Open approach to online course creation saves students $56,385 each term

Sunday, February 28, 2021

By Ceili Minten

PSYCH 253 saves students $56,385 each term.

Previously, the 300 students who enrolled each term were required to buy a textbook listed at $187.95. Redesigning the course around open textbooks eliminates this cost.

Books are very expensive; not all students can afford to buy, or choose to buy, all textbooks. Not having a textbook reduces learning and lowers grades. As well as eliminating cost, using open textbooks also eliminates a barrier to success.

Richard Eibach photo.Kristin Wilson photo.However, Richard Eibach (course author, left) and Kristin Wilson (online learning consultant, right) have gone beyond using an open text. They have created a mostly text-based course that weaves together open resources with Eibach’s own content.

These resources include

In addition to the adapted and original text the course uses various videos that bring to life the content in other ways. However, there are no narrated slides or recorded lectures, said Eibach. These formats are very hard to change, especially in term. Text, on the other hand, is easy to change. Even in term the course can be changed and improved.

Create your own content

Continual but gradual change is very important to Eibach. He would like most of the content in the course to be his own eventually. Starting with open resources allows him to create his own content, module by module.

Wilson recommends course authors who would like to create their own content but who do not have time to create an entire course of original content at once to start with open content and make continual changes. Every iteration will be better, she said. The author may be able to change examples to fit the needs of their class based on what students mention, discuss, and discover, allowing students to feed into the adapting content. This creates a well-balanced course where both students and the course author benefit greatly.

Creative Commons

Of course mixing and adapting material from several sources means careful acknowledgement of those sources. Resources available under a Creative Commons license that is “Share Alike” require a description of changes made to the original. Any derivative work needs to be named and licensed. This all requires a lot of space that could easily distract the student from the material. The solution that Eibach and Wilson arrived at was to provide a short citation or credit statement adjacent to each section linked to a more detailed explanation on the Syllabus/Credits and Copyright page.

For more on the Creative Commons license under which the open texts used in this course were made available, see

Ceili Minten provides copyright support at The Centre for Extended Learning.

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