Ontario Invests in Free Online Textbook Initiative

Jul 14, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

One oft-underestimated, “hidden” expense encountered by college students while in school?  Textbooks. Now comes news that Ontario is aiming to make college more affordable by investing $1 million in free online textbooks and educational resources. Here’s a closer look at the Ontario Open Textbook Initiative.

A Free Online Database

According to a government press release, Ontario will partner with e-Learning portal eCampusOntario to develop and provide free and low-cost digital textbooks. Says the release, “The Ontario Open Textbooks Initiative will focus on Ontario-specific content in areas where the most significant impact and cost savings for students can be realized, including high-enrolment first-year courses, French language content, content for Indigenous studies, trades and technical skills content, and content for new Canadians.”

Shifting Toward Open Source

With surveys indicating that as many as two-thirds of college students may pass on buying or renting textbooks because of the cost, the movement toward open source is a promising one. It’s also not the first of its kind: Over the past four years a similar program in British Columbia saved students more than $4 million.

Said Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Digital Government, “Paying for textbooks is a challenge for too many students. By supporting a movement of free online textbooks and other open educational resources, we are removing yet another financial barrier to accessing postsecondary education in Ontario—so our students can stay focused on learning, and less on paying for their higher education.”

Ontario is also taking measures to further support students with the debut of the Ontario Student Assistance Program, which will provide free average tuition to more than 210,000 students beginning in the fall toward the ultimate goal of less student debt.





Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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