries and reviews, boldfaced and italicized terms, and key terms and practice questions found in textbooks. When you eliminate the non-textbook–related aids from Gurung’s research, we find that the top textbook aids used by students were boldfaced terms, italicized terms, and practice questions. Chapter summaries and reviews was a very close fourth.

In terms of helpfulness, students rated boldfaced (92%) and italicized (81%) terms as the most useful pedagogical aids, followed by practice test questions (77%) and chapter summaries and reviews (73%) as being moderately to extremely helpful.

So, as we can see, it is often the simplest aids, like bold and italicized terms and chapter summaries and outlines, that are most often used by students.

Textbook structure

Another consideration when reviewing a textbook is to take a close look at the way the content is structured. A good textbook should follow some basic rules of structure.

Open textbook–specific considerations

So far, we have been looking at textbooks in general and not specifically open textbooks. For the most part, the criteria you would use to judge the effectiveness of an open textbook would be the same as any textbook. However, there are some unique criteria that you might want to consider for open textbooks that may not apply to a closed textbook. Some of the additional items you may want to consider when evaluating an open textbook are:

Open textbook review criteria

Increasingly, open textbook projects are placing a greater emphasis on having peer-reviewed materials in their collection to help faculty with adoption and address concerns some have about the quality of open textbooks. A number of open textbook projects have created criteria for evaluating and reviewing open textbooks and OER collections.

Discussion Prompts

After reviewing the qualities of a good textbook and the criteria others use to review textbooks, consider what criteria are most important to you when choosing learning resources for your class.

  • Do you have an articulated set of criteria you use when picking a textbook? What criteria do you use when choosing a textbook?
  • What are other important criteria that are missing from the list?
  • What do you think are the most important qualities of a textbook? Why?
  • Thinking about textbooks you have used in the past, what do you like and not like about them?
  • Do you think the important criteria, considerations, and qualities are different for printed books than for digital books?

Long Descriptions

5 rules of textbook development long description: An infographic of the 5 rules of textbook development, which are as follows:

  1. Rule of Frameworks
    • Maintain a consistent structure. The text can best aid understanding by making this framework visible early on. The framework acts as a mental roadmap that allows learners to navigate within and through the subject domain.
  2. Rule of Meaningful Names
    • Create and use consistent titles and terminologies. These names are critical to the ability to recall or retrieve the things we know and remember. Use terminology that is common in your discipline.
  3. Rule of Manageable Numbers
    • Limit the amount of new information introduced at one time. Most of us are limited in our ability to absorb new material. As we become familiar with part of a subject domain, this number expands. For new material, four to six new elements is a reasonable limit.
  4. Rule of Hierarchy
    • New knowledge builds on learned knowledge. The student needs to understand the foundational knowledge before being introduced to a new concept. When new concepts are introduced, they should be explicitly connected to the foundational material. When introducing new material, only refer to foundational material if it is relevant to the new material.
  5. Rule of Repetition
    • Repeat important concepts. There is a pattern of repetition that aids in promoting the elements of a subject from short-term to long-term memory. Frameworks and important hierarchies are repeated as many as five or six times. Frequently used elements are repeated three or four times. Elements of lesser utility may not be repeated at all.

[Return to 5 rules of textbook development]


5 rules of textbook development

This work is used under a CC BY licence.

This work is based upon Wikibooks:Textbook considerations by various authors and released under a CC BY-SA 2.0 Canadian Licence.

Outer surface of the human brain is in the public domain.

Brain Anatomy by OpenClips is in the public domain.

Wayne Weiten, Rosanna E. Guadagno, and Cynthia A. Beck, “Students Perceptions of Textbook Pedagogical Aids,” Teaching of Psychology 23, no. 2 (1996): 105–7.
Regan A. R. Gurung, “Pedagogical Aids and Student Performance,” Teaching of Psychology 30, no. 2 (2003): 92–95.


Using an Open Textbook for Your Course

Find a textbook

Search the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. Many of the books in the collection have been reviewed by B.C. faculty. Read the reviews. Some of the books in the B.C. collection have come from other open textbook projects. For these books, you will see a link back to the original site where the book came from. Follow the link and learn more about where the book came from and how it was created.

Review and evaluate the textbook

BCcampus invites qualified textbook reviewers from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon to review open textbooks in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. An honorarium of $250 is paid to eligible and qualified individuals who complete, submit, and permit the open publication of their review for a textbook in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection.

Reviews posted about books in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection are intended to provide constructive, helpful feedback for instructors contemplating the adoption of one or more of these textbooks. Therefore, in order for a review to be approved, a reviewer should ensure that responses are:

  1. Accurate. Make sure that each of your responses answers the question asked.
  2. Comprehensive. Provide complete replies to each question. Avoid one- or few-word answers, and instead, explain why you chose a specific rating.
  3. Constructive. Whether a critique is positive or negative, frame your feedback in a respectful and helpful manner. Explain your answer so that both the potential user and author understand why you offer this feedback. If a response is negative, describe how this item can be improved.
  4. Concise. Whenever possible, provide an example from the reviewed textbook that illustrates your comment.
The open textbook review rubric [Word file] used by faculty who review open textbooks for BCcampus can also be used to evaluate an open textbook.

Decide if you want to use as is or modify it

One of the benefits of open textbooks is flexibility to modify and customize them for specific course designs as much or as little as you desire. If you want to make edits or append content, make sure the Creative Commons licence allows for that (every CC licence except the NoDerivatives licence allows for modifications). If you are interested in modifying an open textbook, check out our section on how to modify an open textbook.

Distribute to your students

There are a number of ways in which you can distribute your chosen open textbook.

Print copies

While most students will choose a free electronic version of the textbook, some may prefer a print copy. If you wish to make print copies of your book available, check with your institutional print shop to see if they have the ability to create print versions of the textbook on site for your students. Many institutional print shops can create low-cost printed versions of textbooks and make them available to students.

Keep in mind that textbooks that have a specific non-commercial clause (CC BY-NC) cannot be sold with a markup or at a profit. However, charging a cost-recovery fee for print textbooks is considered reasonable.

Report your adoption

Instructors in British Columbia who use an open textbook in the classroom are encouraged to complete and submit the BCcampus Adoption Form. Alternatively, inform the Ongoing Adoption Program contact at your institution.

For information about open education and adoption contacts in British Columbia and Canada, see the Post-Secondary Directory.


Finding Open Textbooks

Adoption Finder

Instructors can use the Adoption Finder to more easily identify textbooks suitable for their course.

The finder lists open textbooks adopted at colleges, institutes, and universities in B.C., matched to specific courses as well as potential (transferable) courses.

Learn more.


There are a number of sites dedicated to archiving and collecting open textbook collections. Here are a few sites that can help you find an open textbook to meet your needs.

In addition, there are a few more more general-purpose OER repositories that you might find useful when searching for open textbooks. These repositories may contain open textbooks in addition to many other types of open educational resources.

For more information, see Other Open Textbook Collections.

Searching for openly-licensed content

While we are focusing specifically on finding open textbooks in this guide, there are ways to conduct more general searches for openly licensed content using search engines. For more information, see Resources: Search and Find in the Self-Publishing Guide.


INSTITUTIONS: Statistics and Support

Section Topics

This section is written for post-secondary institutions—colleges, institutes, universities—and other organizations working with faculty using open textbooks. Topics include:

  • The reasons for identifying and recording open textbook usage
  • How to gather adoption information
  • Factors to consider when publishing adoption records
  • The role Zero Textbook Cost programs play in tracking adoption
  • The B.C. Ongoing Adoptions Program


Why Track Adoptions

BCcampus has been gathering and reporting open textbook adoptions by post-secondary faculty in British Columbia since 2013, though records go back to 2011. In fact, BCcampus Open Education is required to track these adoptions as part of its accountability agreement with B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

Statistics involve the collection, organization, and interpretation of numerical data from a representative sample from which trends are drawn for the targeted population as a whole. In the case of adoption statistics published for B.C., it is understood that the numbers are not based on all open textbook usage in the province. Instead, it’s acknowledged that these data provide a snapshot of how many students, instructors, and institutions are using open textbooks and approximately how much money is saved.

More than numbers

At BCcampus, this work has proven to be about more than just numbers. Tracking adoptions has helped the open education team connect with and support faculty and staff interested in open education. Paying attention to who is using open textbooks has revealed open education trends within B.C.’s post-secondary sector and made it easier to bring together individuals and groups working in this area. On the flip side, talking with instructors who have chosen not to adopt an open textbook has been equally valuable, especially when they explain the reasons why.

Institutions preparing to embark on an adoption-tracking project can record the benefits they expect to gain from this endeavour. Taking this step will clarify for the group why they are doing this work as well as provide a blueprint for future reference.

Aside from developing and maintaining a detailed record of open textbook usage over time, the act of discovering and tracking adoptions at an institution offers these perks:

For more information, see Track Adoptions in the Self-Publishing Guide.


What to Track

Whether tracking open textbook adoptions for a department, post-secondary institution, region, or country, first determine the parameters to be collected and definitions to be used. Without these, it is impossible to clearly and accurately track and interpret adoption data. Additionally, look for a balance between compiling data that’s useful and making it onerous for faculty who are submitting adoption information. Here are questions that can guide these decisions.

Adoption Definitions

BCcampus Open Education uses the below terms in its adoption reports. Definitions of these terms are provided on its Known Open Textbook Adoptions in B.C. web page for reference.

Adoption: Each adoption refers to a course section within a specific term and year for which an open textbook has replaced a a primary textbook or educational resource that must be purchased.

Book (open textbook): A comprehensive compilation of content organized into chapters that includes a table of contents, learning outcomes, and learning activities created to meet course objectives in a specific subject area and is assigned an open-copyright licence or released into the public domain.

Faculty: The number of individual instructors who have adopted one or more open textbooks for one or more course sections. A faculty member is only counted once.

Savings: Savings include a range. The number at the lower end is calculated as follows: number of students (see “Students”) × $100. (This number was derived by OpenStax based on a formula that takes into account used textbook purchases and rental costs as well as new textbook costs.)

The number at the upper end is calculated as follows: number of students (see “Students”) × actual cost of the textbook being replaced if purchased as hard copy and new.

Students: The total number of students in all course sections within which an open textbook is used as the primary educational resource.

BCcampus’ decisions

From the beginning, BCcampus has taken a conservative approach to adoption tracking by determining it was better to under-report open textbook usage rather than overestimate, especially in cases of uncertainty. Well-defined parameters were established early in the process, making statistics collection easier. For example, it was decided that:

Based on these decisions, any instructors using open textbooks are asked to fill out the BCcampus Adoption Form and provide the following information. (However, only information provided by B.C. faculty are published as adoption stats on the BCcampus OpenEd website.)

Adopters are also asked if their information may be shared with other faculty interested in open textbook adoptions and if their information may be published on the BCcampus OpenEd website as part of adoption reporting. Before submitting the form, it is disclosed that: “By submitting this form, you give BCcampus permission to share this information with faculty, staff, and students at your identified institution.”

Posted statistics

Submitted information is automatically calculated and posted on the BCcampus Open Textbooks Stats page. Here are some of the statistics posted on that page.

  1. A range of student savings based on the number of participating students where the textbook displacement cost is set at $100 to the actual retail price
  2. Number of B.C. students using open textbooks
  3. Number of B.C. institutions adopting open textbooks
  4. Top five adoption institutions (in order, starting with that with the highest number of adoptions)
  5. Number of known B.C. faculty using an open textbook in their course
  6. Total number of known adoptions

BCcampus publishes province-wide anonymized statistics; public records are not provided for individual colleges, institutes, or universities, instructors, courses, years, or terms. Numbers are cumulative and cover adoptions for the duration of the BCcampus Open Education project. Individual institutions may request adoption statistics for their specific community; these records mark each adoption by term and year, along with other details.

Round peg, square hole

Even when an adoption collection system is ideal, situations arise that challenge the status quo. For example, BCcampus must collection information from dozens of institutions—colleges, institutes, universities—some with an academic schedule that does not follow the common semester or term system. Courses that use the continuous intake model are also a challenge. Recognizing that one adoption form (and the technology behind it) does not—and in some cases, cannot—fit all situations, BCcampus does its best to adjust these “round pegs” to fit in its adoption form’s square holes.

Another situation is how and when to count students. Is it best to use the number of seats available in a course section, or to wait until a final number is available for enrolled students? If so, at what point in the term should this information be collected? At one B.C. institution, student numbers used too late in the term do not include students who have withdrawn. Does this matter? Is it assumed that a student who enrols but withdraws has purchased a textbook? Again, learning to roll with the punches and doing one’s best to capture these data can be the solution without making it too difficult or complicated for faculty to report their usage.

One university that identifies classes using some or all free resources wondered if these tags would serve as useful adoption markers. As their system was currently set up, there was no easy way to differentiate between hybrid usage (OER and fee-based commercial material), free resources that are not OER (such as library resources), and course sections that solely used open textbooks or other open educational resources.

Remember the “why”

Regardless of the approach taken to report stats, it’s important to remember the why behind tracking adoptions. If the purpose includes engaging instructors, then there’s value in tracking both primary and supplementary usage of open textbooks as well as those that are offered as optional reading. Several B.C. institutions participating in the Ongoing Adoption Program operate this way.

Other Adoption Forms

For a glimpse at how other groups are tracking open textbook adoptions, see below.


How to Track

Each institution develops its own process for tracking open textbook adoptions. Much depends on the culture of the college or university and at what stage the institution is in terms of open educational awareness and practice.

For some institutions, particularly at the start, tracking adoptions might be as simple as learning about open textbook usage during conversations with instructors. Others conduct routine surveys each term. The advantages of this second method include:

  1. Keeping the conversation about open education alive
  2. Learning how OER and open textbook usage is changing on campus (e.g., are new or the same resources being used; which instructors are participating, dropping out, or joining; which disciplines and course levels are involved, and which are not, and why)
  3. Discovering how the institution can do better or help its faculty, staff, and students in this area (e.g., through the B.C. Ongoing Adoption Program)

Setting up a streamlined adoption procedure with steps and dates gives faculty an established system so they can report their open textbook adoptions on time. That data can then be provided to people and departments (OER team, bookstore, course scheduler, adoption tracker, accessibility department) that need it for the integration of and information about open textbooks in use. 

Below is a list of other methods used in B.C. and elsewhere to track open textbook adoptions.

""Some bookstores also provide hard copies of open textbooks for sale. (The price is typically much lower than standard textbooks.)

""When an instructor adopts an open textbook, inform the library and ask that it be added.

"" ""

Also reference the OER & Low-Cost Labeling Implementation Guide from Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

Hidden Adoptions

Open textbooks are expanding at a growing rate, and finding them (in collections, on publishing websites, and posted on a variety of platforms by the authors) and tracking their usage by faculty can be difficult. Or it can be viewed as a puzzle—and a fun one at that. As instructors reveal what OER they are accessing and where they are accessing it, take note and find out if these systems and libraries will share statistics about adopting faculty from your institution. Alternately, review published adoptions as a starting point.

For example:


The following works are reproduced with permission.

Thanks to Amy Hofer, Open Oregon, for this idea.


Publish Stats

Posting adoption statistics informs observing instructors about how their colleagues are incorporating open textbooks into their classrooms. It also sends a positive message to students—both current and potential—about the culture at their college, institute, or university.

The amount of information published about each adoption depends on decisions made by the institution’s administration or open education authority; it may be guided by its strategic plan or, if available, open education policy. Some groups elect to post anonymized numbers that show the total number of instructors, institutions, savings, and students affected, as shown in the below samples from August 2019.

BCcampus Open Education adoption statistics

eCampusOntario impact statistics

BCcampus and eCampusOntario publish adoption stats in this manner as their respective provinces’ open education projects.

BCcampus also flags each book in its collection that has been adopted by at least one instructor in the province.

Books in the BCcampus collection that have been adopted are flagged as such.

Other bodies choose to publish more detailed information. In these cases, permission from the adopting instructor should be secured.

University of British Columbia’s Will Engle writes an annual OER adoption snapshot that summarizes UBC’s adoptions with definitions, student savings and impact, and strategic planning and support. A table listing all known adoptions by term, year, course name, enrolments (the largest course held over 2,000 students), and open textbook or other educational resource is shown below for 2018.

List of adopted open textbooks organized by term and course.The University of Victoria provides an alphabetical and expandable list of courses for which open textbooks or OER are used, such as the EOS 120 A01 (Dynamic Earth) course in Spring 2018. See Textbook Adoptions @ UVic.

Webpage listing UVic courses and the open textbooks they have adopted.

Douglas College published a simple but comprehensive list of Open Textbooks in Use at Douglas College for Summer 2019, listing the course name, section, and instructor teaching the class.

Langara College has taken a multi-prong approach, whereby adoption information is presented as overall usage according to student savings and number of course sections involved by fiscal year. The examples below capture savings up to the Summer 2019 term. See Open Langara: Overall Usage.

Open Langara overall usage stats, including student savings, number of sections, and running totals.The “Usage by Department” tab allows users to search for adoptions by course subject and fiscal year.

Click usage by department to view numbers of students and sections and overall savings by subject.Adoptions for specific courses are listed at the bottom of this page.

Langara lists open textbook adoption details by course as well.The final tab provides the number of students, course sections, and total savings for all open textbooks used at Langara.

Crunch the numbers

Analysis of institution-specific adoption statistics can reveal useful information, such as usage trends by geography, course level and type, and term or semester. These numbers can then be used to promote or tag courses and programs that incorporate open textbooks partly or fully (see ZTC Programs). Identifying open textbooks that are authored by teaching faculty or published in-house further highlights an institution’s commitment to open education.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University, home to six ZTC programs, put its adoption stats to work using several bar graphs to point out how its ZTC initiatives have saved students money and produced other positive results over the years.

Long Descriptions

Open Education at BCcampus long description: Screenshot showing BCcampus open textbook adoption statistics. It says “At BCcampus, we’re using open technologies to facilitate, evaluate, and create open educational resources to share across the province and around the world; saving millions of student-dollars through hundreds of open textbooks adopted in thousands of classrooms.” Notable statistics at the time of screenshotting include:

[Return to Open Education at BCcampus]

eCampusOntario impact statistics long description: Screenshot of eCampusOntario OER statistics. Numbers at the time of screenshotting include:

[Return to eCampusOntario impact statistics]

ZTC initiative long description: Infographic titled “Quick overview of KPU’s ZTC initiative.” It shows two bar graphs that show data for five semesters from spring 2018 to summer 2019.

The first bar graph is titled “Estimated Cost Savings to Students.” It depicts the “number of students enrolled in ZTC sections per semester × $112.55 (estimated mean cost savings per student; Green & Kirkey, 2017).” The data is as follows:

The second bar graph is titled “Estimated Cost Savings to Students (Cumulative).” It depicts the “cumulative number of students enrolled in ZTC sections × $112.55 (estimated mean cost savings per student; Green & Kirkey, 2017).” The data is as follows:

[Return to ZTC initiative]


Screenshot of eCampusOntario impact statistics is used under a CC BY-SA licence.

Screenshot of Appendix A: A Sample of Open Textbooks Used at UBC is used under a CC BY-SA licence.

Screenshot of the University of Victoria EOS 120 A01 – The Dynamic Earth is used under a CC BY licence.


The following works are reproduced with permission.


ZTC Programs

Some post-secondary institutions have taken open textbook usage to the next level.

In 2013, Tidewater Community College was the first accredited institution in the U.S. to offer a degree in which students pay nothing for required textbooks. They dubbed this the Z-Degree for zero textbook costs.

Four years later, BCcampus first put out a call for applicants interested in funding for developing ZTC programs in British Columbia. Kwantlen Polytechnic University, one of the grant recipients, was the first to offer a ZTC program in British Columbia and Canada. Another recipient of the BCcampus ZTC program grant, Thompson Rivers University, will unveil its Certificate of General Studies as its first zero textbook cost offering during the 2019/2020 academic year. The Justice Institute of British Columbia, the third recipient of the ZTC program grant, saves its Law Enforcement Studies Diploma students hundreds of dollars each year in textbook costs. (See Zero Textbook Cost Programs in B.C.)

Institutions that offer ZTC programs are encouraged to count student savings that result from courses that use open textbooks within these offerings.

The first zero textbook cost programs were called Z-Degrees when they began in the U.S. When Canadian colleges and universities started considering this approach, the name changed to Zed Cred so the Canuck pronunciation for Z (zee) could be altered to the British/Canadian zed.

Unfortunately, these program labels caused confusion among international, and some domestic, students, who thought a Zed Cred course or program meant they would earn zero or no credit. After discussion with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training and several post-secondary institutions in the province, BCcampus decided to relabel these as Zero Textbook Cost or ZTC courses and programs in its websites, support resources, and communications. A similar trend is happening in the U.S.

Retrieved from


Responses to Common Concerns

This chapter is an excerpt from the research article “Librarian Advocacy for Open Educational Resource Adoptions and Programs” by Megan Dempsey (Raritan Valley Community College, New Jersey) and Alejandra Nann (University of San Diego), and used under a CC BY licence.

Chapter Table of Contents

Here are some questions and comments that librarians may likely encounter when promoting OER on campus along with suggested approaches for how to answer and engage in further discussion.

“I’m using the best textbook on the market for my class. Why would I switch?”

Faculty who are unhappy with their current textbook may be more inclined to implement an open textbook. But what about faculty who are satisfied with their current $150 textbook and feel strongly that it is the best course material available? Answer: “Students can’t learn from textbooks they don’t have” (Allen and Cohen 2017). No matter how effective that textbook is or how renowned the author is in the field, if students cannot afford it, or resort to part-time access to the textbook (i.e., library reserves or borrowing it from a friend), they are very likely not learning from it, nor will it become a fixture on their bookshelf for future reference. Despite a faculty members’ best intentions, student attitudes about the longevity of their textbooks have changed; cost more often supersedes value and students are choosing temporary course materials if they are more affordable. Librarians having this discussion can ask faculty if the majority of their students have the textbook in the first week of classes (they probably do not), or how often students seem to fall behind because they are not reading the textbook. This conversation, even with a resistant faculty member, may bring awareness to issues of textbook affordability and how that challenge is playing out in their classroom. The faculty member who wrote off poor performance because “they are not reading the textbook” may now start to wonder if the real issue is that students are not buying the textbook. If faculty are adamant about keeping their expensive textbook, there are other alternatives to get them acquainted with OER. Librarians can share with faculty OER they find that coincide with course requirements or look for faculty members from other institutions using OER for a similar course. Librarians may also ask faculty to consider including an open access (OA) article in their course readings or to listen to an online lecture from an OER repository. Offering small methods for implementing OER may persuade faculty over time to support and implement OER for a single class or more. Exposure to high quality OER can help overcome one of the biggest barriers to faculty adoptions: concerns about quality.

“We’re only using half of this textbook, but there’s nothing that really fits my class” or “I don’t use a textbook.”

These comments may come from faculty members or students and are a prime opportunity to begin a conversation about the benefits of OER. Unlike faculty who are perfectly happy with the standard text in their field, those who already recognize that existing commercial textbooks do not meet the needs of their course are well situated to consider an open textbook or a remix of openly licensed materials. Move the conversation beyond the issue of affordability (which is not an issue in a class where the instructor does not require a textbook purchase) and into the flexibility of open content. Explain to the faculty member that chapters from open textbooks can be remixed with chapters from other open textbooks or various OER. Unlike a commercial textbook with a fixed and immutable organization and structure, faculty using open textbooks have the freedom to modify and reorganize the content of an open textbook. Many faculty who are motivated by affordability to switch to OER find that what they ultimately appreciate most is the flexibility and adaptability of the resources: the content can be customized to best meet the needs of the students rather than having to adjust the syllabus to fit the commercial textbook. Although truly open materials are the most flexible and give students the opportunity to own their education forever, sometimes using traditional textbooks or articles from library subscribed resources will also save students money. Faculty tend to use what they are used to and they keep assigning the same textbook, when really only a couple of chapters are relevant or valuable to their curriculum. Librarians can suggest meeting with reserves staff and see if it is possible to put those one or two chapters on reserve with appropriate copyright permissions, and then guide faculty through various OER repositories to find supplemental material that will add to their curriculum. Faculty who do not use a traditional textbook can be encouraged to integrate scholarly articles they find in the library’s electronic resources. Although not open—or free for that matter—these resources are free to students and introduce faculty to the idea of remixing resources.

“What’s a $150 textbook in the grand scheme of the cost of college?” or “They can afford it.”

Related to these comments is an expectation among some faculty that “I did it, so they should too.” Like many aspects of higher education in the twenty-first century, however, the textbook market has changed dramatically from when many of us and our colleagues were undergrads, as has the overall cost of attending college. For many students, the sticker-shock of college textbooks comes to them as an unexpected cost. Although institutions are now required to disclose to potential students how much they should budget for books and supplies, this cost is often not real to students until they are standing in the bookstore looking at the overwhelming number of options, most of which they consider completely unaffordable. Although the cost of one textbook for one course might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of higher education costs, a student taking a full course load may need to budget well over $1,000 for all of the required textbooks, and this unexpected financial obligation could be the breaking point for a student or family that is already struggle to afford a college education (Senack 2014). Librarians can share with faculty the study by Student PIRGs, which found that 65 percent of students decided against buying a required textbook because it was too expensive, and that nearly all of the students that did so admitted being concerned that not having the required textbook would affect their grades. Even at institutions where students are less likely to be struggling financially or where they are not mandated by the state to consider lower-priced course reading options, there will always be a number of students who would benefit from courses with free or low-priced course reading. Additionally, it is important to educate faculty that although students at their particular institution can afford the cost of textbooks, the OER movement goes beyond their classroom and their students. A highly effective method for communicating to faculty the reality of students’ textbook behaviors is to interview actual students about their experiences. If possible, librarians and OER advocates can record videos of students describing how they obtain textbooks, what influences them to purchase a textbook or not, how often they use a textbook when they do or do not purchase it, and what creative means they use to avoid paying for a textbook they consider overpriced. Hearing directly from students can deliver a powerful message that might surprise some faculty into thinking twice about how OER might be an attractive option for their course.

“What about all the supplemental materials my current publisher provides?”

Fortunately as the OER movement gains momentum and faculty teaching high enrollment courses recognize the benefit to students of providing free and open course materials, this issue can be less of a concern for faculty in certain disciplines. When a faculty member relies on publisher materials that accompany a textbook, the answer may be to recommend looking for existing open textbooks and related platforms, many of which now have available instructor slides, quizzes, test banks, and other supplemental materials. For example, math faculty may consider switching to MyOpenMath (, an alternative to Pearson’s MyLab Math ( Additionally, other platforms built on open resources, such as Libretexts ( and WebWork (, also contain helpful supplemental materials. Faculty may also be concerned about cheating when materials are so “openly available”; in these situations, librarian advocates may need to help faculty face the harsh reality that every answer to every problem and test bank provided by their commercial publisher is available somewhere online for the enterprising cheater to find. Cheng and Crumbley (2018) find that close to half of the students in a course had used a publisher test bank to memorize question-specific cues and the correct answers, and those students performed significantly better on exams. Perhaps the answer, “they’re doing it anyway” is not the best to give, but concerns about increased cheating due to the openness of course materials can be alleviated through educating faculty on the reality of students’ cheating behaviors. If a funding source has been identified and librarians are advocating for course conversion projects, they can ask faculty how many others teaching the same course would be willing to work on OER adoption and try to put together a team who can create the materials that will no longer be available from publishers. Successful OER projects and initiatives are team efforts, including individuals other than teaching faculty who may also be able to contribute to the creation of supplemental materials. Librarians themselves can assist faculty in locating multimedia content—open or licensed—that can be embedded in course management systems. Instructional designers can be instrumental in assisting with the creation and accessibility requirements of materials beyond the textbook. Teams of faculty can divide up the work of creating test bank questions, instructor slides, review packets, and whatever else is needed. Course leads or coordinators may have come to rely on publisher ancillaries to ensure that adjunct/contingent faculty are prepared with the necessary materials to teach a class even on short notice; a team of faculty who takes the time to develop those ancillaries for an OER course can then roll out that course package to any other faculty member in much the same way publisher materials would be provided. Librarians can also play an important role in helping faculty store and share those materials for wider use and should consider offering those services as they are having this conversation with a faculty member.

“Budgets are tight. Why should I allocate money to faculty stipends for OER?”

If selecting course materials is considered part of a faculty member’s professional responsibility, administrators may not understand why they are being asked to fund faculty stipends for OER adoption and creation. Librarians who are advocating for funding to support OER should be prepared to explain how an incentive (either in the form of stipend, time, or professional recognition) is important in moving an OER initiative forward. Oftentimes, it is easier for faculty to choose a popular textbook because looking for other resources takes time. Varying degrees of monetary stipends can compensate faculty for the significant amount of time that is typically required to replace course materials with OER, sometimes up to as much as forty hours of work. OER advocates recognize that “instructors feel pressed for time” and “colleges need to show they understand that before asking them to embrace a shift away from textbooks” (Jaschik 2017); stipends are such a demonstration. Before librarians discuss funding with administration, it is crucial to have the library director or dean on board and helpful to have a few faculty members who already embrace OER. Particularly when asking for monetary stipends from potential funding sources outside of the institution, librarians can demonstrate the significant return on investment (ROI) afforded by OER adoptions. Consider a $3,000 stipend awarded to a faculty member who is currently using a $150 textbook. If there are forty students in each section and the faculty member teaches three sections in one semester, the student savings for that semester will be $18,000. (Yes, it is unlikely that all of those students would have purchased a new textbook for the course, but let’s go for the big win on this one.) Identify likely adopters and calculate the potential ROI to share with possible funding sources. Get really creative and pitch OER stipends to donors as a scholarship that is awarded not just to one student, but to hundreds of students, semester after semester. Valentino (2015) notes that donors like to support programs that have a cascading effect, that make a significant impact on an important issue, and that others have supported. If campus administration is reluctant to commit institutional funding, librarians can ask for assistance from donors seeking to fund a student success or completion initiative.

“Our strategic plan is focused on enrollment and retention. What does OER have to do with those issues?”

If librarians find themselves in the position to advocate for OER support at the administrative level, connecting the goals and benefits of OER to institutional strategic planning can move those conversations forward. What does OER have to do with enrollment and retention, the two items that are likely high on any institutions’ list of strategic priorities? Research shows that OER may help with both. Fischer et al. (2015) find that students who took an OER course enrolled in a significantly higher number of credits the following semester. Although they acknowledge the difficulty in establishing causality between OER and enrollment intensity, the conclusions of this large scale study across fifteen different undergraduate courses at ten institutions suggests “enhanced probability” of a relationship. Colvard, Watson, and Park’s (2018) findings that Pell eligible students had dramatically reduced DFW rates in courses using OpenStax

" data-url="">OpenStax textbooks suggest that OER could be one among many high-impact practices that improve retention among more vulnerable populations. The body of research around OER is growing quickly; librarians advocating for OER can turn to resources like the Open Education Group ( for published research on OER impact that can be shared with administration and faculty.

“What about these inclusive access packages offered by the publishers? Aren’t they a sufficient way to save students money?”

The concept of inclusive access is appealing to many bookstores and universities across the nation. However, there are a few considerations beyond cost savings. The impingement on academic freedom is particularly troublesome because in order for students to really save money, faculty would have to agree to use textbooks from one particular publisher or vendor. If faculty truly have academic freedom to select the most appropriate course materials, then there is no guarantee that a student who pays for an inclusive access package will have access to all of their textbooks under that package. Additionally, e-textbooks through inclusive deals are really rentals because publishers typically only offer access for one semester or academic year for the quoted price. Bookstore rental plans currently in place have similarly restricted students’ ability to “own” the education they are paying for, but at least students often still had the choice to purchase used or older editions if they wanted a text they could write in or keep. With inclusive access plans, which are also moving in the direction of digital-first or digital-only (i.e., no print textbook included), student autonomy is further eroded by publishers. While OER are also digital-first, print options are typically more readily available and are far cheaper, while the digital versions are downloadable, are available in more accessible formats, and include permission to modify the content as needed to fit a student’s learning style. As Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC

" data-url="">SPARC, states, inclusive access is “the opposite of inclusive, because it is premised on publishers controlling when, where and for how long students have access to their materials, and denying access unless they pay for it” (McKenzie 2017). There is really no guarantee that anything offered on a publisher platform—notes or the text itself—will be available for future use by the student. The platform itself may cause technical difficulties for students and is likely designed in a way to lock down the content for only those uses prescribed by the vendor. In addition, as we as a society grow more and more concerned about online privacy, the selling and bartering of personal data, and the lack of transparency around what corporate entities are doing with our personal data, librarians in particular should be raising concerns with faculty and administration about students’ online privacy when an institution signs on for inclusive access. Although institutional contracts with publishers may state that data covered under FERPA is not collected, students are required to accept publisher terms of use and end-user license agreements that have been found to include language giving permission to collect, use, and share personal information (Meinke 2018). Librarians may be uniquely positioned on campus to raise these concerns with administration and educate on data collection and sharing practices that do not have students’ best interests at heart.

“Won’t the bookstore have a problem with this?”

With the rising use of online retailers, Amazon for example, bookstores have understood that their main revenue is from university apparel and other merchandising. Steven Bell (2018) explains that “libraries and bookstores are not adversaries but share a common goal. Both want students to succeed academically.” He encourages librarians taking on OER initiatives on their campus to schedule a meeting with bookstore management and get an idea of their workflow in regards to cost savings for students. It is also pertinent that librarians educate the bookstore on the importance of OER, if they are not familiar with the concepts, and discuss with them strategies to facilitate the implementation of OER among various departments on campus. Creating a textbook affordability taskforce that includes representation from the bookstore will allow several constituents on campus space to discuss various steps or initiatives that can be taken to help students save money on textbooks. One way the bookstore can participate is to offer print copies of Creative Commons

" data-url="">creative commons licensed OER or open textbooks for students and faculty who still prefer print. The key to this relationship is communication with the bookstore throughout an OER initiative.

“I’m just a librarian. Why would I talk to faculty about what textbook they use?”

Stop by the reserves desk during the first week of classes at any academic library that offers textbooks on reserve and it will be evident how many students do not own (or even rent) their course materials on the first or second day of class. At some academic libraries, the textbook reserve collection may be the most highly circulated collection. Librarians regularly hear from students how they struggle not just with the cost of their textbooks, but with the process of obtaining and using access codes for homework managers or with bookstores that do not have the correct edition in stock. As accessible student service providers, librarians often have firsthand knowledge and observation of students’ challenges with course materials and find themselves helping students troubleshoot or find work-arounds. Librarians also are aware of and maybe even witness the illegal downloading and printing of pirated textbooks on library computers in ways that faculty may be completely unaware of. Who is in a better position to bring these issues to faculty members’ attention? Liaison librarians in particular have likely already built relationships with departments and faculty that they can tap into for starting conversations about the reality of how students (fail to) access course materials. Librarians also have unique skills that are essential to finding and evaluating OER. Some OER repositories may be manageable for faculty to negotiate, like the Open Textbook

" data-url="">Open Textbook Library, which is intentionally designed to replicate the interface of textbook publisher websites. However, for subject areas where faculty may need to do more curation of resources than straight adoption of an open textbook, librarians’ ability to search, filter, refine, and evaluate results is unmatched. Beyond this, West (2016) notes that the work librarians already do in the areas of instruction, outreach to faculty, service to the institution, and especially collection building is a natural fit for including OER. She states quite eloquently, “The all-encompassing work of supporting a useful, organized, relevant, timely, and healthy collection of materials that both stimulates scholarly inquiry and meets student information needs is an ongoing challenge for all libraries. That very challenge has made us uniquely talented at helping our colleagues make decisions about educational materials” (1439). If that is too much, the simple answer is: this is the kind of work that librarians do all the time, in preparing course reserves, selecting materials for collection development, teaching information literacy skills, and more.

“Are you expecting the librarians to do all of this?”

Simple answer: of course not. This answer might cause the conversation to circle back to the previous question, but the bottom line is that whether librarians are voluntarily taking on OER advocacy for student success and social justice reasons or they have been tasked with organizing an initiative because they have a track record of productive collaboration, a successful OER project or initiative will require participation from several individuals focusing on what they each do best. Working alongside librarians and faculty may be instructional designers, accessibility experts, technology services, and even students. Team approaches to OER selection, implementation, and assessment have proven to be not only the most efficient and successful, but also to be the most robust, innovative ,and sustainable. What lone advocate librarians may need to communicate to their colleagues is that while librarians should not be expected to do this work in a vacuum, all librarians at the institution—not just the “OER librarian,” scholarly communications librarian, or equivalent—could potentially contribute something valuable to a campus OER initiative. When advocating to fellow librarians, it is worthwhile to first seriously consider what those colleagues can bring to the table and then emphasize the unique value they will each add to the project when asking for their participation.

and others


B.C.'s Ongoing Adoption Program

A couple of years ago, BCcampus implemented the Ongoing Adoption Program, which guides B.C.’s post-secondary institutions in identifying and tracking adoptions on campus and then shares that information with BCcampus so it can be added to the Known Open Textbook Adoptions in B.C. record.

The following templates are offered as a starting point to record open textbook and OER adoptions. These spreadsheets can be customized for an institution’s individual adoption tracking needs. Note: Institutions should make a copy of the below templates and not enter information directly to these spreadsheets.

Adoption tracking personnel should consult with their institution’s access and privacy office about how the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) might impact which platforms and systems should be used to share information.

For more information about the BC Ongoing Adoption Program and how to sign up, email laesoph [at] bccampus [dot] ca.


STUDENTS: How to Participate

Section Topics

One of the main reasons an instructor uses an open textbook is their students. This section includes:

  • How students are affected by education debt
  • How a student might approach an instructor about using an open textbook
  • Textbook Broke campaigns


Education Debt in Canada

News stories, such as The Cost of a Canadian University Education in Six Charts and University tuition fees in Canada rise 40 per cent in a decade, remind us about the high cost of attending university or college in this country, and the effect debt can have on students and their families. For example, in its Student Debt Crisis – A Generation Buried in Student Debt report, bankruptcy trustees Hoyes Michalos revealed that nearly 18 per cent of the insolvency filings it handled in 2018 involved student debt. The Globe and Mail put a face to these statistics when it published a 2017 story about a graduate who struggled to pay off her $20,000 college debt while working at a job that paid $24,000 per year.

The education debt trend—and the students it impacts—is evident across Canada. Post-secondary professionals at York University and the University of Toronto in Ontario, for instance, expressed alarm in a Globe and Mail article about the mental health impact from education-related debt. The Vancouver Sun reported that B.C. students work more, owe more than other Canadian students in their attempt to stay ahead financially.

Alongside these reports are an increasing number of articles about textbook costs (UNB students pay as much as $340 per textbook, B.C. students say they are #textbookbroke) and the role open textbooks can play in ameliorating this trend. (See Cash-strapped Alberta students leading a push for open textbooks and Open textbooks provide big savings and benefits for Camosun students.)


Talking to Instructors

The OER Student Toolkit (BCcampus) and Textbook Affordability Toolkit Revised 2018 Edition (Open Oregon) provide useful information for students wanting to talk with their instructors about open textbooks.

The OER Student Toolkit suggests that students talk to their professors or instructors about open educational resources. It says:

The final say about what resources will be used in a course usually lies with faculty, to whom students have unique, direct access. Some ways of doing this include:

Below is a sample script from the Textbook Affordability Toolkit that can be used when talking to an instructor about open textbooks.

Sample talking points for meeting with a faculty member

Intro: Hi, Professor. I’m [Name] from [Student Group]. Thank you for letting me come talk to you about our campaign to make textbooks affordable.

Introduce the problem: Textbook costs are a big issue for students here on campus. Textbooks are expensive—$1200 per student per year for books and supplies, and prices have been rising at three times the rate of inflation. Students are even opting not to buy the books—65 percent of students surveyed reported not buying or renting a required book because of the price. [If relevant, tell a brief personal story about how textbook costs have affected you.]

Ask: Is this a problem that’s come to your attention before?

Introduce the solution: The good news is that affordable alternatives exist that can save students a lot of money. Open textbooks are books that are published under an open licence that allows them to be used and shared for free.

Open textbooks are comparable to traditional textbooks: They are written and reviewed by experts and cover the standard material for a course. Open textbooks have benefits that make them preferable to traditional textbooks because instructors can adapt the text by adding their own content or problem sets or removing unwanted material.

Ask: Have you come across open textbooks before?

Call to action: Open textbooks are a great solution, but the challenge is that not enough professors have the support they need to use them. I wanted to discuss a couple ways you might be able to help.

Sample ask: Would you be willing to talk with a librarian about using open textbooks in your classes?

Sample ask: Would you be willing to share information about open textbooks with your colleagues?

Sample ask: Would you be willing to support our campaign to expand the use of open textbooks?

Closing: Thank you for agreeing to [Action]. I will email you in a couple weeks to follow up and see how it went.

Open Textbook Research

Below are three studies about open textbooks that can be shared with faculty members.

  • Hendricks, Christina, Stefan A. Reinsberg, and Georg W. Rieger.  “The Adoption of an Open Textbook in a Large Physics Course: An Analysis of Cost, Outcomes, Use, and Perceptions.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, no. 4 (2017).
  • Jhangiani, Rajiv S., Farhad N. Dastur, Richard Le Grand, and Kurt Penner.  “As Good or Better than Commercial Textbooks: Students’ Perceptions and Outcomes from Using Open Digital and Open Print Textbooks.” The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 9, no. 1 (2018).
  • Jhangiani, Rajiv Sunil, and Surita Jhangiani. “Investigating the Perceptions, Use, and Impact of Open Textbooks: A Survey of Post-Secondary Students in British Columbia.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, no. 4 (2017).


Textbook Broke Campaigns

During the past few years, student unions and societies have shown their support for open textbook usage through open textbook or Textbook Broke campaigns. Started in the U.S., these events—typically scheduled at the beginning of the fall term—aim to educate students about the cost of traditional textbooks and how open textbooks and other affordable learning materials might help. Interacting with and thanking professors who have adopted open textbooks is often part of the event.


Learn More

Section Topics

This final section looks at potential concerns and considerations for everyone affected by and involved with open textbook adoptions, such as:

  • Why instructors choose to use an open textbook
  • Concerns about open textbook stability and quality, including myths
  • Additional resources for those using open resources


Game Changers: Why Openness in Education?

Why openness in education? Why open education?

These questions have been asked by many since the label “open” was applied to education and coined in 1998 by David Wiley. Four years later, UNESCO created the term “open educational resources (OER)” at its 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries to describe a new global phenomenon of openly sharing educational resources. This international organization, “the only United Nations agency with a mandate to cover all aspects of education,” believes that building strong education systems around the world will help to eradicate poverty, promote peace, and encourage sustainable development.

There are several resources that examine both OEP (open educational practice a.k.a. open pedagogy) and OER (open educational resources). Some of these are listed below.



How Stable Are Open Textbooks

Here are some concerns that faculty have expressed about the stability of the open textbooks in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection and answers to those concerns.

Q: If an instructor adopts an open textbook, what is the guarantee that it will be available for the length of the term? Is there any chance that the publication’s author could restrict access after some period of time?

A: The open textbooks in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection are controlled by BCcampus Open Education, not individual authors or outside publishers. On occasion, a textbook in the collection will be archived. When this is done, these steps will be followed:

  1. Inform other projects that mirror our collection.
  2. Inform the textbook’s authors, if possible.
  3. Inform faculty who have reported that they have adopted this textbook.
  4. Notify members of key listservs we maintain related to open education.
  5. Place a notification in the BCcampus newsletter and BCcampus OpenEd email sent out every two weeks.

The main reason for archiving is to replace a textbook with a newer edition.

Q: If an open textbook can be changed, does this mean that the books in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection are always changing?

A: No. It was decided at the beginning of this project that all books in the collection be static. They can be changed by anyone, but the copies in the collection are not affected by these changes.

If an updated version or edition of a textbook is added to the collection, this is clearly marked on the book’s cover.

Q: If anyone can make changes to an open textbook, how is the quality and integrity maintained?

Authors making changes to an existing textbook and wanting to publish the new version to the B.C. Open Textbook Collection must meet the criteria requirements laid out on the Suggestion for the Collection web page. In addition, open textbooks are typically scrutinized by the open community through peer reviews published next to the book. These reviews are uncensored and generally give a good sense of the quality of the resource.

Lastly, quality and integrity of a personal derivative of an open textbook is the responsibility of the derivative author.


OER Myths: Basic Guide to OER

For responses to myths about open educational resources (OER), take a look at the OER Mythbusting website. Some of the concerns addressed by this site include:

For more on this topic, see SPARC’s OER Mythbusting guide.


Additional Resources

See the Information Directory for opinions and blogs, books and videos, news, and research and reports concerning open education and open textbook/OER adoption. Information is sorted by English-speaking country and region: Canada, United States, Global North, and the Global South.


Appendix: Adoptions in B.C.

There are a number of ways that post-secondary institutions participate in and manage the adoption of open textbooks in British Columbia. See examples below.

Adoptions in action

Douglas College

Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Langara College

Okanagan College

Thompson Rivers University

University of British Columbia

University of Victoria


BCIT, Douglas, KPU, RRU

Barker, Jennifer, Ken Jeffery, Rajiv Sunil Jhangiani, and George Veletsianos. “Eight Patterns of Open Textbook Adoption in British Columbia.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 19, no. 3 (2018).


Hendricks, Christina, Stefan A. Reinsberg, and Georg W. Rieger.  “The Adoption of an Open Textbook in a Large Physics Course: An Analysis of Cost, Outcomes, Use, and Perceptions.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, no. 4 (2017).



Barker, Jennifer, Ken Jeffery, Rajiv Sunil Jhangiani, and George Veletsianos. “Eight Patterns of Open Textbook Adoption in British Columbia.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 19, no. 3 (2018). (accessed August 2, 2019).

Gurung, Regan A. R. “Pedagogical Aids and Student Performance.” Teaching of Psychology 30, no. 2 (2003): 92–95. (accessed April 30, 2016).

Hendricks, Christina, Stefan A. Reinsberg, and Georg W. Rieger.  “The Adoption of an Open Textbook in a Large Physics Course: An Analysis of Cost, Outcomes, Use, and Perceptions.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, no. 4 (2017). (accessed September 4, 2019).

Jhangiani, Rajiv S., Farhad N. Dastur, Richard Le Grand, and Kurt Penner.  “As Good or Better than Commercial Textbooks: Students’ Perceptions and Outcomes from Using Open Digital and Open Print Textbooks.” The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 9, no. 1 (2018). (accessed September 12, 2019).

Jhangiani, Rajiv Sunil, and Surita Jhangiani. “Investigating the Perceptions, Use, and Impact of Open Textbooks: A Survey of Post-Secondary Students in British Columbia.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, no. 4 (2017). (accessed September 11, 2019).

Weiten, Wayne, Rosanna E. Guadagno, and Cynthia A. Beck. “Students Perceptions of Textbook Pedagogical Aids.” Teaching of Psychology 23, no. 2 (1996): 105–7. (accessed April 30, 2016).


Versioning History

This page provides a record of changes made to this guide. Each set of edits is acknowledged with a 0.01 increase in the version number. The exported files for this toolkit reflect the most recent version.

If you find an error in this guide, please fill out the Report an Error form.

Version Date Change
1.01 May 15/16 Guide published in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection.
1.02 Jul 28/17 Added section called The Adopting Open Textbooks Workshop.
1.03 Feb 22/18 Removed unnecessary chapters from “Learn More” section and Glossary from appendix.
1.04 Nov 2018 – Sept 2019 Guide underwent an open revision
1.05 Jun 27/19 Changed from Open Textbook theme to Clarke theme.
2.00 Sep 27/19 Released 2nd edition. Updated and expanded original guide.
2.01 Oct 23/19 Added interactive OpenStax map that allows search by adopting institutions and savings
2.02 Jul 15/20 Excerpt taken from “Librarian Advocacy for Open Educational Resource Adoptions and Programs” in The International Journal of Open Educational Resources was added as a chapter called Responses to Common Concerns. 
2.03 Oct 29/20 Changed “ancillary resources” to “supplementary material.”
2.04 Jun 9/21 Added new content to How to Track chapter.
2.05 Mar 14/22 Added Adoption Finder to Finding Open Textbooks chapter.
An open revision is an openly licensed work that is publicly viewable  during an upgrade or other modification. Editable files and a list of changes are provided during the process.