Success Stories

How eCampusOntario helps students thrive with Pressbooks

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• Large consortium/non-profit serving 50+ public colleges and universities across Ontario, Canada
• Pressbooks user since 2017
• Published 2,900+ books as of June 2023

eCampusOntario’s Pressbooks story in brief

The challenge

  • To fulfill the goal of making education more affordable, accessible, and effective, eCampusOntario needed to make it easy for institutions and educators across the province to create openly-licensed textbooks.

The solution

  • eCampusOntario began using Pressbooks in 2017 in response to widespread interest in developing open textbooks and other digital publishing projects to improve affordability and access to learning materials.
  • Using Pressbooks, faculty, staff, and students can create and share zero-cost digital books, complete with interactive activities to engage learners.
  • Pressbooks’ user-friendly platform allows authors to create beautifully designed, accessible books without the need for coding or technical expertise.

The result

  • Through eCampusOntario, students have already saved over $18 million.
  • Average savings of: $51,558 per educator, $5,258 per course selection, and $97.88 per learner.
  • Pressbooks has enabled eCampusOntario’s member institutions to create over 2,900 books and counting.
  • eCampusOntario’s projects have evolved to include interactive, video, and multi-media content that engages students and creates a more immersive learning environment.
  • Projects have transcended textbooks to include student-led open pedagogy projects, design portfolios, and other innovative ways to demonstrate learning.
  • Pressbooks’ extensive accessibility features mean course materials better serve students who require assistive devices or other accommodations.

Filling in the details

What is eCampusOntario, and what is it trying to accomplish?

eCampusOntario is a publicly funded non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the use of education technology and digital learning environments across 53 of the public post-secondary institutions in the province of Ontario, Canada. As eCampusOntario’s member institutions saw the high cost of textbooks taking a toll on student success, they began exploring how open education strategies and practices could improve not only textbook affordability and student engagement, but also access to high-quality, culturally relevant, and accessible learning materials. In 2017, eCampusOntario partnered with Pressbooks on an ambitious project to make its digital publishing platform available to all its member institutions. 

Why choose Pressbooks?

eCampusOntario’s Programs and Services Librarian Mary Gu says Pressbooks was chosen because of its robust feature set and ease of use. “It’s pretty easy for somebody who is not technically savvy to get started with making their own content,” she says, noting that Pressbooks does not require any coding skills or special knowledge. “The biggest problem Pressbooks has helped us solve is providing a consistent platform for users to create content with, no matter what technical level they are at.”

As a network manager who oversees how member institutions use Pressbooks, Gu particularly appreciates the metrics and analytics features, the different ways of organizing books, and the continuous updates and improvements Pressbooks makes to its software. “The team at Pressbooks really thinks about the user and I can see it so clearly, both as an administrator as well as a user.”

Outcomes: creativity, interactivity, innovation

Implementation has taken time. But over the past five years, the use of Pressbooks at eCampusOntario has grown rapidly and expanded well beyond static open textbooks. Pressbooks is now available across all 53 institutions served by eCampusOntario, meaning, “anyone in Ontario at a public university, college or Indigenous Institute—students, staff, and faculty—can sign up for Pressbooks and start creating content,” says Gu. Users at Ontario institutions have created nearly 3,000 book projects, over 850 of which are freely available through Pressbooks Directory.

Projects include an enormous variety of material, including innovative student-led projects and hundreds of books with interactive H5P learning activities. Gu notes, “Pressbooks are not just about open textbooks anymore. There’s a lot of imagination happening in terms of how Pressbooks can be used. So many projects we’ve seen being published in the last two years have been way more interactive. There is now a feeling that Pressbooks is a more versatile creation platform, not just an open textbook creator. We’re seeing rather innovative and thoughtful ways that people are using it, and that’s probably because of the ease of use of Pressbooks.”

Diving deeper: eCampusOntario’s success factors

Additional insights from Programs and Services Librarian Mary Gu about her experience working with Pressbooks.

Photo of Mary Gu, eCampusOntario’s Programs and Services Librarian

What advice would you give peers who are considering whether to get started with Pressbooks?

Gu says to listen to your community. Start by asking who your primary users are and what platforms and services they would need. Like with any software platform, you should get a product demo and be prepared to ask lots of questions. “It has to be needs driven. What problem are you trying to solve by introducing this platform?” Once you know the problem, she says, everything else follows.

For those getting started with open publishing programs, she recommends people look at some free resources, particularly Abbey Elder’s OER Starter Kit and The OER Starter Kit for Program Managers. For new authors, she recommends the Pressbooks User Guide and The Journey to Open from Fanshawe College.

How have you developed such widespread usage?

“We offer regular training on the basics of engaging in OER and that includes our H5P studio and our Pressbooks network.” She says that more and more member institutions have started hiring folks who directly support open learning, which helps to encourage more involvement and also frees up network managers to support users in other ways, like tackling trickier questions and providing even greater support.

“I’m quite excited about that. I think this is a great way for eCampusOntario to grow our relationship directly with our member institutions, too. Everybody thinks about how we are collaborators, and for me, this is such a natural extension of that collaborator mindset.”

Photo 380 by eCampusOntarioFlickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0