Textbook fees erased in one-quarter of KPU classes this fall

Wed, Nov 15, 2023

Students in 25 per cent of classes at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) this semester are taking advantage of learning resources and textbooks with an affordable price.

They’re free.

KPU is continuing to expand its Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) initiative to reduce the cost of learning for students. This fall, 493 course sections — an instance of a university course — come without the cost of traditional textbooks. Instead, students have access to library materials and open educational resources, such as free digital textbooks.

“KPU has taken a significant step in improving affordability of its programs. Never before has KPU offered this many opportunities for students to take courses with no added textbook costs. We are committed to removing barriers students face in realizing their educational goals,” says Dr. Leeann Waddington, Associate Vice-President of Teaching and Learning at KPU.

The average price of a textbook is $113, according to BCcampus. Since the university launched the ZTC program in 2018, students have saved an estimated total of $10 million in textbook costs.

Each year more KPU instructors from a range of disciplines are choosing to teach their courses as designated ZTC — and many are creating their own resources for students.

Dr. Constanza Rojas-Primus, an instructor in KPU’s Department of Language and Cultures, co-authored two free digital textbooks to create greater access to learning and provide Spanish-language resources tailored to her students.

¡Voy en camino! (I’m on my way), written with KPU instructor Ana Robles, serves the first two introductory Spanish language courses at KPU. La hora del cuento en español (Storytime in Spanish), co-authored with storyteller, translator, and KPU alum Sofía Rodríguez, is a collection of children’s stories in Spanish written by former Spanish 1100 and 1101 students.

“Both resources are being used in my classes and students are responding very well to them,” says Rojas-Primus. “They provide interactive activities to practise the material with immediate feedback. They also are an important source of renewable learning as all assignments can be downloaded and saved so students can manage their time and learning efficiently and sustainably.”

Criminology instructors Dr. Shereen Hassan and Dan Lett, along with Leah Ballantyne who provided expert Indigenous consultation and editing, co-edited Introduction to Criminology: A Canadian Open Education Resource, which is used in classrooms at KPU and beyond. Hassan says there wasn’t a suitable free resource for the course.

“It was clear that a new one needed to be created, from scratch, with authors with diverse cultural and gender identities,” says Hassan. “This open education resource is the first of its kind in Canada and has been adopted by criminology faculty across the country.”

Their free textbook is designed to be relevant, affordable, and good for the planet.

“It is such a struggle having students even read the assigned chapters in a traditional book. For those who buy it, the chapters are long and sometimes boring. And sadly, many cannot afford to buy the books. I am also very conscious of one’s carbon footprint and the adoption of paper textbooks, with new editions published every few years, is simply not environmentally sustainable.”

In addition to individual course sections, KPU also offers eight complete credentials that have no requirement to purchase textbooks, including the Bachelor of Interior Design and the Bachelor of Arts in General Studies.