In the Student Budget Consultation, students identified course materials as a priority for improvement this year – and the previous three years. The overwhelming concern continues to be price and affordability. Over these years, the Students’ Union has been working with partners across TRU to identify and implement solutions, including open educational resources (OERs) and a textbook reserve system in the Library. In 2020/21, TRU has committed to build on these successes.

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are our best strategy to reduce the cost of course materials in the long-term. OER are teaching, learning, and research materials that are licensed to provide free and perpetual permission to retain, revise, remix, reuse, and redistribute.* In other words, they give instructors more power over course materials for teaching and give students affordable access to customized learning – win-win!

In 2020/21, TRU will support OER by continuing the OER Development Grants Program. The program was created in 2018, in response to our Open Textbooks campaign, to provide funding and support to instructors who integrate open educational resources into their TRU courses. The program funds eight projects each year, and potentially saves students hundreds of thousands of dollars per year!

Recommendation: Support increased creation, adaptation, and use of OER and other low- and no-cost course materials

TRU Response: The OER Development Grants Program will continue in 2020/21

  • The University Library, Open Learning and the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching were successful in securing funding for 2 years of OER Development Grants
  • Eight projects per year are funded potentially saving students $198,236 per year
  • The Open Education Librarian assists grant holders with identifying and evaluating suitable OER and with the application of Creative Commons licenses
  • The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching consults with grant holders on curriculum development while fostering a community of practice
  • Open Learning provides grant holders instructional design expertise, support in technology and educational media, and text editing and layout

The Students’ Union also partnered with the departments that run the OER Development Grants Program to host the first ever TRU Open Education Week events! This is organized internationally, and the Students’ Union was proud to bring the tradition of awareness, support, and celebration to TRU. We hope to continue to build a strong community, culture, and practice of open education.

Library Textbook Reserve

We know many students need help with textbook costs now, and can’t always wait for OER to be developed. A critical short-term solution for those who simply can’t afford to buy commercial textbooks is to make copies of them available to share in the Library.

This has been a longstanding goal of the Students’ Union – recommended in 2016, 2017, and 2018 with slow progress. But we have taken enormous steps forward in partnership with the Library in 2019. In fact, the Library has already taken actions to expand and enhance reserves.

For 2020/21, the Library and Students’ Union have partnered to take the next step and create a comprehensive and systematic textbook reserve program. The program would buy copies of textbooks for most first- and second-year courses (if they meet the criteria) so those students can rely on the Library for free access if needed. The Students’ Union has committed $15,000 to support the program if TRU agrees to fund it as well. A final decision is expected soon!

Recommendation: Support a comprehensive and systematic textbook reserve system in the Library

TRU Response: Course reserves in the Library were enhanced in 2019 and a systematic textbook reserve system is in development for 2020

  • Course reserves enhancements
    1. The course reserves area in the Main Library was expanded to double the capacity
    2. The course reserves have shifted to a self-service model so students can directly pick up, check out, or scan course reserves to email, even after regular service hours
    3. Course materials are now proactively placed on reserve based on course outlines rather than passively waiting for faculty requests
  • A systematic textbook reserve system
    1. The University Library has partnered with the Bookstore and TRUSU to establish a systematic course textbook program
    2. The program would buy textbooks, which meet the selection criteria, for first- and second-year courses
    3. Funding is sought from the University’s Strategic Investment Fund

Other Strategies

Textbooks on reserve in the Library and OER are two effective and complementary strategies to help students now and tackle textbook prices in the long-term. There are, however, other challenges old and new.

Students have long been familiar with the publisher tactic of continual edition changes that make savings through used copies difficult. They are now also raising concerns about the growing use of publisher add-ons and other third-party learning platforms or apps that add further costs on top textbooks.

Unfortunately, for 2020/21, TRU has not identified any specific actions to address these issues. With a growing network of partners committed to affordable course materials on campus, we are confident we can overcome these challenges together too!

Recommendation: Curtail the use of third-party learning platforms

TRU Response: No specific actions identified

Recommendation: Encourage the effective use and reuse of course materials

TRU Response: No specific actions identified

To see the full response to your priorities on course materials, click here.

To stay up-to-date on all of TRU’s responses to your priorities, check out the Student Budget Consultation webpage!