Implementation of open textbooks in community and technical college biology courses: The good, the bad, and the data

Kristyn E.Vander Waal Mills, Mark Gucinski, Kimberly Vander Waal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


One challenge facing students today is high textbook costs, which pose a particularly difficult obstacle at community and technical colleges, where students typically have lower incomes and textbooks constitute a larger proportion of the overall cost of education. To address this, many advocate for using open-source textbooks, which are free in a digital format. However, concerns have been raised about the quality and efficacy of open textbooks. We investigated these concerns by collecting data from general biology classes at four community and technical colleges implementing traditionally published (non-open) and open textbooks. We compared student outcomes, textbook utilization methods, and perceptions of textbooks in these courses. In generalized linear statistical models, book type (open vs. non-open) did not significantly influence measured student outcomes. Additionally, survey results found that students and faculty perceived the open textbook as equal in quality to other textbooks. However, results also suggested that student textbook use did not always align with faculty expectations. For example, 30% of students reported reading their textbooks compared with 85% of faculty expecting students to read the textbook. Finally, faculty who implemented open textbooks expected the textbook to be used more often for reference and review compared with faculty who use traditional textbooks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberar44
JournalCBE life sciences education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded in part through an Open Education Resource Grant through MinnState.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 K. E. VanderWaal Mills et al. CBE—Life Sciences Education and 2019 The American Society for Cell Biology.


Dive into the research topics of 'Implementation of open textbooks in community and technical college biology courses: The good, the bad, and the data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this