BCcampus has completed work on the Open Homework Systems project. Below is a summary of the elements funded and the project deliverables.
For the past several years, commercial publishers have been marketing online tools to faculty that provide curriculum to students. Some of the digital resources are textbooks, and some are what we consider ancillary resources. These tools are sometimes called homework systems and include items like test banks and problems for students to practice applying their theoretical knowledge.
However, accessing homework systems comes at a cost to students. Analysis work done as part of this project showed students pay on average $92 to access these homework systems, which is often in addition to the cost they pay for the textbook for the course. This adds additional financial strain.
In an effort to reduce the cost to students for access to homework systems, BCcampus received funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training in 2019 to explore open-source software solutions to commercial publishers’ homework platforms. The project was initially slated to end in March 2021. However, due to COVID-19, it was extended to March 2022.
Purpose and Goals of the Project
The purpose of the Open Homework Systems project was to reduce the cost of post-secondary education for students by reducing the cost of access to homework systems.
Our specific goals were as follows:
- Replace high-use, high-cost commercial homework systems in the B.C. post-secondary system with open-source alternatives.
- Develop discipline champions and communities who can steward the open-source options once the project ends.
- Inform and educate B.C. post-secondary institutions about the financial costs and implications to students learning via homework systems due to their cost.
To achieve these goals, BCcampus created three grant programs for B.C. post-secondary educators: the H5P content creation grant (which we offered in 2020 and again in 2021), the WeBWorK institutional grant, and the STEM question development grant.
We awarded close to $200,000 to 12 B.C. post-secondary institutions for 19 projects over the three grants. We invested an additional $50,000 to provide support services for grantees, which included the development of the H5P Kitchen website and community-support sites for H5P grantees, six open H5P support webinars, and technical consultation services for WeBWorK grantees.
The Open Homework System project funded the development of more than 2500 formative practice questions for five open homework systems: H5P, WeBWorK, PrairieLearn, Carnap, and ChemSketch.
In total, contributors created 1291 H5P activities that aligned with 11 open textbooks in the BCcampus Open Collection, 188 WeBWorK questions to support first-year open math and calculus textbooks, 240 ChemSketch questions to support the open textbook Organic Chemistry, 507 PrairieLearn questions to support open math textbooks and a first-year physics course, and 278 Carnap questions to support the open logic textbook forall x.
All the activities are openly licensed with Creative Commons licenses to allow the activities to be freely copied and reused by other educators.
Summary of Projects
|Type of Grant||Book, Course, or Subject Area||Project Lead||Lead Institution||Resources Created|
|H5P (1)||Writing for Success||Brenna Clarke Gray||TRU||156 H5P|
|H5P (1)||Psychology: H5P Edition||Simon Lolliot||UBC||282 H5P|
|H5P (1)||Introduction to Tourism||Rebecca Wilson-Mah||RRU||59 H5P|
|H5P (1)||Concepts of Biology (1st Canadian edition)||Michelle Nakano and Charles Molnar||Camosun||80 H5P|
|H5P (1)||Vital Sign Measurement Across the Lifespan||Kymberley Bontinen||Douglas||122 H5P|
|H5P (2)||Le Francis Interactif||Mirabelle Tinio||Langara||229 H5P (in final review)|
|H5P (2)||Technical Writing||Deborah Neilsen||CNC||42 H5P|
|H5P (2)||Physical Geology||Karla Panchuk||UBC-O||200 H5P|
|H5P (2)||Principles of Social Psychology||Farhad Dastur and Hammond Tarry||KPU||25 H5P|
|H5P (2)||Principles of Marketing||Biggi Weischedel||TRU||78 H5P|
|H5P (2)||Foundations of Digital Marketing||Rochelle Grayson||Langara||18 H5P|
|STEM||Organic Chemistry||Jessie Key||VIU||240 ChemSketch|
|STEM||Math||Stefan Luktis||BCIT||90 WeBWork (in final review)|
|STEM||Math||Elyse Yeager||UBC||40 PrairieLearn|
|STEM||Physics||Firas Moosvi and Jake Bobowski||UBC-O||467 PrairieLearn|
|STEM||Biomechanical Engineering||Robyn Newell||UBC||98 WeBWork|
|Other||Philosophy||David Gilbert||UBC||278 Carnap|
- 1291 H5P
- 507 PrairieLearn
- 118 WeBWork
- 240 ChemSKetch
- 278 Carnap
WeBWorK Institutional Grants
In addition to the H5P and STEM content creation grants, BCcampus also awarded two WeBWorK institutional grants. As WebWorK is an open-source homework system that does not include support from a commercial vendor, BCcampus provided institutions with $30,000 grants to install, configure, deploy, and support WeBWorK.
The two institutions awarded the WeBWorK institutional grants were Thompson Rivers University and Vancouver Community College. Both institutions have now completed the installation and deployment of WeBWorK and are saving learners thousands of dollars each term in commercial homework system costs.
The featured image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Andrea Piacquadio.