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Open textbooks in universities


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Talk for the Society for Research in Higher Education (#SRHE17) conference, December 8th 2017.

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Open textbooks in universities

  1. 1. #SRHE2017 Friday 8th December 2017 Exploring textbook use and culture with Higher Education staff and students. Vivien Rolfe, UWE Bristol @vivienrolfe David Kernohan, @dkernohan
  2. 2. Presentation to the Society for Research into Higher Education (#SRHE2017) Conference, 6-8th December 2017 Conference Abstract 0xOJSY2iw6pO8s3kzzvGyRwUY/edit @vivienrolfe @dkernohan
  3. 3. April 2017 -18 @vivienrolfe @dkernohan
  4. 4. Context Open textbook schemes in South Africa, Poland, America and Canada are providing access to high quality textbooks providing better access to learning and countering high textbook prices. (1, 2, 3). @vivienrolfe @dkernohan
  5. 5. ● ● Open educational resource (OER) ● Openly licensed textbooks in a range of subject disciplines ● Collaborative author / peer-review process ● Multiple formats (free for students) plus low-cost print ● Easily ‘adopted’ and ‘adapted’ by staff ● About ‘access’ and ‘reuse’ open textbook publisher at Rice University What is an ‘open’ textbook?
  6. 6. 400+ CC-licensed books
  7. 7. Poland, Digital eSchools Programme 2012 Africa, Siyavula open education project 2007 BCcampus Open Textbook Project 2012
  8. 8. 52 texts - mixed CC licenses (part of Jisc e-textbook publisher +Nottingham, Liverpool, Highlands and Islands, Edinburgh Napier) 110 texts - mixed CC licenses (University of Cambridge) Variety of books and articles - CC licensed (Global initiative led by University of the West of England) + other ‘open access’ book publishers with Gold routes and book publication charges.
  9. 9. What is a textbook? “A coursebook, a formal manual of instruction in a specific subject, especially one for use in schools or colleges” ● Coursebook - a textbook has elements that make it suitable to underpin a course of study. These may include - but are not limited to - a structure that introduces concepts in an order suitable for learning; structural aspects such as summaries, questions for revision, diagrams, a glossary and an index. ● Instruction - a textbook is designed to support learning, and may be presented in a way that provides for a complete “learning experience” for the independent learner ● Specific subject - a textbook focuses on a clearly demarcated subject of study. It does not range freely across multiple disciplines or approaches. ● For use in schools or colleges - although it may be written in a way that could support independent learning, a textbook is nearly always used formally to support a course of study delivered by educators.
  10. 10. How do staff and students use textbooks? Very little research exists. - (compulsory sector and US) as learning design - use of reading lists (varying staff and student perceptions) - Academic choice - Decline in textbook market globally - Decline of UK campus bookshops
  11. 11. High study costs and students? • 31% of US students chose not to take certain courses because of high prices of recommended texts (4). • In the UK 77% of graduates claimed to be worried about their levels of debt, with many stating their degrees were not worth the cost of tuition fees (5). • Open textbooks replacing commercial texts are well received by US staff and students - books were more up to date, allowed for flexibility in delivery and provided accessible content to meet learner needs (6).
  12. 12. Growing textbook costs in the UK Year £inanaveragemonth Data from annual survey of final year students by “Save The Student” 69% increase over 5 years?
  13. 13. Aim of this research • Part of the UK Open Textbook Project aims to understand current patterns of textbook use in the UK, and explore awareness of open textbooks by staff and students. • This presentation details the development of questionnaires and some early findings.
  14. 14. Audit of student attitudes • 2015 textbook audit of n=69 science students at 2 UK universities. • Year 1 (n=18); Year 2 (n=7); Year 3 (n=39) and returning placement students (n=5) • Questioned on their textbook purchasing habits and attitudes to books. • (Core science textbooks are around £150 - 200).
  15. 15. Book spending and attitudes • 57 students (estimated or itemised book costs) and 12 purchased no books = average spend was £183. • The maximum spend was £900. • One student listed they had purchased 13 different texts. • 80% thought purchasing textbooks was an important part of their studies but 88% claimed to have skipped purchasing certain books. • 6 students claimed to have changed their course because of the cost of books associated with it. (Ref. 7).
  16. 16. 74% are working during term-time or holidays to support their studies.
  17. 17. Staff questionnaire development • Aims to target teaching staff in HE / FE in HE in UK and Republic of Ireland. • Questions including those of the 2016 ‘Babson’ survey in the US plus informed by a literature review and project team discussions (8). Also informed by SRHE October ‘Questionnaire Design’ workshop with Victoria Bourne. :) • Survey piloted through to analysis with 10 people representing target group and modified for validity. • Publicised as a ‘textbook’ survey via email, Twitter and project blog (with links to ethics documents). • Survey open now.
  18. 18. Awareness of open • 39% (University teaching staff) were not aware of open textbooks, and 20% were not aware of open educational resources (OER). • Compares to 66% and 58% respectively in 2016 US survey of higher education faculty (8). • 28% claimed to use open textbooks already.
  19. 19. Other insights from project workshops • “Open brings options” (UWE academic, July 2017). A recognition that openness can enhance teaching practices and pedagogies. • Campus bookstores are closing - how will this impact on student immersion into academic culture? • What is a reading list? Need for policy and clarity? • How to leverage the expertise and passion of library staff and learning technologists?
  20. 20. Conclusions • We know little about textbook contexts and cultures of use and further research is needed. • Students surveyed want books as part of their education experience but are confused which to buy and are disappointed they then aren’t used by lecturers. • Early survey results shows encouraging levels of staff awareness and use of open textbooks.
  21. 21. Summary • Open textbooks have the potential to increase equity, empower teachers and reduce the cost of college and university. • Is it our moral obligation to provide students with learning resources - particularly if they are available to them for free and research shows they are of good quality and beneficially pedagogically (9, 10).
  22. 22. (1) US Department of Education (2016). Open Education. Retrieved from (2) BCcampus (2016). Open Textbook Project. Retrieved from (3) (2017). Retrieved from: (4) Donaldson, R. Nelson, D. & Thomas, E. (2012). 2012 Florida student textbook and OER survey. Florida Virtual Campus. Retrieved from: (5) National Union of Students (2015). Retrieved from: (6) Delimont, N., Turtle, E., Bennett, A., Adhikari, K., & Lindshield, B. (2016). Research In Learning Technology, 24. (7) Rolfe V (2017). Could open textbooks improve the experience of all students? University of Plymouth 6th Annual PedRIO Conference. (8) Allen E and Seaman J (2016) Opening the Textbook: Open Education Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2015-16 . Babson Survey Research Group (9) Pitt, R., 2015. Mainstreaming open textbooks: Educator perspectives on the impact of openstax college open textbooks. The International Review of Research in Open And Distributed Learning, 16(4). (10) Robinson, J., Fischer, L., Wiley, D., & Hilton, J. (2014). The Impact of Open Textbooks on Secondary Science Learning Outcomes. Educational Researcher, 43(7). References
  23. 23. Vivien Rolfe @vivienrolfe David Kernohan @dkernohan +Beck Pitt, Bea De Los Arcos, Rob Farrow, Martin Weller, Natalie Egglestone, David Ernst (Open Textbook Library), Daniel Williamson and Danni Nicholson (OpenStax) +Huge thanks to the Hewlett Foundation April 2017 -18