As another semester – and its dreaded textbook bill – approaches, the Students’ Union is grateful to report that caring and creative folks from across TRU are working to cut these costs for students.
In the Student Budget Consultation, students have identified course materials as a priority for improvement for the past three years. The overwhelming issue continues, unsurprisingly, to be price and affordability. Over these years, students have also been working with partners to identify solutions. These include using open educational resources (OERs) and other low/no cost materials, making better use/reuse of textbooks to justify the cost, and making copies of textbooks available in the Library for those who simply can’t afford them.
Some of these solutions are already being developed. For example, the Students’ Union launched the Open Textbooks campaign in Fall 2016 to promote the creation and use of free OER. In response, TRU created the OER Development Grant program in the summer of 2018. So far, the program has funded eight faculty members to create new OER that are expected to save students $250,000 per year! Based on this success, the Student Budget Consultation Report 2019/20 recommended that the program continue and grow, and TRU has agreed.
Recommendation: Expand and make permanent the Open Educational Resource Development Grants Program.
- The Provost’s Office has committed funds to support ongoing OER development at TRU for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021
The continued development of OER has promise to save students millions of dollars in the coming years!
In the meantime, and where OER doesn’t exist, students have also been working with the Library to expand the reserve system to include textbooks. This option is currently only available where an instructor or department provides the copies. The Students’ Union has called for a more comprehensive textbook reserve system, and last year the Library agreed to investigate how that might be done. The Student Budget Consultation Report 2019/20 recommended that investigation be continued, and the Library has committed to do so.
Recommendation: Complete the environmental scan of current practices related to University ‘textbook on reserve’ programs, and develop an informed plan to implement such practices as deemed feasible and effective
- The Library will conduct an environmental scan on Canadian libraries purchasing textbooks to be placed in the Library’s existing reserves program
Most decisions about course materials, however, are made by individual instructors. This provides instructors with the most power to affect the cost of course materials for students. The Student Budget Consultation Report 2019/20 made the following recommendations on how instructors can use that power:
- Identify open educational resources applicable to a course, and create, adapt, and supplement such resources as necessary, making use of supports available through the Library and other departments;
- Identify and adopt other low and no cost course materials applicable to a course, including but not limited to course packs, book chapters, and journal articles, making use of supports available through the Library;
- Make effective use and reuse of any commercial course material to maximize the value to students; and
- Place copies of any commercial course material in the Library reserve system for those students who cannot afford to purchase a copy
The Students’ Union has heard inspiring stories of thoughtful instructors who have made an enormous difference for their students through their course materials – from using open textbooks to creating instructional videos and more. Encourage your instructors to talk to a librarian about their options!
To stay up-to-date on all of TRU’s responses to your priorities, check out the Student Budget Consultation webpage!
To see the full response to your priorities on course materials, click here.