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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Switching to an Open Access Textbook in the Blended Classroom Benefits Both Students and Teacher

Michael Jaeggli (Clemson University, USA)
Session Information
July 8, 2015 - 10:10am
Blended Models & Course Design
Areas of Special Interest: 
Blended Course
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Innovation and Experimentation
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Governor's Square 16
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Concurrent Session 5

Open access textbooks save money, increase textbook use and effectiveness, and eliminate copyright concerns in the blended classroom.

Extended Abstract


Traditional college courses often consist entirely of lecture with very little time for any other forms of learning activities. Class time is at a premium when there is much information to cover without much time to cover it. The blended classroom takes the traditional style of lecturing in class and assigning homework to be completed outside of class and flips it on its head. In class time can be spent on active learning activities like group problem solving, while out of class time is spent watching lecture videos. This type of class requires additional, instructor-created resources to be developed. These often take the form of video recorded lectures delivered online. Implementing a blended classroom model using a traditional textbook may result in deleterious, unintended consequences. First, the prevalence of instructor-created resources, coupled with rising textbook costs may encourage students to forego purchasing the required text. Additionally, creating and distributing online videos using copyrighted figures from a traditional textbook may violate copyright law. The goal of this study was to investigate if these issues can be resolved by switching to an open-access textbook in a blended classroom setting.


This study took place over the course of two semesters in a one credit introductory biology course called "Biology for Bioengineers". This course is taken by second semester general engineering majors. It is intended to provide a basic understanding of biology for incoming freshman and prepare them for the biological portions of upcoming higher level courses in the bioengineering program.

The core of the traditional text course was based on the textbook Essential Cell Biology. All figures used in PowerPoint slides and online videos were taken from this book. The structure of the lectures also followed the chapters in the text. However, the textbook contained much more information than was covered in class. Additionally, many homework and in class problems were taken from the textbook. Purchasing the textbook was listed as a requirement in the syllabus and weekly reading assignments were given in the course schedule. The other two mediums of information that students could access at any time were the online lecture videos and the PowerPoint slides.

The following year, the course was converted to use the open access text Biology from OpenStax College. This book is licensed under a creative commons attribution 3.0 unported license. The content of the course was kept the same, but all figures, videos, and slides were transitioned to use the figures and structure of the open access textbook. Both courses were taught by the same instructor (myself). In class time was divided evenly between a short review lecture and in-class activities and discussions.

Data was gathered through an anonymous online survey. The traditional text course survey was filled out by 70 of 74 students while the open-access text course survey had 88 of 100 students respond. The survey was designed to determine which materials were most often used, and which were perceived as most beneficial to learning. An open-ended answer option was provided at the end of each question.


Both sections showed a clear preference for the PowerPoint slides, online videos, in-class lectures, and in-class assignments. The textbook was the least used resource. The traditional textbook was never used by 50% of students. The open source section reported using the textbook significantly more frequently (p<.01) and also rated it as more useful in enhancing their understanding of the subject material. The introduction of the open access text reduced the percentage of students not using the textbook from 50% to 20%. Textbook usage was strongly correlated to learning material usefulness; 0.98 for the traditional textbook and 0.93 for the open access text.


With the drastic increase in textbook prices and the availability of instructor-created resources, many students have stopped using traditional text books. There are three main advantages to adopting an open access text in the blended classroom. First, as the survey data show, students use open access texts more, and view them as a more important contributor to learning. Second, there is a clear economic incentive to adopt an open access textbook. The traditional textbook Essential Cell Biology retails for a price of $130. Moving to the open access text saved the class a total of $13,000. Finally, using open access figures licensed under the creative commons in instructor-created online lecture videos removes the potential for copyright infringement that comes with traditional textbooks.

Lead Presenter

Michael Jaeggli graduated from Clemson University with a BS in Biochemistry in 2006. He then worked as a scientist at Poly-Med Inc developing polymeric medical devices. He is a former undergraduate researcher with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Michael is currently a PhD Candidate and Teaching Assistant in the BioEngineering department at Clemson University. As a PhD candidate, he works on creating tissue engineered heart valve replacements. He also makes patient-specific, 3D printed models of human anatomy for surgical planning. As a teaching assistant, Michael uses free, open-access textbooks, a flipped classroom model, and active learning techniques to teach molecular biology to freshman engineering students.