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‘Zero Textbook Cost’ initiative grows at a Surrey university, saving students nearly $8.5M

KPU’s ZTC initiative was this first of its kind in Canada when launched in 2018
Amanda Grey (left), a KPU open education strategist, and Karen Meijer-Kline, KPU scholarly communications librarian, inside KPU Library, which offers resources for Zero Textbook Cost courses. (Submitted photo)

An increasing number of students don’t have to buy textbooks when studying at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) this fall.

Administration at the Surrey-based university say a record number of courses are offered without the need for students to purchase textbooks, in a program known as Zero Textbook Cost, ZTC.

In September, 353 courses in a range of subjects will use library and open educational resources instead of textbooks. That number represents 21 per cent of all courses offered by the university this fall, up from 333 courses last fall.

KPU’s ZTC initiative was this first of its kind in Canada when launched in 2018, and the program has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“ZTC reduces financial barriers for students who may need to choose between buying a textbook and buying groceries, or who need to wait several weeks after the start of classes until they have the funds,” says Amanda Grey, an open education strategist at KPU.

Since its launch, the ZTC initiative has offered more than 3,500 courses to more than 75,000 students. The cumulative cost saving for KPU students of not having to purchase textbooks has now reached almost $8.5 million, Grey says.

Data from past academic years shows that on average ZTC courses have a faster fill rate than non-ZTC courses, she added.

Gillian Sudlow, an educational consultant and member of the Faculty of Academic and Career Preparation at KPU, teaches all her courses without a textbook requirement. Recognizing some of her students consider textbooks cost-prohibitive or overwhelming, Sudlow started creating her own resources better suited to the courses she teaches.

“When I was using textbooks, I found myself teaching to them and not necessarily teaching to the learning outcomes of the course,” Sudlow noted.

Although ZTC courses do not require students to pay for a textbook, there still may be other costs associated with the course, such as equipment, supplies and studio fees.

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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