More free textbooks may be coming to Western University.
Free textbooks are part of a campus push for open educational resources. The University Students' Council, the Science Students' Council, Western Libraries and eCampus Ontario (a government non-profit for online education) are hosting a keynote speech and a luncheon on Nov. 17 to talk to professors about the benefits of teaching from free course materials available on the eCampus website.
Resources from the eCampus library can be read in-browser or downloaded for free. The texts are from around the world but are approved by the library as fit for teaching in Ontario. Danny Chang, SSC president, said that while the textbooks are free, they are also more accessible.
"With open educational resources, all a distance or rural student needs to study is an internet connection," Chang said.
The organizing parties are planning on hosting around 100 faculty members and course coordinators from all Western faculties. The chair of the Western Student Senators, Courtney Hardy, also announced the event at Friday's senate meeting.
The Nov. 17 event will begin with a keynote speech from Rajiv Jhangiani, a professor who has worked with British Columbia's open educational resources organization, BCcampus.
Chang said that B.C. is years ahead of Ontario in terms of the accessibility of its textbooks. While many Ontario students have to pay for quiz packages or online programs to model assignments, these things are offered freely online in other parts of Canada. Chang said the University of British Columbia now considers the usage of open educational resources when a professor is up for tenure, as it's seen as a innovation in teaching.
The CEO of eCampus, David Porter, will also be in attendance throughout the day. The event is also endorsed by Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, which speaks for 150,000 students and has expressed its support for open education resources before.
Chang said there's a stigma about the quality of free, online textbooks that the event is trying to dispel. He said he will feel the event is a success if even two or three professors decide to switch to eCampus resources, given how many students will not have to pay.
Chang said that open educational resources are a "win-win-win" for students, faculty and the institution; faculty are given more options for teaching, and the institution is seen at the "cutting-edge of pedagogy".
"With open resources, everyone starts with textbooks — it's the gold standard," he said. "It moves from open textbooks to all open educational resources."
Correction (Oct. 21, 2017 at 1:00 p.m.): a previous version of this article incorrectly stated many B.C. universities consider the use of open educational resources when a professor is up for tenure. The article has been updated to reflect this is specifically at the University of British Columbia.