KPU’s Zero Textbook Cost program is growing

The university is planning to add more courses with free materials in the future

KPU is offering 353 courses this fall that are part of the Zero Textbook Cost initiative. (Abby Luciano)

KPU is offering 353 courses this fall that are part of the Zero Textbook Cost initiative. (Abby Luciano)

The cost of textbooks for post-secondary classes can be expensive, ranging up to $1,000 per year in Canada. But for students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, many don’t have to worry about buying books for their courses. 

KPU’s Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) initiative is expanding with 353 courses being offered this fall semester without the requirement to purchase textbooks. This makes up 21 per cent of all courses this semester, and an increase from 333 courses last year. 

Courses part of the ZTC program use library and open educational resources. The initiative was the first of its kind in Canada when it launched in spring 2018 and has seen increased use during the pandemic. 

In an email statement to The Runner, Leeann Waddington, pro term associate vice president, teaching and learning said the ZTC initiative makes post-secondary education more accessible. 

“Limiting additional expenses for post-secondary courses breaks down financial barriers for students making post-secondary a more equitable place to learn,” Waddington wrote. 

She said the courses that use the ZTC initiative cross a broad range of subjects including accounting, mathematics, and psychology to history, business, and English. 

While the ZTC initiative helps students, Waddington said it also helps instructors. 

“Use of Open Educational Resources (OER) gives faculty a high level of control over the resources used in their class. They can facilitate the most up to date and context specific content,” she wrote. 

“It allows them to create or select educational media and to address accessibility needs of a diverse student population.”

For psychology student Myles Johnstone, the initiative has helped reduce costs for his classes, but also study better. 

“In regards to my classes, it gives me a little bit more flexibility when it comes to doing assignments,” Johnstone says. “When you get a textbook, you’d have to read [a number] of chapters. For me, I hated that because it takes so much time … and I take a ton of notes.” 

“Textbooks are a lot more bulky, they’re not very condensed into getting the information across that you need, and I find that articles do that a lot better.”  

He says it’s important for students to have the initiative to ease the transition between high school and post-secondary, as well as making education more accessible. 

“This is definitely necessary as a student,” Johnstone says. “I remember the first couple of years at KPU, like the intro courses, you’d have to get a $100 [textbook for each].” 

“It’s so much nicer to have more freedom financially because of this initiative.” 

At the beginning of the initiative in 2018, Waddington said there were 70 courses that were offered without a textbook requirement and it has only increased since then. 

Now, the ZTC initiative has offered over 3,500 courses to over 75,000 students according to a KPU press release. It has saved students almost $8.5 million by not purchasing textbooks. 

“We continue to encourage faculty to consider textbook alternatives on an ongoing basis,” Waddington wrote. “We provide grants to support development of open educational resources and support faculty to find available resources that meet their needs.” 

The university also offers eight programs that don’t require purchasing textbooks, including bachelor degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Some of the programs are the Bachelor of Interior Design, Diploma in General Studies, and the Certificate in Arts. 

While ZTC courses don’t require the cost of a textbook, they still may require other costs associated with the course like equipment, specific supplies, and studio fees. 

“It’s a good thing that there’s been a significant decrease in required textbooks for courses,” Johnstone says. “It adds up quite a bit. So taking that weight off [students’] shoulders is pretty important.”