Exploring an Open Path for First-Year Engineering

Quality open educational resources (OER) are available for a number of first-year courses in engineering programs throughout the province. Many faculty across B.C. and beyond have long been involved in creating, adapting, and adopting OER for their courses. With that in mind, BCcampus is exploring potential paths to Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) programs in STEM in B.C., including for first-year engineering. ZTC programs enable students to earn credentials without incurring costs for textbooks.

Post by Melanie Meyers, project manager for Business/STEM Zero Textbook Cost Programs and Improved Searchability

In spring 2019, BCcampus was asked by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training to assist with a project concerning B.C. institutions delivering engineering programs who want to move to a common first-year curriculum. The project was initiated by the engineering articulation committee and led by its chair, Brian Dick of Vancouver Island University.

BCcampus has recognized the need to search for and align available OER with the common curriculum for first-year engineering. The goal is to ensure that relevant and quality OER are available for all first-year engineering courses, thus making possible a Zero Textbook Cost pathway in engineering.

Why OER for Engineering Is Needed Now More than Ever

With the pivot to online learning due to COVID-19, the need for and benefits of OER are even greater than before, as OER save instructors’ time, help cash-strapped students, and provide immediate online availability and accessibility. To illustrate this, BCcampus created an infographic showing the advantages of OER and published the article OER: Trial by COVID-19.

Regardless of the current situation, textbook costs for first-year engineering students can amount to more than $500 per student/year. The common curriculum includes courses from a variety of STEM disciplines that have already demonstrated high numbers of OER adoptions in B.C. (e.g., physics, chemistry, and math).

As a number of engineering programs across B.C. are presently undergoing curriculum redesign, now is the perfect time to consider shifting to OER so that further reworking of the curriculum is not necessary down the road.

How Will We Get There?

In order to determine what OER is available and what gaps might exist, BCcampus is undertaking a gap analysis and mapping of OER to the common first-year curriculum for engineering. We will be looking at data such as current adoptions, where the successes have been, and where improvements and adaptations might be needed. Each OER will be reviewed for quality and relevance so that those programs and faculty looking to adopt can do so with confidence. Full results from this work are expected in fall 2020, but we will share preliminary information as it becomes available to assist those preparing for fall courses.

For gaps that emerge — as well as ones that we are already aware of — BCcampus will support collaborative projects intended to fill those gaps as soon as possible.


For more information, please contact Melanie Meyers, STEM Open Education Project Manager, at mmeyers@bccampus.ca.

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