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.
In the last several years, we’ve seen the release of many excellent open textbooks, yet adoption still remains a challenge. From my perspective as a math instructor, I see two major barriers: discovery and ancillaries.
The first challenge for adoption of open textbooks is an instructor finding one. There are many instructors who are not even aware that open textbooks exist. Second, if an instructor is interested in open textbooks, even the reasonably well-culled listing at collegeopentextbooks.org can be daunting, and very few listed books resemble complete, ready-to-adopt textbooks. For a busy instructor, the prospect of having to remix resources from multiple sources is often more effort than they’re willing to put in.
To start addressing the second part of the discovery challenge, I built OpenTextBookStore.com. This site lists a subset of open textbooks I felt are really ready-to-adopt without requiring remixing or supplementing, and that are available in printed form. I’ve started with math books, but I hope to expand the listing with recommendations from subject matter experts in other fields. The site recreates the experience of browsing a publisher’s website; each listing shows a summary of the book, license information, the available formats, a table of contents, and a list of any available ancillaries.
Instructors have become accustomed to publishers providing extensive ancillary materials for textbooks, providing the second challenge for adoption of open textbooks. Many excellent efforts are contributing to addressing the ancillary challenge, including open courseware efforts like the Washington Open Course Library (which I was part of). In mathematics, online homework has become commonplace, and for a majority of faculty is a key part of their textbook adoption decision.
To help address this, I’m happy to announce MyOpenMath.com, a free and open online homework system for mathematics. It is built on open-source software I’ve been developing for six years, and that has been used by tens of thousands of students. It provides randomized, algorithmically generated homework with automated grading of numerical and algebraic answers, similar to WebAssign and other publisher products. It also provides a course management system with gradebook, file posting, discussion forums, etc. (To their credit, WebAssign has produced online homework for several open textbooks, but this comes with a cost to students and is not open.) MyOpenMath has homework aligned with open textbooks in pre-algebra, beginning and intermediate algebra, pre-calculus, and trigonometry. The courses can easily be copied and modified by an instructor and used with students as graded homework. Many courses include video lessons, classroom activities, or other supplements as well. These courses are also available to students for self-study, review purposes, or as ungraded practice. These courses were contributed by faculty in Washington and Arizona; please see our “About us” page for credits.
Increased adoptions of open textbooks will only come by making it easy for faculty to find open textbooks, having open textbooks that can easily replace traditional textbooks, and providing ancillaries that instructors rely on. I hope OpenTextBookStore.com and MyOpenMath.com can contribute to that effort.
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