The high cost of textbooks has become a serious obstacle to accessing post-secondary education in BC. The commercial textbook industry is making huge profits off students who are already facing ever-increasing tuition fees and student loan debt.
Since 2002, the cost of textbooks has nearly doubled. In fact, 26% of BC students choose to not register for a course due to textbook costs, which negatively impacts their academic career. There is a solution to this problem: the implementation of Open Education Resources (OERs).
WHAT ARE OERS?
OERs come in many forms: full courses, lesson plans, videos, exams, and textbooks. These are available in digital formats for free or in print at a very low cost. With traditional textbooks, instructors must choose between delivering the curriculum they feel is right for their students and delivering a lesson that mirrors the commercial textbooks. Through open textbooks, instructors can mix and modify their textbooks to emphasize the lessons they want to deliver, with ancillary resources available to improve the learning experience.
WHO MAKES OERS?
BCcampus, an agency of the BC government, is tasked with centralizing efforts to create and enhance open education resources in the province. In 2012 the government provided one million dollars to initiate the open textbook initiative, and added an additional one million in 2013 to further grow the project. Since that time, open textbooks have saved students over $9 million collectively through traditional, high-cost textbooks being replaced with OER options. More funding will result in more resources and save students money one class at a time! All it takes to expand the program is a commitment from instructors and administration to make saving students money a priority.
To learn more about BCcampus and to search the database of available resources, check out their website.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Join the online provincial conversation on OERs by following #textbookbrokeBC, and posting online your experience with OERs. You can also tweet your textbook receipt using the hashtag #textbookbrokeBC to share how the rising costs of textbooks are affecting you.
Talk to an instructor you think would be interested in adopting open education resources, or point them to your institutions library for information on OERs. You can also contact your students’ union if you’re interested in talking to your instructors, but would like more support getting started.
In June 2018, the provincial government provided BCcampus with $250,000 to create or adapt open textbooks for all course levels in the BC Adult Dogwood diploma (adult basic education), including math, English, science, social science, computer studies, education, and career planning.
In April 2019, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark announced an infusion of an additional $3.26 million to BCcampus for the creation and enhancement of OERs. This is an historic investment and will launch the OER initiative in BC forward leaps and bounds!