The Thompson Rivers University Students’ Union (TRUSU) is advancing a proposal for a grants program that would support faculty to create, adapt, adopt, and use open textbooks, which are free for students! With the backing of over 1,800 student petition signatures, TRUSU will present its proposal to the TRU Academic Planning and Priorities Committee on April 13 at 10:00AM in the Clocktower Boardroom.
Textbooks and course materials are becoming a battleground for affordable, accessible, and quality post-secondary education. As commercial publishers drive more and more of the decisions about textbooks, they are becoming increasingly unaffordable for students. In fact, textbook costs have increased 88% in the last decade – more than four times faster than inflation – and are an increasing proportion of education costs.
“Textbook costs are now driving student debt higher and undermining learning quality as students struggle to purchase required readings” said Brian Chiduuro, TRUSU President and Chair of the Student Caucus, “Fortunately, open textbooks provide an exciting and viable alternative.”
In most ways, open textbooks are no different than the textbooks we are familiar with now, but are different in one critical way – their content is developed and distributed by open practices and with open copyright licenses. In other words, they have little or no legal, financial, or technical restrictions on their use. This provides enormous potential, but also requires initial investment to make the transition from traditional practices.
“We recognize that integrating an open textbook into a course adds time and effort to a faculty member’s busy workload,” continued Chiduuro, “That is why we are proposing this grant program to have TRU invest in and match those efforts, providing the institutional leadership that our specific mandate and mission demands.”
Four other universities and institutes in BC, including SFU, KPU, BCIT, and UNBC, are already operating similar grants programs with success. These programs provide resources including staff support from Libraries and Centres for Teaching and Learning and grants to cover related costs. Expectations and evaluation criteria include creating, adapting, and using open educational resources, impacting student learning experiences, and contributing to an open education culture. At SFU, for example, a modest investment of $45,000 in the first year of its grant program yielded changes in eleven courses and saved students $230,000! TRUSU has modelled its proposal very closely after these programs, and received support and endorsement for its proposal from program leaders.
“TRU has the benefit of following and building from these proven examples,” concluded Chiduuro, “All that remains is the willingness to put a winning formula into action for the benefit of students and faculty alike here at TRU.”
Support from leaders of grant programs at other BC universities:
“In my experience at KPU (currently the leading institutional adopter of open textbooks in the province), the creation of an OER grant program has provided several of our faculty with the critical assistance or time that they needed to locate relevant and high-quality OER and to adapt these for their courses. Aside from the significant cost savings to students, this small institutional investment has helped catalyze pedagogical innovation while building a culture of collaboration across the university.”
Rajiv Jhangiani, Ph.D.
University Teaching Fellow in Open Studies & Psychology Instructor, KPU Senior Open Education Advocacy & Research Fellow, BCcampus
“We are pleased to support TRUSU’s proposal and believe that our relevant experience with the OER grants program at SFU strongly demonstrates the potential benefits of such a program to faculty, students and staff alike.”
Teaching and Learning Librarian, SFU
On behalf of the SFU Open Educational Resource Grants Team
For more information contact:
University Governance Coordinator