In Fall 2017, I chose to make a change in the required textbook for my General Biology (Biol 160) classes. We are now using OpenStax Biology, which is an open source textbook. My reasons for the change include:
- The previous textbook was costly despite my efforts to reduce costs by making a custom book with only the chapters we used. The new textbook can be downloaded for free or purchased as a print copy for a much lower cost.
- The previous textbook was easy to read and applied biology concepts to familiar scenarios, but it wasn’t comprehensive enough for the class. Students had to use many supplemental online materials which I developed, and were confused about what level of understanding they were expected to attain. The new textbook is more difficult to read, but I’ve altered my course to focus more on other materials, including online pages I’ve written that include embedded videos and practice flashcards. The textbook is now more of a comprehensive reference for students rather than the major source for learning new information, and the course instructions make that clear.
- In the RTC course evaluation, one of the questions asks students to rate whether they thought the textbook was valuable. In my year 2 evaluations, between 17-39% of students strongly agreed with this statement, depending on the quarter. Some students left comments on the evaluations saying that they rarely opened their textbook and were still able to be successful. This was part of my motivation for moving towards other resources with a free ebook provided mainly as a reference.
My colleague, Cheryl Stover, has switched to using OpenStax Anatomy & Physiology as the textbook for our Biol 241 and 242 courses, and I plan to join her in this switch starting in Summer 2018. We are proud to be helping our students save money and recognize that textbooks are only one of many resources that our students utilize.