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Content: Using Open Textbooks

Using Wikibooks as an example for Users, Re-Users, and Contributors

Author: Jhodi Leong

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The movement toward open content reflects a growing shift in the way scholars in many parts of the world are
conceptualizing education to a view that is more about the process of learning than the information conveyed.

-The New Media Consortium, 2013

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to

provide an introduction to open content,
focusing on the use of open textbooks as
instructional resources. Wikibooks is used as an
example of a collection of open textbooks with
the main goal of providing high-quality
instructional resources at no cost. A critical
analysis of open textbooks and best practices for
use are examined as well as educational
benefits. Using open textbooks for mobile
learning is examined alongside mobile
applications that allow these opportunities.
Future use and implications are also considered.

What is Open Content?

Open content refers to a license placed on a work that allows for the work to be
used in a different way than traditional copyright law dictates. Open content
allows users, at no cost and with fewer restrictions, to make use of a work, suited
to their needs. OpenContent refers to the 4Rs Framework (","


Reuse - the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form (e.g.,
make a backup copy of the content)
Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g.,
translate the content into another language)
Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other content
to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions,
or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

that forms the premise for open content and that can be used to determine to what extent work is open. Open content should be
thought of as a spectrum of continuous affordances depending on the type of license attributed to a piece of work. Although these
4Rs are common features of open content, the extent to which each is met can vary d epending on the type of license; the more
freedom the user has to manipulate a work, the more open it is.

What are Open Textbooks?

Open content has led to a similar movement in the realm of instruction ("," 2013). Open textbooks are web-based

resources that allow learners to have access to academic and instructional information on any device with an Internet connection.
Open t extbooks are an inexpensive alternative
to traditional printed textbooks that have the ability to provide the most recent

information possible. Quite often, printed textbooks are used for several years for personal and educational purposes because of cost;
it becomes expensive to continuously purchase textbooks. As a result, the information that is available in such resources is dated and
does not provide the most up-to-date, relevant material. Open textbooks however, can continuously be modified and edited to
include the addition of current materials that provide newer, potentially more relevant learning experiences to the user. Even several
e-textbooks purchased through publishers are rigid copies that are not updated until the next edition is available for purchase. Quite
often, these forms of e-textbooks also come with an access code that allows purchasers limited time use of the material. Open
textbooks are offering u sers a more affordable option to printed textbooks or e-textbooks, with constantly updated material.

How to use Open Textbooks:

An Example Using Wikibooks

As a Re-User:

What is Wikibooks?

When using open textbooks, it is important to keep in mind that many contributors have spent a
great deal of time and effort creating these resources in order for u s to have access to high-quality
resources at no cost. Therefore, it is imperative that we adhere to guidelines that protect the rights
of contributors and ensures that resources are being u sed appropriately and under the terms
outlined in its licenses.

Wikibooks is a collection o f
open textbooks designed as
instructional resources for
use in formal school settings
such as traditional schools,
private schools, home
schools, or online schools as
well as informal learning
settings such as personal
interest or for personal
learning ("Wikibooks: Open
books," 2013). The main
purpose of textbooks on
Wikibooks is instruction;
Wikibooks is not intended for
fiction and non-fiction
literature. Instructional
textbooks, annotated texts,
manuals, and instructional
guides are all examples of
content designed with the
purpose of instruction that
can be found on Wikibooks.

Wikibooks outlines a few guidelines for re-users to consider ("Wikibooks: Open books," 2013):

Attribution- It is important to give appropriate credit to contributors for their work. This may be
in the form of a URL or hyperlink redirecting back to the wikibook or a list of the authors names.
Copyleft/ShareAlike- Modifications and/or additions must be licensed u nder the Creative
Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Indicate changes- Modifications and/or additions should be clearly indicated.
Licensing notice- You must indicate that the work is licensed u nder the Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike License and provide a copy of the license either as a hard copy or via URL.

More considerations:

Give credit where credit is due. Pay attention to the type of license attached to the open
textbook. Do you need to cite an author or source(s) to use a part of this open textbook
elsewhere? Are you allowed to make modifications? Can you use in part or must you use as is?
Open textbooks may have many contributors that n eed to b e acknowledged, which can be
accomplished in a variety of ways. Open textbooks rely on the time and effort that these
contributors are willing to put into additions and modifications to ensure accurate, relevant
materials are available to us. Therefore, it is important that credit is given and that others can
find the original source of information.
Verify the source of the information. Is the information coming from a qualified source?
Sometimes it can be h elpful to consider the hosting website to determine their qualifications for
contributors and how contributions are evaluated and monitored. Consider who monitors the
open textbook, is it one person, a group of people, is it peer-reviewed? The most important
thing is to make sure that someone with appropriate qualifications to that area of study is
monitoring contributions.

More considerations continued

Check dates- How recent are the

contributions and materials used?

some topics such as politics
will demand more recent updates
than topics such as calculus because of
the nature of the topic. However, it is
important to include recent events,
whether they be political, scientific
discoveries, or even applications and
problems developed around current
activities and interests. Check the
dates of recent activity for an indicator
of how well-maintained a work is.

Curious about how much money open

textbooks have the potential to save?

Check out an example at:

Educational Re-users:

As a learner- Open textbooks are an affordable alternative to traditional

textbooks that can provide the most up-to-date information available for formal
and informal learning opportunities. Open textbooks can offer high quality
resources from reputable sources on a variety of topics.
As an educator- Whether you are using an open textbook as is or modifying it to
suit a specific curriculum, this can provide a great resource or building block
from which to obtain credible material on specific topics (Lalonde, 2013).
o One option is to u se an open textbook as is. There are several advantages
to using an open textbook such as being cost-effective, available in d igital
form, and potentially containing the most up-to-date information.
o A second option is to use an open textbook for modification to your
specific curriculum. Ever feel like you are teaching to the textbook and
having to choose sections and change the order of the sequence in which
you follow the chapters of a textbook? Using an open textbook can allow
you to rearrange the chapters and topics into your preference of order, cut
pieces out that you do not cover in your course, add pieces of content that
may be additional to your specific course, or even include assignments and
activities that you will want to cover.

As a Contributor:
Open textbooks rely on contributions and edits from reliable, qualified sources. Therefore, if we are going to contribute to an open
textbook, it is important that we are qualified to do so. The nature of open content is such that its sustainability and credibility rely
on much self-evaluation and peer-review. Therefore, we are both users and contributors as we should be actively participating and
making copyedits and corrections. Wikibooks policies help identify our responsibilities and privileges as contributors.

Some open textbooks such as those on Wikibooks have administrators responsible for monitoring activity. Administrators are
approved through consensus either by self-nomination or nomination by another and must be a well-known, respected, and
trusted member of the community. Administrators are given special privileges such as the ability to delete pages and b lock
users, but are h eld to the same p olicies that govern general users. This is a valuable check on the content contained within an
open textbook. This ensures that edits are monitored for valuable contributions as well as that pages stay organized and true
to their intended creation.
As a contributor, you agree to license your work under the dual-licenses that rule Wikibooks and agree to be accredited b y re-
users. By contributing, you agree to follow the rules in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike LiceCe and GNU Free
Documentation License and follow appropriate copyright procedures for use of other works and media. You also preserve all
copyrights to all contributions you make to Wikibooks, allowing you to relicense or republish your work as you desire; however,
you cannot retract or relicense your contributions within the Wikibook.
Know the expectations and policies that guide your decisions and behaviours. Basic netiquette rules always apply to our
interactions online (see Netiquette by Virginia Shea for more details), but it is important to b e aware of specific policies that
guide p articular open textbook resources. Wikibooks has specific policies that apply to users such as:
o Be Civil- Users are required to interact and contribute in a civil manner. This helps to maintain good working
relationships and foster productive collaborations. Enforcement of this policy is in the hands of administrators and can
range in severity from a request to change behaviours to a temporary block of account privileges.
No personal attacks. Contribute with content in mind and debate content, n ot personal traits. In order to
create a well-functioning community, it is important that all views are respected and that each contributor feels
safe. Try to keep an open mind regarding alternative points of view and focus on creating valuable content
from multiple perspectives.
Avoid profanity. Keep in mind that you are creating content for a wide variety of users to absorb. With the
exception of keeping content true to its purpose, ex. literature that u ses profanity within its text, limiting use of
profanity ensures that content is inoffensive to the masses.



Test your knowledge of open

Neutral Point of View. It is expected that contributions present a n eutral
content licenses!
description of facts, although acknowledging that there are different points
of view and interpretations of such facts. As such, contributors and users
Play the open content license
are expected to respect the interpretations and views of other contributors
game at:

and u sers and work together collegially to create works that represent a
well-rounded view of a topic.
Wikibooks are published and dual-licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License and GNU Free
Documentation License. This allows u sers to use, modify, and redistribute these books either not-for-profit, or for
profit. Therefore, any media files used within a wikibook must comply; they cannot limit use for derivative works, limit
where it may be used, or require payment for u se. Requirement of attribution to the creator or requiring publishing
under the same license (ShareAlike) is allowed.

Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike License ("Wikibooks: Open books," 2013)


You are free:

to Shareto copy, distribute and transmit the work, and
to Remixto adapt the work
Under the following conditions:
AttributionYou must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that
suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.)
Share AlikeIf you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same,
similar or a compatible license.
With the understanding that:
WaiverAny of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
Other RightsIn no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
your fair dealing or fair use rights;
the author's moral rights; and
rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy
NoticeFor any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do
that is with a link to

GNU Free Documentation License ("Wikibooks: Open books," 2013)


The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other functional and useful document "free" in the sense of
freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially
or noncommercially. Secondarily, this License p reserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not
being considered responsible for modifications made by others. (Wikibooks, 2008)
Applicability- Any manual or other work that allows royalty-free licensing without a time limit is applicable.
Requires p ermission to copy, modify, or distribute a work and is protected under copyright law (must b e accompanied by
license, copyright notices, and license notice).
Use- You are allowed to receive compensation for works created using copies, with specific requirements if more than
100 printed copies are made (ie. Cover Texts, Title Page, Publisher, and Author(s) of Modified Work).
You m ust:
Preserve all the copyright notices.
Add an appropriate copyright notice for your modifications.
Include a license notice giving the public permission to use the Modified Version under the terms of this License.
Include an unaltered copy of this License.
Preserve the section Entitled "History", n etwork location, invariant sections, and any Warranty Disclaimers.
Translations of invariant sections must receive permission from copyright holders and be accompanied by the original

Be aware of allowable file formats. Open textbook publishers may limit file
types for several reasons, one common one being to make resources
compatible with a larger range of devices and tools. Wikibooks for instance
limits its file types to those under free license or in public domains that

comply with the following rules:
Must be of an allowable free file format. Common file types such
as PNG, JPEG, GIFF, TIFF, WAV, VP8, or PDF are acceptable formats
because these files can be opened using free programs. Therefore,
proprietary file formats such as DOC, XLS, WMV, MP3, AVI, or Flash
are prohibited because they require a program that is not free in
order to access content.
Must be realistically useful for an educational purpose. This simply
means that media must be used to provide knowledge, instruction,
or information, not necessarily in a formal school setting.

What are the benefits of Open


Easy to update (keeps resources up-

Collaborative effort (input from m any
Allows teachers to modify textbooks
to suit unique curriculum
Inexpensive alternative
Can provide static and dynamic
presentation of materials
Can provide resources to all parts of
the world, ie. those lacking
educational resources

Using Open Textbooks for Mobile


Examining Compatible Mobile Apps

Open textbooks are gaining popularity in education for several reasons, notably for cost savings on purchasing printed textbooks or
access codes to e-textbooks, as well as an increase in the adoption of mobile learning (The New Media Consortium, 2013). More
and more students are coming into our classrooms with mobile devices such as smart phones, tablets, or laptop computers. These
devices are allowing students to gain access to online resources within the walls of the classroom, but as well as anywhere outside
of the classroom. Students are no longer limited to access only from home or school on desktop or laptop computers connected to
the Internet only from that location. Compact, convenient devices such as smart p hones and tablets allow access from these
stationary points, but also on-the-go between places, as well as places that do not provide Internet. This convenience is allowing
students to expand their learning opportunities and encourages anywhere, anytime learning. Additionally, one of these d evices can
conveniently store a plethora of resources in one spot; a student does not have to worry about carrying around a large quantity of
heavy textbooks. Advancements of these devices are allowing for the use of dynamic media and u seful tools for annotating,
bookmarking, or copying into other programs and applications. Several apps are being developed to allow for easy access and
storage of these resources with tools to allow users to interact with the materials.
Mobile-friendly open textbook websites, such as that provided b y Wikibooks, allows users to interact with resources found on this
website through an interface that allows easy navigation and mobile-compatible links and resources. In addition to a mobile-
friendly interface, Wikibooks allows users to open or download a PDF version of the open textbook, which can b e used in a
multitude of other apps on mobile devices such as:
Free Apps:

Adobe Reader- Adobe Systems Inc. developed this mobile app for iOS and Android devices to
allow users to easily view, export, store, annotate, and wirelessly print PDFs on mobile
devices. Users can navigate using voice commands, text search, single- or multi-page views,
zoom, or table of contents (Adobe Systems Inc., 2013). This app allows upload and download
from email and cloud services as well as synchronization with multiple devices via Annotation options include highlighting, strikethrough, and underlining, as well
as freehand drawing and sticky notes or text tools to add notes or modify text. This app
allows for the easy organization of a large quantity of PDFs using folders and cloud
connectivity. Extra features include a built-in dictionary and the ability to link with other
Adobe products such as Adobe Create PDF or Adobe Export PDF with annual subscription
costs to allow for the creation of PDFs from other file formats and exporting to other formats.

PDF Reader- Kdan Mobile Software LTD Utilities developed this mobile app allowing
users to make notes and annotate PDFs, allowing for storage and printing via AirPrint
Mobile, 2013). Additionally, this app allows users to transfer and back-up files using
a variety of cloud storage services such as GoogleDrive or Dropbox or send files via email.

such as underlining, highlighting,
strikethrough, squiggly markup, freehand
drawing, and inserting shapes, sticky notes, or text b oxes make it easy for users to markup
their open textbooks. Through this app, users can also search using keywords, password-
protect files, use a built-in dictionary, search the Internet without leaving the document,
and n avigate easily using bookmarks, outline view, or thumbnail view. The free version of
this app allows users to store up to 10 files; upgrading to the Premium version for $2.99
allows for unlimited storage. Recognized as one of the Top 10 Essentials in Utility on
iTunes in 2012, best in category on iTunes in 2011, and one of the Top 100 in USA store
and more than 20 other countries.
Other free apps to explore:

PDF Max by Mobeera

PDF Master by Blue Tags Productivity
Readmill by Readmill Network Ltd.
PerfectReader 2 by Truong Nguyen Ngoc
PDF Review Free by Sander Weltje Productivity
PDF Connect Free by Hsuan Chen

Paid Apps:
GoodReader- An iOS app that Android users are asking for. At a cost of $4.99, this app is
highly-rated for its advanced reading and annotation capabilities (Unidocs Inc., 2013).
Users can annotate using text boxes, sticky notes, highlighting, underlining, strikethrough,
inserting objects, or freehand drawing. Files can be synced with and uploaded/download
using email and a variety of cloud resources. This app supports large file sizes of a variety
of formats including PDFs, TXT files, Microsoft Office, HTML, images, audio, and video.
Files can be managed using folders and allows you to zip or unzip files within the app.
Navigation is made easy through text search as well as hyperlinks, zoom, and table of
ezPDF Reader- At a cost of $3.99, this mobile app developed for iOS and Android
allows users to view and interact with PDFs on their mobile devices (Good.iWare Ltd.,
2013). Customized view for mobile d evices supports both scanned and text based
PDFs. This app has the added benefit of a Multimedia PDF Viewer, allowing for video
and audio presentation. Annotation features include highlighting, underlining,
strikethrough, object drawing, and freehand drawing, as well as the ability to add
comments, sticky notes and memos with the ability to change font, size, and color.
Users can search using keywords, look words up in a b uilt-in dictionary, search the
Internet, password-protect content, crop, view as a slide show, and connect to email
or cloud services for upload/download. This app supports a variety of file formats
including Microsoft Office, audio, video, images, zipped files, text, and HTML files.
Content is managed easily through the creation of files and sorting via name or date.
Other paid apps to explore:

iAnnotate PDF by Branchfire

PDFpen by SmileOnMyMac

Tablets, smartphones, and mobile apps have

become too capable, too ubiquitous, and too useful
to ignore.
-The New Media Consortium, 2013

Other mobile apps such as OER Commons allow you

to search for open content resources and use these
in conjunction w ith these free and paid
apps! Check out OER Commons at:

For m ore information, check out OpenContent on

Twitter with David Wiley:

Conclusion and the Future of Open Content:

Examining Future Trends

Examples of Open Textbook

Organizations ("Open textbooks and," 2013):

OpenStax College:

College Open Textbook:



Open Textbooks:

Open Course Library:




Open Textbook List:



Free Digital Textbook Initiative :





Open Culture:


California Open Source Textbook



Flat World Knowledge:






Recent data from Edcetera indicate that

open educational r esources make up three

quarters of the content in most MOOCs; paid
content, such as r equired textbooks, is less
than 10%.
-The New Media Consortium, 2013

Open textbooks are already being widely used for both formal and informal
educational purposes (The New Media Consortium, 2013). Open textbooks are
widely recognized for their ability to provide an inexpensive alternative to
traditional textbooks, but have not reached their full potential for formal or
informal education. Open textbooks are being used in addition to, or in
replacement of, traditional textbooks as a resource that is able to provide up-to-
date information as well as a valuable digital resource, accessible from a variety of
devices and locations. On a wider scale, open content is providing not only
textbooks, but additional educational resources of all media sorts.
The recent pressure for educators to include media resources and use teaching
practices focused on the process of learning has led to an increase in the amount
of resources available to students outside of the classroom (The New Media
Consortium, 2013). As a result, teachers h ave started storing and using materials
in creative commons for student access. This use of open content is an effective
way for teachers to share resources and have a foundation from which to start
modifying from for their own purposes. While several creative commons exist for
these purposes, it is the amalgamation with an increasing use of mobile learning
that is making it more prevalent.
Informal education for p ersonal interest is also is also more readily available
through open content. High-quality resources are available from reputable sources
that can provide a wide variety of instructional content. Access to these resources
is easier than ever through creative commons and organizations dedicated to
provided instructional materials at no cost. Peer-reviewing and open content
monitors are ensuring that individuals can trust the reliability of these materials.
I currently use open textbooks within my mathematics classroom as an additional
resource for students to use for notes as well as examples. They have downloaded
a few different textbooks into PDF format on their cell phones and can use this as a
quick reference when they are studying. Additional open content resources such
as videos have also been helpful in my Spanish as a second language classes to
address proper pronunciation. Feedback from my students, as well as other
studies (The New Media Consortium, 2013), reveals that students like having a
collection of resources on their cell p hones and mobile devices without having to
carry around heavy textbooks and find alternative media formats for presentation
engaging. As a result, open textbooks are being used in conjunction with mobile
devices to p rovide learning opportunities outside the walls of formal classrooms.
Open content is being u sed in similar ways for formal education through online

Future trends predict that open content and open textbooks will increasingly be used in formal and informal education settings as
technology advances and opportunities are afforded to learners to use digital resources. With an increase in the number and type

of devices
that learners are using, open content and open textbooks are becoming more readily available. These resources will
continue to become influential in providing learning opportunities in both formal and informal school settings.

Additionally, open content has achieved global recognition as an effective means of distributing high-quality, accessible
educational materials to schools in both developed and developing countries (The New Media Consortium, 2013). Open content
resources are continually providing learning opportunities to regions of the world where these opportunities would not otherwise
exist. Several governments are funding initiatives to develop open content resources as a means to p romote lifelong learning. This
promotion of lifelong learning is providing valuable resources and opportunities in formal and informal learning situations at no
cost to users. Continual collaborations amongst experts and professionals will progressively create high-quality, reliable resources
as more and more users contribute.
The Horizon Report (The New Media Consortium, 2013), a collaborative p roject dedicated to identifying emerging technologies,
reports open content to be on the horizon for adoption within two-to-three years. An increased focus on the processes of learning
rather than content is contributing to the demand for open content resources to be made available to learners. Government
funding and organizations dedicated to promoting the creation of open content are allowing for valuable resources to be created
for all learners. These no-cost resources provide high-quality content with input from a variety of sources to provide the most up-
to-date resources available. The Horizon Report (The New Media Consortium, 2013) also reports mobile learning to be on the
horizon for adoption within one year or less. The combination of open content with mobile learning is driving a desire from
learners to have access to a multitude of resources and variety of media formats anywhere, anytime, promoting a desire for lifelong
Additional Resources:

6 Steps to Modifying an Open Textbook:

The Horizon Report:
80 Open Education Resource (OER) Tools for Publishing and Development Initiatives:
Classroom Aid: Open Textbooks and M aterials for Open Source Education:

(2013). Open textbooks and materials for open source education. Classroom Aid: Connecting Dots of Digital Learning, Retrieved
Adobe Systems Incorporated. (2013). Adobe reader mobile app. Retrieved from
Good.iWare Ltd. (2013). Goodreader. Retrieved from
Hilton, J., & Wiley, D. (2012). A preliminary examination of the cost savings and learning impacts of using open textbooks in middle
and h igh school science classes. Retrieved from
Kdan Mobile. (2013). Pdf reader: Carry all that you can read. Retrieved from
Lalonde, C. (2013). 6 steps to modifying an open textbook. BCcampus: OpenEd, Retrieved from
OER Commons. (2013). Retrieved from OER commons: Open educational resources (2013). Retrieved from
The New Media Consortium. (2013). Nmc horizon report. 2013 K-12 Edition, Retrieved from

Unidocs Inc. (2013). Ezpdf reader. Retrieved from

to layar: The home of augmented reality. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Wikibooks: Open books for an open world. (2013). Retrieved from
Wiley, D. (2013). Working to improve the affordability and effectiveness of education for everyone. Retrieved from