Students want more invested in Open Textbooks

B.C. Federation of Students asks for $5 million to improve course materials

First announced in 2016, the TRU Open Textbooks campaign has made tremendous strides since then and was recently approved by TRU administration this past summer. (BCcampus_News/Flickr Commons)

The BCFS (British Columbia Federation of Students) is requesting the B.C. government to invest an additional $5 million in the government agency BCcampus for the Open Textbook Project.

After receiving an initial $2 million investment in 2012 from the provincial government, according to BCFS chairperson Aran Armutlu, the additional investment would be used to create OERs (Open Educational Resources) such as online textbooks and course materials to assist instructors.

“The $5 million dollars is an amount that we picked because it’s realistic and it will give that robust funding into BCcampus to do the OER work that’s needed,” Armutlu said.

According to Michael Olson, BCFS’ executive officer, in the case that the additional investment isn’t granted, the project would maintain its current pace and would take longer for courses to adopt OERs.

TRUSU, along with student unions at other universities and colleges across the province, is working with faculty and administrators to adopt OERs in their classrooms. Students have identified the need for textbook affordability as a priority in the past two TRUSU Student Budget Consultations and the students’ union has been campaigning for it since 2016.

According to TRUSU President Tatiana Gilbert, the campaign has seen tremendous strides since then and was recently approved by TRU administration this past summer.

“We were ecstatic when TRU accepted the proposal to make a grant for faculties who are interested in making an open textbook,” she said. “As of then, eight faculty members have been awarded the grant for the first year of this program.”

According to BCcampus, 26% of students refused to register for a course due to the cost of the required textbooks. According to Gilbert, the Open Textbooks initiative is estimated to have benefited over 2000 TRU students.

OERs are peer-reviewed materials either available online or printable by students at low cost. A very similar publishing process is applied to the open textbooks as how a traditional book would be published.

“Faculty members and experts in the field that are authoring and editing those books along with going through an extremely rigorous process to make sure they are of high quality,” said Armultu.

Customizability is another benefit of open textbooks as they offer the ability to be tailored to their pertaining courses. Armultu gave the example of how students can pick and choose specific chapters instead of referring to an entire textbook.

“Often we find that as students, we can be in a class where we buy a textbook and there are multiple chapters in which a professor will skip completely,” he said. “The value of open textbooks can be shown when a student can customize their material to get the most out of it.”

As of yet, there has been no response from any textbook publishers; nevertheless, it will be intriguing to see how they will position themselves towards this trend.