TRUSU begins open textbook campaign

Student union looks to save students $300,000 by the end of the year

TRUSU's university governance coordinator Alex McLellan speaks during the launch of the campaign. (Marcela Arévalo/The Omega)

TRUSU’s university governance coordinator Alex McLellan speaks during the launch of the campaign. (Marcela Arévalo/The Omega)

TRUSU has announced a launching of a campaign to encourage faculty to adopt free, open-copyright textbooks.

The campaign is spearheaded by the student caucus. Michael Zaitlin, chair of the TRUSU Student Caucus believes that high textbook prices are a significant factor in the unaffordability of post-secondary education.

“We are excited to realize the potential that open textbooks present to significantly reduce students’ costs while putting more control over course materials back into the hands of faculty,” Zaitlin said.

The B.C. Open Textbook Project is a government-funded program that offers and supports the adoption of copyright-free textbooks. It aims to provide instructors with peer-reviewed textbooks that they can freely adapt to their courses without students needing to purchase commercial textbooks.

Alex McLellan, university governance coordinator, says that the union’s goal is to increase student savings from open textbooks to $300,000 by the end of the academic year. They plan to inform faculty of the project through presentations to committees and petitions signed by students.

“Our faculty here at TRU are committed to the success of their students so we are confident that many of them will take the opportunities to use open textbooks where it serves the curriculum best,” McLellan said.

According to TRUSU, 25 class sections have used open textbooks since winter 2014, saving students a total of $108,000. At the end of the 2016-17 academic year, TRUSU aims to have 50 more sections adopt open textbooks.

The campaign is supported by faculty members across TRU, including Ken Monroe, Instructional Designer for Open Learning. Monroe has helped implement open textbooks on campus for both arts and business courses.

“We love open, and we promote it in what we do. We [Open Learning] use the creative commons licensing system and we’re also looking at open texts,” Monroe said.

The adoption of open textbooks aligns with TRU’s mandate to promote open learning methods and resources, as outlined in the Thompson Rivers University Act and the university’s strategic priorities.

To encourage faculty participation, a proposal has been made to introduce a TRU Open Textbook Fellowship, which will fund faculty taking time off to create or adapt an open textbook. Monroe claims that the arrangement would allow senior professors to work on the project and also give sessional instructors more teaching opportunities.

Currently, there are over 150 open textbooks available through the project for a variety of different first and second-year courses in subjects such as sociology, psychology, history and mathematics.

TRU advises students to budget $1,000 per semester for textbooks. This amount makes up almost one-third of the cost of post-secondary for domestic students.