Physics Department's Open Textbook Pilot

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Laura Flinn, Physics instructor, shares the following information about her experiences using an open textbook:

On our Physics Dept. website we have a Course Materials page where students can access resources for our labs and lectures. The link to this page is at http://www.kpu.ca/science/physics/coursemats

At the bottom of this page is the link to the Open Textbook prepared for our Physics 1100 course. Clicking on this link takes you to: http://www.kpu.ca/physics/sato/PHYS1100 where our textbook, College Physics, is available in different formats: Online, as downloadable PDF or EPUB, or as a print on demand Hardcopy.

Some of the Physics 1100 student survey results on the Open Textbook given at the end of the Spring 2014 term:

  • 92% of students chose to use the PDF. Of these, 64% said they chose this format because of its ease of use and portability
  • 11% wanted hardcopies to be sold in the KPU bookstore. (Only 1 student actually bought a hard copy. The ordering process and shipping costs were likely barriers)
  • 19% commented that navigating thru the pages of the PDF was difficult and time consuming. I looked at the PDF again and realized that these students didn’t know how to use the sidebar where the table of contents was located. For the future, I’ll show them how in lecture.

Some other things to look out for regarding Open Textbooks:

  • Various Formats of the same Open Textbook may not be exactly the same! For College Physics, the problems for a chapter were located at the end of the chapter in the PDF while for the Online the problems were spread out, appearing at the end of the various sections making up the chapter. As a result, though the problems were identical, the numbering of the problems differed between the two formats. I settled on assigning homework from the PDF as the numbering was easier. However, answers to odd problems were only available in the Online so students had to check which section a problem referred to in order to locate the answer. Not a difficult thing to do, but just annoying.
  • Getting Hardcopies…In Physics we provided a link to obtaining a Hardcopy through the SFU Bookstore as they had an Espresso Book Machine which prints and binds a paperback from a PDF in minutes. The cost was $15 for B&W, $45 for colour but shipping was extra. Currently, this tech is not available at KPU.
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