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Concordia’s Open Educational Resources project opens doors to affordable textbooks

OER offers a win-win situation for faculty and students
October 10, 2019
By Leslie Goldstein

Textbook costs have increased by almost 200 per cent in the past 20 years. Are students still buying the required textbooks for each of their courses?

It’s safe to say that given the high cost of textbooks, a large majority of students are not buying them and finding other ways to access the required course material.

But shouldn’t they be granted easy and affordable access to current textbooks in order to complete the assigned readings and be prepared to engage in class discussions?

As the cost of textbooks continues to rise sharply, the use of Open Educational Resources (OER), specifically open textbooks, is gaining momentum within Canadian universities and other institutions of higher education around the world.

What are Open Educational Resources (OER), you might ask?

They are teaching and learning materials that allow no-cost access, use, adaptation and/or redistribution by others. They can include textbooks, lecture notes, curricula, videos, audio content, questions banks and much more.

The OER project is part of Concordia’s Digital Strategy, related to teaching and learning.

The project will allow Concordia to use and contribute to OER repositories as well as develop expertise in how to adopt, adapt and create open teaching and learning materials.

Associate University Librarian, Teaching and Learning, Dianne Cmor is leading this digital strategy project which will focus on textbooks initially.

She says the opportunity to offer students high quality textbooks that are free to use with no restrictions is key. But, she points out, it’s not just students that benefit — OER, particularly open textbooks, offers a significant advantage to faculty too.

There is a huge benefit to teaching and learning

An example of an <a href="" target="_blank" >open textbook.</a> An example of an open textbook.

What is the current textbook environment at Concordia?

Currently, most assigned textbooks are commercial textbooks that students are expected to buy.

Print textbooks are very expensive, and so many students use the textbook collection available in the Library’s course reserves, but they have very short loan periods due to high demand.

What about electronic textbooks?

They are an alternative, but they also have drawbacks. Students must individually buy access to e-textbooks which is usually less expensive than print textbooks. However, students often only have access for one semester.

Also, though they are less expensive today, we have no control over how much the cost might increase in the future.

What are the key benefits of OER and open textbooks to Concordia faculty and students?

Well, the obvious benefit is in terms of cost — students would have access to high quality textbooks that are free to access, download, keep, share or print.

For faculty, there is a huge benefit to teaching and learning when all students can afford the textbook.

Another benefit is that OER also allows faculty to customize content if they desire, meaning they could add more relevant examples (e.g. Canadian or Quebec context, more inclusive perspectives) or remove content that is not meaningful to their specific course.

Concordia is providing grants, through the Library Services Fund, to encourage the use of open textbooks. The funding for the next round of grants is available to all full-time and part-time Concordia faculty members to support the work involved in adopting or customizing existing open textbooks.

The deadline to apply is November 18, 2019.

Learn more about Open Educational Resources and consult the grant guidelines to find out if you are eligible to apply.


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