Online course materials to reduce costs for Alberta students

Watch above: Shannon Greer reports on the Government of Alberta’s Open Education Resources Initiative

EDMONTON – The cost of post-secondary education can be overwhelming for many Alberta students, and the additional hundreds or thousands of dollars spent on textbooks can weigh heavily on their wallets. Now, the Alberta Government is launching a new initiative, offering more educational resources online.

The Open Educational Resources Initiative has been in the works for a few years. Through the initiative, more educational resources such as textbooks, modules, lesson plans, and multi-media materials will be made available for students online.

Premier Dave Hancock says it’s all about greater access to resources at a lower cost.

“It’s an important step forward. It’s something students have been looking for,” said Hancock, who is also the Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education. “It’s really sort of the modern way of looking for textbooks and resource materials. And it’s going to be a great addition to our education system.”

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“After tuition and fees, the price of textbooks is one of the highest costs facing students looking to obtain a post-secondary education in Alberta,” added Connor Brown, chair of the Council of Alberta University Students. “This innovative initiative has the opportunity to assist students by lowering the costs associated with obtaining their degree or credential, as well as encourage professors to broaden the classroom learning experience for students.”

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It’s estimated Alberta students spend between $1,000 and $1,700 per year on textbooks. Over the course of four years, that can add up to upwards of $6,800.

“They’re so expensive… upwards of $150; some being $250,” said third-year University of Alberta business student Jacob Swan.

“There’s better uses of that money, especially being on a tight budget in school.”

Swan says if more materials were made available for students online, free of charge, he’d definitely make good use of them.

“I rely on online content to study, so I would for sure.”

While the details of the program have yet to be solidified, the initiative will be guided by a committee of faculty, students, and senior academic officers, who will review proposals from across Campus Alberta on how best to use open educational resources. The committee will be co-chaired by Dr. Rory McGreal, a professor at Athabasca University who is also an international expert on open educational resources.

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“Open educational resources provide students and teachers with the flexibility they need, offering updated, relevant content for learning,” McGreal explained. “Freely available online, they open up a limitless supply of quality educational content from sources around the world, exposing students to various international perspectives.

“The world is now online and it is important that our students and teachers take full advantage of the free educational opportunities the Internet offers.”

READ MORE: U of Alberta joins the world of open online education with free dinosaur course

At a recent New West Partnership meeting, the premiers of B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan agreed to a memorandum of understanding on open educational resources. The provinces will work together to share materials and reduce duplication.

“If you put it on the Campus Alberta digital library, the idea would be to have resources available to students regardless of where they are,” said Hancock. “It makes it easier for people who are doing courses who are not at a residential university.”

According to the province, educational materials will be offered without an accompanying cost for copyright realities or licence fees.

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