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Ten U of C classes to pilot free textbooks through open educational resources grants

By Justin Schellenberg, October 26 2017 —

The University of Calgary has awarded 10 courses with funding to develop open educational resources (OER) in an effort to replace traditional textbooks and lower costs for students. OER are free, openly-licensed learning materials that can be downloaded online.

The courses that were awarded the $4,000 grant range in faculty, including from the Haskayne School of Business, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Science.

“The objective is for a faculty to replace all learning materials for one course with OERs, with a goal to reduce education costs to students,” said Open Educational Resources Lead at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Ykje Piera.

She added that instructors could submit proposals for OER grants and that the selected recipients were chosen based on the strength of their proposal.

Piera said that the pilot program came about through a grassroots student initiative that was largely coordinated by former Students’ Union vice-president academic Alicia Lunz. Last year, Lunz also helped run a #TextbooksBrokeAB campaign to raise awareness of the cost of textbooks to students.

“The program will allow professors to enhance their knowledge of open education resources and in turn make them more available to students,” Lunz said in an interview with UToday.

The grant money will primarily be used to hire two undergraduate students and one graduate student to compile existing open resource material and to create new OER textbooks.

Current SU vice-president academic Tina Miller believes that if the initial pilot project goes well, there will be room for expansion.

“The next steps are really looking at the longevity of the OER pilot project, of its potential renewal and of the effectiveness of this first go-around,” Miller said. “Ideally in the future, this pilot project, if successful, gets expanded to impact more and more students, especially lower-year classes, first-year and second-year students who have especially expensive textbooks.”

The per-student savings expected from the pilot project range from $93 for courses like BTMA 601 to $280 for ENGO 343. A full list of the grant recipients and expected savings can be found here.

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