TRUSU faced with closed doors to open textbooks

Open textbook campaign struggling to get further adoption among faculty

The organization has been tasked with the production of the first 40 open textbooks for implementation across B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Image courtesy BCcampus)

(BCcampus_News/Flickr Commons)

TRUSU is settling in for the long haul with their Open Textbook campaign that was launched in 2016. The biggest challenge the campaign is faced with right now is getting the faculty to adopt the concept, something that TRUSU says will take time.

At TRUSU’s last board of directors meeting on Nov. 1, Alex McLellan, the union’s university governance coordinator, presented a report to the board on the progress of two new TRUSU campaigns running this year. In his report to the board, McLellan said the Open Textbook campaign was stalled, due to a lack of progress in the last month.

Instead, TRUSU will be focusing on the union’s Hungry for Choice campaign, which previously hosted a the food truck festival on Sept. 21.

Twenty-five faculty members have pledged to adopt the open textbook system for their course sections, according to the campaign information page. The campaign goal is 75 pledges.

TRUSU estimates the 25 course sections that have adopted open textbooks have saved 900 students more than $108,000 since 2014. The union hopes that by getting behind the open textbooks movement, and the progress that has already been made, this campaign could see those savings rise to as much as $300,000, so long as faculty are on board.

TRUSU is still hopeful that more faculty will adopt open textbooks, and is making communication with faculty the top priority moving forward. Currently TRUSU is trying to facilitate a joint open textbook fellowship with faculty some time next semester.

Brian Lamb, TRU’s director of innovation, said his expectation is that the conversations happening now will lead to further adoption in the upcoming semester.

Although somewhat disappointed that he has not seen more interest from the instructors, Lamb said the process does not happen overnight. Instructors, Lamb noted, can not just change course material on a whim, and that “it often involves consultation and alignment with other departmental members.”

The benefit of using open textbooks is that they have an open copyright license, which makes them free to use online for students. Because the concept is still in its infancy compared to traditionally published textbooks, however, there are limited resources.

The Ministry of Advanced Education is funding the B.C. Open Textbook project managed by BCcampus, which TRUSU is promoting through their own campaign.

The BCcampus website provides faculty and students access to more than 160 books, many of which are written by faculty. First on the list of BCcampus’s open textbooks is “Canadian History: Pre-Confederation,” written by John Douglas Belshaw, an Open Learning faculty member at TRU.