Opinion piece: There is already a solution for easing high cost of post-secondary textbooks

Some colleagues and I recently wrote an opinion piece for the Calgary Herald, arguing for provincial support for open educational resources. Below is a preview.

Less well-known is the fact that the cost of textbooks and other learning materials has been increasing well above the rate of inflation for decades. According to a 2014 CBC article, textbook costs have increased more than 800 per cent since the 1980s — more than double Canadian house price increases and triple the rate of the consumer price index. And in many cases, students no longer buy physical books they can resell but instead rent digital books.

Students are also unable to rely on their libraries to access textbooks, as publishers have stopped selling physical copies, forcing academic libraries to pay thousands for electronic versions, which they often cannot afford.

While the Alberta government has said it is paying close attention to the situation, British Columbia, Ontario and other provinces already have a solution: funding open educational resources. 

Provinces such as British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario have invested relatively modest amounts to develop resources such as open textbooks which function as a viable alternative to publisher resources. Alberta had a relatively successful OER pilot program which ran from 2014 to 2017. I had the privilege to be part of that project and work with faculty across Alberta. The pilot was done in partnership with BC Campus. While Mount Royal (where I work), SAIT, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and others are doing great work to support open content, some support from the province to create some funding opportunities, and perhaps some shared hosting infrastructure, would be a good investment for post-secondary.

Article link: https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-there-is-already-a-solution-for-easing-high-cost-of-post-secondary-textbooks

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