Photo: Chris Blanchette

Free online textbook library launches for Ontario students

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By Jacob Dubé

An online library of free open-source textbooks has just launched this month for post-secondary students across Ontario, with a $1-million investment from the provincial government for more content on the way.

Created by eCampus Ontario, a not-for-profit corporation that works on projects for the province’s post-secondary institutions, the Open Textbook Library (OTL) currently has just over 180 textbooks in its database that are freely available to read and download.

According to Deb Matthews, the Ontario minister of advanced education and skills development, the library is based off of a similar OTL project in British Columbia that’s been running since 2012.

“If British Columbia is any example, they’ve saved students about four and a half million dollars over the past few years since they’ve launched, and we’ve got three times as many students. So this will be a big cost-saver,” Matthews said.

The $1-million investment will go into creating more learning material for the library, with a focus on increasing French language and Indigenous content, as well as adapting existing material for other fields.

According to eCampus Ontario’s operations director Lena Patterson, post-secondary institutions can submit proposals to either adapt a textbook from existing open-source material or create their own to add to the library.

In addition, eCampus Ontario has partnered with a team at Ryerson to improve the structure of the library. The team, which includes members from Ryerson’s Library & Archives and the Computing and Communications, among others, are working on creating an infrastructure for academics to author and publish their content to the OTL.

Though it’s not mandatory for professors to assign the free textbooks for their classes, Matthews said that students will demand that online resources be used.

“Some will be resistant, I’m sure, but we’re not forcing it. We’re sure making it available.”

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