UPEI students save money using online textbooks

UPEI professors teaching Introduction to Psychology are helping their student's finances this year by teaching from an open source online textbook.

Professors say online textbooks becoming more common

Psychology professor Philip Smith will be asking his students for feedback after using the online textbook this semester. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

UPEI professors teaching Introduction to Psychology are helping their student's finances this year by teaching from an open source online textbook.

With the cost of most university textbooks ranging from $100 to $200, it's a good break for students on tight budgets. With 500 students in the course, that's a saving of more than $50,000.

Students like the trend.

"I know a lot of students who have to share textbooks in class which can be difficult when you have a physical book that you're sharing, and you both need to study for the same exam," said second year student Kelly Green.

UPEI professor Stacey MacKinnon says offering free online textbooks for students use helps them out financially. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Open source textbooks are becoming more and more common across North America.

"There's no evidence that this high-quality free material is inferior, and when you've got that kind of situation, why not give students the opportunity to have that material for free and invest their money elsewhere?" said Philip Smith, one of the Psychology professors using the new online textbook provided by a non-profit organization in the U.S.

Other professors at UPEI are using open textbooks created by BCcampus. The BC Open Textbook project was launched in 2012 with funding from the B.C. government, and there are now more than 150 textbooks, including 40 in the top 40 subect areas for first and secondary year university.

More online textbooks

Dave Cormier, manager of Web Communications and Innovations at UPEI says online books will become more common over time. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Dave Cormier, manager of web communications and innovations at UPEI, is happy to see the university using free textbooks because the high quality of content contained in them is from professors.

"So in my mind, why not take it directly from the professor and bring it directly to the student? And sort of cut out the middleman anyway," Cormier said.

The professors are aware, however, that not everyone is going to like the trend.

"The publishing companies are perhaps not as big of fans of this because of course there's no money going to them in this regard," observed associate professor Stacey MacKinnon.

"But the problem we run into there is that it's our job to support the students and offer a quality education."

UPEI psychology students will be asked for their input on the online textbooks at the end of the semester.

With files from Nancy Russell