The British Columbia government says its plan to introduce free online textbooks for the 40 most popular postsecondary courses in the province will save many students hundreds of dollars a year.
According to the government, up to 200,000 first- and second-year students annually will benefit from the creation of open textbooks, which can be viewed online and downloaded for free, or printed at a much lower cost than traditionally published textbooks.
BCcampus, a publicly funded organization, will coordinate the project, which is slated to produce its first textbooks as early as the 2013-14 academic year for arts, science, humanities, and business courses.
John Yap, B.C.’s minister of advanced education, innovation, and technology, announced the plan—touted as a first for a province in Canada—today (October 16) at the Open Education Conference in Vancouver.
“British Columbia is proudly leading Canada in committing free, open textbooks to students and joins other international jurisdictions in taking a leadership role that puts technology to work for students,” Yap said in a news release.
The open textbooks, which fall under the umbrella of open education resources, will use Creative Commons licences, according to an update on the BCcampus website.
BCcampus plans to issue an “open request for proposals” to faculty, institutions, and publishers in B.C.
The B.C. branch of the Canadian Federation of Students likes the idea. Katie Marocchi, chair of CFS-BC, hopes a reduction in tuition fees is the province's next move.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Marocchi said in a news release. “It doesn’t solve the chronic affordability problems caused by sky-high tuition fees, but Open Access is the way of the future and we’re pleased that the government recognizes this.”
According to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology, textbooks currently cost B.C. postsecondary students between $900 and $1,500 a year.