Students set to save as textbooks go digital

B.C. leads way in creation of open textbooks for post-secondary education

University could be $1,000 more affordable for students in Greater Victoria next year following the province’s announcement of a plan to create open textbooks for the 40 most popular courses at B.C. post-secondary institutions.

Open textbooks are available to read or download online at no cost, or to print at a fraction of the cost of a traditional textbook.

BCcampus, a publicly funded organization that aims to make higher education accessible through collaborative IT services, will now work with all post-secondary institutions in B.C. to create material for the courses, which the province estimates could benefit up to 200,000 students, as early as next fall.

“We now see the magic of technology already emerging in the classroom, because of distance learning and the ability for students globally to participate in learning where the teaching’s happening in a different location,” said John Yap, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology. “This is part of a very exciting time in education.”

The project is expected to cost between $600,000 to $1 million to cover the creation of new materials or enhancement of existing open textbooks that may have been developed elsewhere – not to licence existing printed materials for use online.

“The challenge is that it’s a very new process for most people,” said David Porter, executive director of BCcampus.

“It’s different from the conventional process. There’s a lot of awareness-building that needs to be done with faculty and with students. This is the part of the process that will take a little time to get underway.”

The province made the announcement during the Open Education 2012 Conference in Vancouver, the ninth iteration of the forum focused on furthering open education resources.

“More and more institutions worldwide are looking at this as an approach to save students money, allow faculties to customize resources to better suit the needs of their students,” Porter said.

“It becomes a very synergistic arrangement in that it’s cheaper for students and it allows faculties to customize their materials to meet the needs of their students.”

The Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology estimates students spend between $900 and $1,500 per academic year on textbooks – a cost that could drop to $0 to $300 annually, depending on whether students require printing the materials.

nnorth@saanichnews.com