The days of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on university textbooks may soon be a thing of the past.
The provincial government is taking steps towards creating a free, open textbook system that would provide manuals online at no cost for 40 “high-enrolment and high-impact first- and second-year post-secondary courses,” according to a provincial press release.
But just which courses will make up this list is still up for discussion. An advisory committee of post-secondary professionals, including one TRU dean, will help make that determination through a process that starts with an inaugural meeting in Vancouver today.
“I have a funny feeling (the course list) is going to be a topic of discussion tomorrow,” chuckled Rod McGivern, associate dean of arts affiliation in sociology and anthropology, on Monday. “We’re in the first stage of what I think is a pretty exciting venture for our students.”
An open textbook is typically published under an open licence and can be read online or downloaded at no cost. If a printed copy is desired, the book is made available for printing at a fraction of traditional textbook costs — $30 versus as much as $200 per textbook.
In October 2012, the province appointed BCcampus, a publicly funded organization that uses information technology to connect B.C.’s post-secondary institutions, to co-ordinate the open textbook project because of the organization’s 10-year experience with the online program development fund.
During an open textbook workshop co-hosted by TRU and BCcampus last November, Brian Lamb, TRU’s director of innovation, said besides the monetary benefits, offering open resources can improve student grades and retention.
“If a student relies on loans for funding and they don’t receive their cheque at the beginning of the semester, they may not buy the text they need and will start the course without a critical resource,” Lamb says. “By mid-semester, they may be too far behind to catch up. It seems like a small thing, but it can be a significant factor in student success.”
Faculty and instructors will still have the ability to determine the educational resources, including textbooks that they wish to use for their courses, according to a B.C. press release. Open textbooks can also be modified and adapted by instructors to fit different classes.
The process may take a year or more, he said, but that’s because higher education institutions always “take due diligence seriously.”