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BCcampus Open Education Print-on-Demand Guide: When Print is the Only Option

An excerpt from the Print-on-Demand Guide, by Lauri Aesoph

It should not be assumed that all students have reliable, fast, or any internet access — or computers or mobile devices — at home or on campus. The B.C. provincial government reports that, while 93 per cent of its urban households have internet access at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) target speeds of 50/10 Mbps,[1] approximately two-thirds of its rural and Indigenous communities do not.[2]

For post-secondary institutions in remote regions, pulling up an online open textbook can be difficult or impossible. For these situations, a printed textbook is needed. Jason Wallace, Purchasing Manager for Print and Retail Services at North Island College in Comox, B.C., concurs, stating, “Not all students have access to high-speed internet and computers. We have students and programs in very remote communities, and online-only is not a viable option.”

The reasons for poor connectivity within a community, on campus, or for an individual or family are many, as listed on Connected Communities: Success Factors. Connected Communities, an initiative of the B.C. Ministry of Citizens’ Services, was designed to “support the digital readiness of local governments, First Nations and rural communities.”[3]

The five success factors on the Connected Communities list are leadership and support, connectivity, digital capability, sustainability, and community well-being. From these can be drawn three general areas that need attention by regions looking to upgrade internet service. These are:

  1. Leadership’s willingness and ability to collaborate with the internet service provider andstrategically plan and implement steps to install (and maintain) online services
  2. Assurance that internet service will not only be affordable for the community, but provide adequate bandwidth and speed for students learning online and individuals working online
  3. A pledge that affordable training is made available for users with little or no computer and/or internet skills

Carolee Clyne, BCcampus’ Open Education Advisor for Northern B.C., sums up the issue this way:

“Challenges with internet in the rural areas can be linked to distance from major urban centres. The farther away and the smaller the population, the less likely there is consistent access. Both cellphone service and wired internet services are limited. For many residents, the cost to have the services is more than they can afford, so they do without. Often, the computer literacy is limited, given this scarcity of access. In many communities, a key community centre will have access, and this would be the only place for access in these areas. People using the centre will also have limited opportunity to explore online for a couple of reasons: the quality of the connection is often poor and low bandwidth, so response times are slow, and this resource is shared with the community, so times are limited.”


  1. 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads. 
  2. “Connectivity in B.C.,” Province of British Columbia, accessed April 24, 2020, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/connectivity-in-bc. 
  3. “Connected Communities: Success Factors,” Province of British Columbia, accessed April 24, 2020, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/connectivity-in-bc/connected-communities. 

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