A Pathway to Open for Science Programs in B.C.

For the past several years, there has been incredible work across British Columbia around the development of certificates, diplomas, and associate and bachelor’s degrees that rely solely on open educational resources (OER) and other free materials in an effort to save enrolled students money. These credentials have been named Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) credentials.

In April 2019, Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, announced the funding of $3.26 million toward open education in British Columbia. This welcome infusion of financial support has enabled BCcampus to continue developing and distributing OER — including open textbooks — that save students money while providing significant learning value.

Today, we are pleased to announce that BCcampus is awarding an OER grant to Thompson Rivers University (TRU), who will be developing a ZTC pathway for students looking to obtain an Associate of Science degree. It is expected that TRU’s pathway will be ready for the 2021–2022 academic year.

Michelle Harrison, Senior Instructional Designer, Co-Chair Learning Design and Innovations, TRU Open Learning says, “we are excited to further expand our support of faculty developing and adopting OER at TRU. As we mapped and aligned our Associate of Science diploma course offerings with available OER, it was amazing to see how far we have come and that creating a ZTC pathway for a STEM program was within reach. Providing opportunities for students to complete a diploma with zero textbook costs aligns with TRU’s open access mandate, further reducing barriers.

In addition to TRU’s ZTC pathway, over this spring, BCcampus has conducted an extensive environmental scan of STEM adoptions across the province. After reviewing the requirements for a two-year Associate of Science degree at all public institutions in B.C. that offer this credential, we established a basic program plan that fits most institutions. We have aligned the known OER adoptions with the requirements of the Associate of Science credential. This credential is used throughout the province to offer laddering opportunities into Bachelor of Science degrees.

We are pleased to share a pathway to an Associate of Science degree based on existing OER and known adoptions. This pathway will act as a resource for faculty to discover and adopt OER for their subject area. If an institution were to adopt OER for each of the requirements in the pathway, they would have a ZTC Associate of Science degree to offer their students.

The resources on the pathway are verified adoptions, and the OER can be found in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection and other OER repositories. Due to confidentiality promised during the adoption reporting process, we are unable to offer specifics as to course numbers and instructors. Faculty are encouraged to report adoptions to BCcampus and may choose to keep their information private.

Jennifer Kirkey, physics instructor at Douglas College and BCcampus science advisory committee member, has been an advocate for the ZTC Associate of Science degree and encourages faculty to look at adopting OER for the foundational courses in this credential. 

“As a physics teacher,” says Jennifer, “most of what I teach is based on classical mechanics based on Newton’s four-hundred-year-old laws, or on work done by Einstein in 1905 — information that is in the public domain. The fundamentals of math, physics, and chemistry have not changed for more than a century. Meanwhile, biology and astronomy often change much faster than the standard commercial textbook can be produced. This is where the ability to adapt OER truly proves its worth. The OER movement is much more than just free textbooks.”

This pathway would not be possible without the dedication educators have to their students, nor without educators’ enthusiasm and willingness to adopt, create, and adapt OER.

Wondering about virtual lab resources?

The Virtual Lab and Science Resource Directory is now available, featuring virtual labs and online activities.

Notable Quote

“As a faculty member, being able to remix and adapt high-quality OER means that my students get a better experience that is tailored to the course they are taking. I value the ability to make materials relevant to the students in my course and at my institution.”

—Jennifer Kirkey, Physics Instructor, Douglas College

“OER has tons of benefits for STEM students and faculty. Textbooks in this field are usually super expensive, so using an OER such as an open textbook is a great way of reducing the cost of course materials for students.”

– Brenda Smith, TRU Open Ed Librarian