Welcome to the College Open Textbooks Blog

This blog was created to keep our expanding audience informed about what is going on in the world of Open Textbooks and related topics. Please read and enjoy the posts. You are encouraged to add any comments that add to the discussion.



July 2016
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THIS SITE IS NO LONGER UPDATED – Browse here for great posts – Join ODG LinkedIn group

This website is no longer in use. There are some outstanding blog posts here; stay here and browse.

In early 2015, College Open Textbooks will have a community.

Open Doors Group has a group on LinkedIn. Join us there: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Open-Doors-Group-6552694/about






College Open Textbooks announces OER Basic Training on Friday the 13th

Be sure to read the press release about the upcoming Open Educational Resources Basic Training event, which will be running this Friday, July 13.

There will be four one-hour recordings of Webinars from last Fall, with facilitated discussions of the sessions after each one.


Announcing ChemWiki as the COT Featured Book for June and July 2012

ChemWikiWe are excited to name ChemWiki as our featured book for both June and July.  This collection of online science textbooks features over 6800 high quality illustrations.   To learn more about ChemWiki, please read the press release at http://prlog.org/11908511 or visit ChemWiki at http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/


Guide to Open Learning

I’m pleased to have the honor of presenting a project I have recently finished and released under an open license. It is a “Guide to Open Learning” and I hope you find it useful. Thanks to College Open Textbooks for all the work they have done and continue to do to advance Open Learning and for giving me the opportunity to share this here.

ABSTRACT: This document is an introduction to Open Learning. It examines briefly what “Open” means and the different facets of the open movement and what “Learning” means and how it is different for every person. Attention is brought to the issue of the digital divide and ways to reduce or eliminate barriers to education. We look at how to get started with Open Learning if you are fortunate enough to have access to the technologies, and possible ways of obtaining access if you don’t. We then go over how to map out a personalized learning strategy that works for you. The core of the document goes over many of the different types of Open Learning resources available, and possible ways to organize and structure your learning. We will also looks at the issue of accreditation and how to receive recognition for your learning in a way that allows you to demonstrate your newly acquired skills. Finally, it finishes with ideas on how to start solo or collaborative projects as well as possible ways to get them funded.

There is a large collection of Open Learning resources at the end of this guide.

Guide to Open Learning

Corbin Tarrant | Independent Technology Consultant


Some quick ways to help students afford their textbooks

CC BY photo from images_of_money

We would be delighted if a wave of a magic wand would mean every required textbook were open-licensed, flexible for instructors, and affordable for students. Unfortunately, it will take time before this happens. In the meantime there are some options to improve textbook affordability immediately even for classes with expensive required textbooks.

San Francisco City College student association decided that the students needed assistance with textbook costs far more than they needed additional recreation equipment or social events. So the association purchased a number of expensive textbooks and offered them for semester-long loans.

Foothill College Bookstore manager Romy Paule took a risk, invested in textbooks, and rented them to students. After a few terms, the investment was recouped.

Instructors can suggest that students visit the SlugBooks site where students can compare textbooks from several sources. Searching can be done by state/school/class or by textbook title or ISBN number. The site includes some open textbooks.

Revamping assignments to refer to topics rather than specific pages and problem numbers will allow students to use older versions of the textbook at substantial savings.

Suggesting that students form small study groups and purchase one textbook to share can mean not only cost savings but peer pressure to improve time management and study skills.

Administrators and instructors can contact the college foundation to see if corporate or foundation grants can be used to purchase more reserve copies of textbooks  for the college library.

Comment below if you have additional suggestions for quickly improving textbook affordability.


The PhysWiki Dynamic Textbook Project

The PhysWiki Dynamic Textbook Project

The PhysWiki is one of seven integral components of the STEMWiki Dynamic Textbook Project (DTP), a multi-institutional collaborative venture to develop the next generation of open-access textbooks to improve STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at all levels of higher learning. The central aim of the DTP is to develop and disseminate free, virtual, customizable textbooks that will substitute for current, commercial paper texts in multiple courses at post-secondary institutions across the nation. All are licensed Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike. All seven textbooks in the STEMWiki DTP have been linked together under the direction of Professor Delmar Larsen of the University of California at Davis and include: the ChemWiki (the forefather), the BioWiki, the MathWiki, the StatWiki, the PhysWiki, the GeoWiki, and the SolarWiki.

The goal of this project is to seed the PhysWiki with an open-source, calculus-based textbook, in an effort to expand access and usage of this segment of the STEMWiki. Working with both Professor Delmar Larsen (founder of the STEMWiki DTP) and Professor Paul D’Assandris, Monroe Community College, Rochester, NY (author of Spiral Physics), physics students at South Florida Community College are seeding the PhysWiki with Spiral Physics textbook. Spiral Physics is an OER physics textbook that is currently in use by over 40 two-year colleges nationwide.  Spiral Physics comes in three variants (calculus-based, algebra-based, and modern physics) and provides a research-based introductory physics curriculum along with an integrated textbook and workbook activities. Using a restricted equation set, Spiral Physics provides a unique approach to building student success by providing repeated exposure (i.e., spiral) to concepts with increased complexity. It includes alternative problem types, including goal-less problem statements, ranking tasks, and critical analysis tasks which have been research-proven to help students develop conceptual understanding.

Although implementation of this project has not kept up with the desired schedule, things are moving forward and usage of the PhysWiki continues to grow as shown in the most recent Google Analytics Report.

We initially had to learn how to work with LaTeX markup language used in the DTP and how to format equations using MathJax open source JavaScript display engine for mathematics. As neither of my workstudy students had any formal computer programing training, this was a big challenge. However with the continued assistance from Delmar and from numerous Internet searches for information, we overcame this challenge. The act of transcribing of the textbook and equations from Word format to LaTeX has had a steep learning curve. Unfortunately as the current semester is nearing completion and my two workstudy students are busy preparing for finals and then graduation, they are finding little time to assist with this project. Thus I am in search of replacement students to complete the task.

Once completed, this project should not only help to expand usage of the PhysWiki segment of the STEMWiki, but also enable Spiral Physics to be used as a living etextbook, whereby faculty and students, can expand and augment the online textbook with supplemental information.  I am excited to be able to use this site as the host for my etextbook for next semester.


Erik Christensen | South Florida Community College


American Government Textbook: An Update from the Field

Dr. Tim Lenz and I have been working on editing the textbook and identifying students to work on the text over the summer.

Using information from surveys and informal feedback from students, along with feedback from faculty members who have used the text, we have identified several areas that need work in the text. For example, students are interested in accessing information in the text directly from their laptops, tablets, and phones, so we need to ensure that links work with multiple types of devices.

Additionally, students are very interested in linking video and audio content, so we are working on finding and linking to those files. As an example, the image on the left of the Tea Party protest links to a video about the event and a slideshow of images from the protest, allowing the students to emerge themselves in the content.

Dr. Lenz and I have also presented the text twice in our university’s Teaching with Technology showcases, pictured below. We have gotten a lot of very good feedback through these presentations and (hopefully) inspired others to also create open textbooks!


Advanced Water Mathematics Online Textbook – an update from an adopter community grantee

Regina Blasberg, College of Canyons


Mike Alvord, Director of Operations for Newhall County Water District, and I are working on writing an Advanced Water Mathematics online textbook. Mike has basically completed the first draft of the textbook which is already in use in our Water 031 Advanced Water Mathematics course. I have been focused on completing edits and identifying any inconsistencies in formatting. Since the text is currently being used, we have found that the students are enjoying providing comments, pointing out errors, and indicating topics that aren’t clearly explained as well. Once this draft is final and we’ve received additional student feedback, we’ll add more homework problems, figures, and any other final updates.



What’s New in OER at Scottsdale Community College?

Faculty in the Mathematics Department at Scottsdale Community College   have been working hard this year to create, revise, and organize materials for our OER project in several of our courses. This is exciting for all of us!

Our goal is to offer all of our MAT 09x Introductory Algebra, MAT 12x Intermediate Algebra, and MAT 150 College Algebra courses using OER materials starting this Fall 2012. During the 2011-2012 academic year, we have pilot tested our materials, formed a learning community of very talented mathematics faculty, and collaborated with each other to further refine the OER textbook, student support materials, and online homework assignments. This summer, several faculty (Bill Meacham, Judy Sutor, Jenifer Bohart, Donna Guhse, and Linda Knop) will be working hard to take what we have learned from our spring pilot and, once again, refine these materials. The exciting part of the refinement process is that we have complete control over the quality of what we adopt to support our classes! We love this!

Recently, our OER team received the SCC Innovation of the Year Award. Only 1 team per college in the Maricopa Community College District receives this award. As a result, we were invited to give a presentation in hopes of receiving the widely sought-after District Innovation of the Year Award. The presentation slides are available at:  OER Innovation of the Year. Wish us luck that we are awarded our District IOTY Award very soon!

As part of our OER project, our learning community has restructured the course so that we provide meaningful support for students, both inside and outside of the classroom. Before class, students can complete a “mini-lesson” to help prepare them for the next class session. During class, they receive instruction and engage in paired board work. After class, they use iMathAS and problem solving activities to support their learning. The next class session then allows for more active learning and engagement with the mathematics. Outside of the classroom, students’ learning is supported by the OER textbook and video tutorials created by MathIsPower4U’s James Sousa, as well as the Khan Academy.

Students have been appreciative of our efforts to use free (or nearly free!) materials for their mathematics courses. In fact, feel free to watch a couple of student testimonials about their experience in an OER math class. It’s exciting to hear that they are using technology — their smartphone, their tablet, etc. — to complete online homework and to access the textbook.

It’s a wonderful time to be teaching college mathematics!


Exemplary open textbooks and methodology: ChemWiki and its Progeny

ChemWiki not only shines as an exemplary series of open-licensed chemistry textbooks, it has spawned

Professor Delmar Larsen of the University of California at Davis heads the ChemWiki project, a series of online textbooks including Analytical, Biological, Inorganic, Organic, Physical, and Theoretical Chemistry plus the History of Chemistry and Lab Techniques. All are licensed Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike. Students and instructors contribute to the textbooks that are constantly improved.

ChemWiki includes more than 6,000 pages with high-quality illustrations. Individual pages in ChemWiki can be printed or turned into Adobe PDF files. Contributors include more than 30 chemistry professors and students as well as web technologists and publicist Richard Osibanjo.

ChemWiki provides maps to popular commercial general, organic, and physical textbooks.

Here are the pages showing how other colleges and universities are starting to incorporate the UC Davis ChemWiki into their courses:



College Open Textbook grantee communities include two based on the UC Davis series:

  • 3-D Molecular Models in ChemWiki: Dr. Ron Rusay and colleagues at Diablo Valley Community College
  • PhysWiki Dynamic Textbook project: Professor Erik Christensen at South Florida Community College and a colleague at Monroe Community College, NY. Erik was named a  College Open Textbooks  Outstanding Open Textbooks Advocate/Trainer in 2010.

A special feature of the UC Davis wiki texts is the Student Ability Rating and Inquiry System (SARIS) , a tool for tracking student progress based on PracticeZone.

PracticeZone is part of the ChemVantage academic program learning and assessment program for General Chemistry that includes jargon used in mastering video games. Chuck Wight of the University of Utah founded ChemVantage. “We have configured the software to allow students to submit proposed solutions to the problems as often as they want, in order to improve their scores. The objective is for students to use the feedback to correct their errors prior to the deadline for the assignment.” ChemVantage carries a Creative Commons Attribution license.

College Open Textbooks delights in publicizing the wiki texts from UC Davis, the use of these by several institutions, and the exciting approach to chemistry education from the University of Utah.