A $35,000 pilot project is being launched to bring open education resources to Atlantic Canada.
The Council of Atlantic University Libraries provided the initial investment with the hopes of creating a free online public domain for hosting and publishing open educational resources, meaning post-secondary students would have access to online textbooks, videos, digital images and supplemental materials.
"It's really depressing when you look at the Maritimes as probably the least affordable jurisdiction in Canada for higher education across the board," said Jason Loxton, a professor at Cape Breton University and a member of the CAUL open education resource working group.
He said post-secondary students in the Maritimes have to pay some of the highest prices for textbooks.
Loxton said in the data he saw, St. Francis Xavier University comes in at number two in terms of most expensive university textbooks. Cape Breton University and Memorial University also rank high on the list.
High textbook costs
He said within his own classes, close to half of his students said they sometimes don't buy a textbook because of the price.
"The vast majority think the textbooks are important and necessary to pass," said Loxton.
Amrinder Singh, president of the Cape Breton University Students' Union, said the cost of textbooks is especially taxing on international students, who already pay more for tuition than domestic students.
He said some students will try to find out information they need online rather than purchasing an expensive textbook.
"They try to save some money for the future, they have to pay their tuition for the coming semesters," said Singh.
Singh said some teachers try to fill in the gaps, but added students won't be able to get the in-depth information unless students have textbooks.
"Their grades will go down, they won't have the proper knowledge for the courses they are doing," said Singh.
Loxton said the hope is the provincial and federal governments will step up and provide more funding so the project can become a reality.
He said they have already reached out to government organizations like the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
A similar project was launched in British Columbia in 2012 and to date it has saved post-secondary students close to $19 million.
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