Photo by Chung Chow
As students go back to school, Kwantlen Polytechnic University hopes to cut their first year students’ costs in half by offering free, downloadable text books.
“Tuition for a three-credit course is $400 and it’s not uncommon to have the textbook for that class worth $400, so it’s a bit ridiculous,” says Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, a teaching fellow in open studies and psychology instructor who is spear-heading this program at KPU.
Starting this month, students taking many of the first year courses counting towards any Arts degree can use open-source texts instead of buying them.
“The first year, one-year program is part and parcel of a degree, so a student can take regular first year English, history, sociology, or physics, without spending a single dollar on textbooks. These are all courses they would take anyway towards a Bachelor’s degree,” says Jhangiani. Plans are in the works to expand the online text program.
“We are going to continue to build on it and add a two-year program,” he says.
While some texts for some courses have been available this way, September 2017 represents the launch of an entirely no-cost text book year for many students.
“Over the years we have already saved our students about half a millions dollars. Now with this new program, we will save them at least $210,000 per year,” according to Jhangiani.
For a student living at home, downloadable texts cut the cost of a year at KPU in half.
Jhangiani has a sense of purpose.
“I am an immigrant and education was my pathway to where I am now,” he says.
That sense of purpose colours everything he does, and he says access to education is about social justice. Free online texts added to innovations in teaching methods and delivery combine to shine a light on KPU’s goal: accessible education.
Cutting costs increases access to higher learning. Yet there’s more fueling Jhangiani’s enthusiasm.
“The other piece that I love is the innovation. In 2017, to have a static print resource is a little stale. Disciplines move much faster than a new text books edition cycle and other books don’t move at all, at least at the first year level. So now, with these online texts, to be able to embed videos and animations is marvelous.”
Jhangiani cites the flexibility of online resources for professors.
“Faculty are absolutely free to assign any resources they deem fit. If there is a resource we deem good enough, we can assign it. We just place the links to the text books, to all its digital formats on the website.”
When it comes to offering classes with free online texts, Jhangiani says: ”Of all 26 post-secondary institutions in B.C., KPU is a leader.”
He says student groups and professors alike support open access to education very strongly, including Dr. Salvador Ferreras, KPU provost and vice-president academic.
“We’re all about open access and providing multiple means for learners to pursue their dreams. KPU is perfectly positioned to lead the way into a bold and exciting future of open education.”