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British Columbia Government Lends Support to Open Textbooks

Cable Green, October 16th, 2012

The government of British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, has announced its support for the creation of open textbooks for the 40 most popular first- and second-year courses in the province’s public post-secondary system. The texts will be available for free online, or at a low cost for printed versions, to approximately 200,000 students. The first texts under this project could be in use at B.C. institutions as early as 2013 for courses in arts, sciences, humanities, and business.

BCcampus, a publicly funded collaborative information technology organization serving the higher-education system, will engage B.C. faculty, institutions, and publishers to implement the open textbook project through an open request for proposals.

David Porter, executive director for BCcampus, explained why CC licenses are crucial to this project. “Open licenses are integral to making textbooks free for students, and flexible enough for instructors to customize the material to suit their courses.”

B.C.’s minister of advanced education, John Yap, announced the project at the Open Education Conference in Vancouver. He said students could save up to $1,000 a year on textbooks if free, open versions were available for many of their courses, and he challenged other jurisdictions to follow British Columbia’s lead and support open educational resources: “By taking advantage of technology, more people can get the learning they need in the knowledge economy and access to new or better jobs.”

You might remember that a few weeks ago, we celebrated a similar piece of legislation in California. The British Columbia legislation was actually based on California’s version. Taken together, these are exciting steps for the OER (open educational resources) movement. Since the textbooks produced in B.C. and California will be licensed under the CC BY license, their impact has the potential to spread far beyond the US and Canada, being reused and adapted by educators around the world.

B.C. is leveraging 21st-century technologies and licensing to ensure that its citizens have affordable access to high-quality post-secondary textbooks. Open licensing on publicly funded content ensures the greatest impact for the public dollar.

Read the full press release.

There was an OER Forum later that week. Videos and images.

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