Earlier this year, the B.C. government announced a funding infusion for the development of open education resources (OERs). This $3.26 million in additional funding will be going towards the government agency BCcampus, who are responsible for the creation and promotion of OERs.
In short, the funding will allow BCcampus to create and enhance open resources such as textbooks, online assignments and practice exams that will be available free for students and instructors at B.C. post-secondary institutions.
According to B.C. Federation of Students (BCFS) Secretary-Treasurer Sheldon Falk the funding is a huge victory not just for BCFS, but for students across B.C.
“This is a great victory for the campaign and we’re really excited moving forward,” Falk said. “$3.26 million in funding will ultimately save students millions of dollars over just a few years. Back in 2012, there was a $2 million investment to create a bunch of open education textbooks. That program has already saved students over $9 million and that is the great thing about open resources, once that textbook is created it continues to save students money over and over and over.”
Much of this funding infusion will specifically be directed to areas that have been typically underserved when it comes to OERs, such as early childhood education, science and technology, engineering, trades, health and business. Out of the $3.26 million, $260,000 has been earmarked for engineering alone.
Textbooks costs have long been a barrier to education for many students in B.C., Falk added. According to BCFS 49 per cent of students have said they are taking fewer classes because of textbook costs, while 65 per cent of students report opting to not purchase an assigned textbook. Additionally, 27 per cent students have said that they are dropping courses because of the cost of textbooks.
“This is actually not a new issue, it’s a problem in B.C. for sure, but the cost of textbooks is a problem all across Canada,” Falk said. “It hasn’t always been this way, just over the past decade the cost of textbooks has risen 82 per cent, which is a lot higher than inflation obviously.”
While this funding may be a great victory for the Open Textbooks campaign, BCFS isn’t ending the fight there. Falk says that the next step is to bring more awareness to OERs, as well as supporting students’ unions in adopting more resources on their own campuses.
“The B.C. Federation of Students is going to be supporting students’ unions in advocating for more adoption of these resources on their own campuses, getting more faculty on board and raising awareness and we’ll be doing that by working with BCcampus and prioritizing the creation of resources to fields that are underserved and to ensure that these students are part of the conversation in moving forward,” he said.