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July 2016
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Key Learnings from ISKME’s Research on Open Textbook Adoption and Use

ISKME logo or person running up stairs

The Community College Open Textbook Project (CCOTP) was developed to support the use of textbooks that are freely available and accessible online, and that can be adapted by faculty and students to meet their unique needs and contexts. As the research partner for CCOTP, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) conducted research on the adoption and use patterns of participating faculty and students as end users of open textbooks, and the ways that that open textbook use potentially supports teaching and learning. Specific research questions addressed by the study include:

  1. What institutional policies are needed to support adoption and use of open textbooks?
  2. How and to what extent are open textbooks being created, shared, and used?
  3. How does the use of open textbooks support teaching and learning?

In answering these questions, ISKME conducted interviews with faculty users of open textbooks, interviews and focus groups with their students who were also end users of the open textbooks, and interviews with bookstore managers and administrators at community colleges that have adopted open textbooks. Key findings from the research include the following:

Cost and ease-of-use are important drivers of open textbook adoption. Cost savings for students were reported by both faculty and students as the most important factor influencing their decision to adopt open textbooks, followed by ease-of-use. Faculty also cited perceived dependable quality and recommendations from colleagues as a factors influencing adoption, while students cited the interactivity of open textbooks as an additional factor.

Use of open textbooks enhances students’ interaction with peers and with course materials. Embedded links, supplemental video, and interactive tools reportedly increased students’ engagement with course content. Open textbook use supported  new study habits on behalf of students, including collaborating with peers to learn content and interact with course materials, using the internet alongside an online textbook to further explore course concepts, and utilizing interactive learning tools to enhance their learning and understanding of course material.

Use of open textbooks supports the development of new teaching practices and conversations. Faculty reported that the interactive, collaborative nature of open textbooks allowed them to support peer-to-peer learning practices for their students by encouraging online and in person collaboration around the textbook and supplementary materials. Faculty further reported that collaboration with their peers around open textbook use led them to adopt collaborative curriculum development practices with their colleagues.

Training on open textbook use and enhancement of features potentially enable scale and spread. Faculty reported that training on open textbook use would support future use of open textbooks, particularly training around facilitating student use, in-classroom implementation, and how to integrate open textbooks with existing and new course materials. Lack of time and knowledge of how to integrate open textbook material was cited by faculty as a barrier to open textbook use. Both faculty and students also would be interested in enhancements to the textbooks that were able to increase student-instructor online interaction around the textbook. Additionally, college administrators and bookstore managers reported that increasing buy-in among students, faculty, and administrators around the benefits of open textbook use is central to scaling up the adoption of open textbooks.

Taken as a whole, our research showed that while cost and ease-of-use may be drivers of open textbook use, there is potential for the use of open textbooks to be aligned with new teaching and learning behaviors, which would tap into benefits that might ensure the sustainability of open textbook use. To read more about ISKME’s CCOTP study, you may access the article, “Open textbook adoption and use: implications for teachers and learners” published in Open Learning here:

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/ content~db=all~content=a932406300~frm=titlelink

Picture of Shenandoah Weiss, Project Coordinator, Research and Education Programs at ISKME

Shenandoah Weiss, ISKME, Project Coordinator, Research and Education Programs