Learning on your own can be confusing and expensive. If you want to learn about a topic but don’t have the experience to judge the value of the resources available to you, you waste time and probably money discovering and evaluating what’s out there.
Peer-reviewed texts written by trained academics remove a lot of that doubt, but textbooks are notoriously expensive. In recent years, the academic community has pushed to develop books that can be downloaded for free and used without restriction. Two of my favorite sources for these textbooks are Rice University’s OpenStax project and the University of British Columbia’s Textbook Project, which is funded by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education.
OpenStax offers more than 80 textbooks at the high school and college level on topics including business, social sciences, humanities, chemistry, physics, and math in English and 11 texts in Spanish. The business segment includes books on ethics, law, entrepreneurship, finance, statistics, and intellectual property among other topics. Basically, you have the supporting texts for the core of a solid undergraduate business program available for free. The page for Introductory Business Statistics indicates the book is used in 307 classrooms and has saved students more than $7 million USD. That’s a substantial contribution to learning.
OpenStax is administered by a U.S. university, so it’s no surprise the texts are written from that perspective. Texts in the University of British Columbia’s Textbook Project are influenced by UBC’s position as a leading Canadian institution as well as the program’s slightly different mission. Where OpenStax focuses on college and, to a lesser extent, high school instruction, UBC’s Textbook Project extends its offerings to cover adult mathematical and English literacy as well as vocational topics such as barbering techniques for hairstylists, food safety, and math for the trades. Other books include coverage of Indigenous perspectives on business ethics and business law in British Columbia as well as Canadian history pre- and post-confederation.
The adult learning texts and programs would be of particular benefit to recent arrivals to the UK as well as Canada and other nations of the British Commonwealth that use British spelling conventions.
OpenStax and the Textbook Project provide significant benefit to academic and individual learners, but numerous other institutions and authors make resources available to the community. I’ll describe some of them in my next post.
Curtis Frye is the president of Technology and Society, Incorporated.