Textbook costs have long been a well-established financial hardship for university students, but that might start to change.
On April 17 at the 2019 Cascadia Open Education Summit, the provincial government announced $3.26 million in funding for open educational resources (OERs), including the development of no-cost, open-access textbooks.
The funding will go towards The Open Textbook project, managed by BCcampus, to support the development and use of OERs in BC post-secondary institutions.
“Open textbooks can be a major game changer for students because they reduce the burden of debt that students accumulate during their studies,” said Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark. “Students have long been advocating for greater investments in open textbooks as they’re a great way to level the playing field.”
OERs, such as open textbooks and websites, use an open copyright license which allows authors to update materials as new information becomes available. According to AMS VP External Cristina Ilnitchi, investment in OERs will generate continuous benefits for students as professors can update them when new information becomes relevant to their courses.
“The creation of these resources aren't just a one-time investment ... because they’re open, they’re accessible online and they can be modified by different faculty members,” said Ilnitchi. “So really over time, it does produce so many benefits that investing in a traditional textbook might not.”
The funding will also allow for the development of an open homework management system where students can access assignments and quizzes for free. This has become an important issue as textbooks often come bundled with access codes for assignments that require students to pay to access homework.
“Not only will this funding go towards creating more open textbooks,” Ilnitchi said, “... it will also go towards creating things like testing and quiz banks, and creating an open educational resource homework system.”
“While open textbooks are fantastic and definitely more need to be created, there are a lot of other resources that need to be created to support the adoption of the textbooks.”
Ilnitchi first started to advocate for OERs during her time as the AMS Campaigns and Outreach Commissioner under the VP Academic and University Affairs office, and she has advanced this work as VP External. She plans to continue building relationships and increasing lobbying efforts into her next term.
“The benefits of this investment will only compound as students use these resources year after year, so it was really great to see that the government was listening to students and responded and in such a positive way,” Ilnitchi said.