Students are dodging high textbook prices by buying books from friends or using discount bookstores like Boomerang Books and Amazon.com.
However, when Professor David Wiley noticed the required text for his course was too expensive, and also did not cover the material adequately enough, he opted for another option that did not require any money at all. Wiley decided to use an online open textbook through a company called Flatworld Knowledge.
“There are people in companies that publish with college students in mind,” he said. “Flatworld Knowledge publishes open textbooks that are completely free. Anyone can go and read every word and see every picture online or even print out their own copy.”
Open textbooks are unique because they use an alternate copyright license. In addition to being free, they can be downloaded to share with others and are open to changes and improvements by the public.
“The book wasn’t what I wanted it to be, (and) the closest I could find was kind of generic,” Wiley said. “So I thought, I wish I could find something that was more of what we needed. That would be a terrific assignment!”
Students became engaged in the learning process as they were required to actively analyze each word and example for content, as opposed to students just skimming the text. Old examples were taken out of the book and new ones added in to make the text more specific in the education context.
“When you work on what you’re interested in, you do much better work,” Wiley said.
Students who enrolled in his class did more than just read theories, they also gained hands-on experience that made them each co-authors of a textbook.
In a video about the project, BYU student Maya Amado said, “I really enjoyed it . . . it wasn’t just that we learned about theory, or we studied or read about theoretically what we’d do as project managers in instructional design, but we actually got to apply it.”
The project was so successful and valuable as a learning tool that Wiley plans to continue this approach for semesters to come. This semester, students are looking for ways to upgrade the already updated open textbook. Students are brainstorming to make a further-improved product. Ideas include making versions for iPads, Kindles and even versions to print on demand.
Teachers and students alike can benefit from the use of open textbooks. Revisions can be made to update information and make text more specific to different classrooms. With the use of open textbooks, information would be new, easily accessible and free for students.
“I believe students need to learn about these open textbooks and be advocates for them with their teachers,” said Robert Donakey, a sophomore from Orem studying philosophy. “It’s our education, we need to do something about it.”