Access to Course Materials – Keeping Costs in Check

Whether on-campus or online, the cost of university courses keeps going up. One of the hidden expenses for students is the cost of course materials, which can run up to $200 dollars per class. Some students have noticed even higher costs this year, partially as a result of U of T’s inability to secure a license with Access Copyright after the expiration of our previous license in 2013. For example, The Varsity recently reported in an article on student fees in the post-access copyright environment that some students had even seen the cost of coursepacks double this semester. Even with the efficiencies gained through digitization of course materials, the price tag is steep.

This got the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office concerned, because keeping student costs reasonable is an important part of our role here at U of T. So a pilot project, called “Zero to Low Cost Courses,” was established to help.

Through faculty engagement, the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office is working to help faculty in the creation of zero to low cost courses for students; that is, courses where instructors assign only open access content, public domain content, content used as fair dealing, or content for which the library holds a license. This isn’t a totally new idea, the UCLA Library, under the direction of Dr. Sharon Farb, Associate University Librarian for Collection Management and Scholarly Communication has been running a project in this area for a short time, to great success.

This effort dovetails with other Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office initiatives, such as the Syllabus Service, which works directly with course reserves staff to ensure course reading materials, including digital resources are compliant with Canadian copyright provisions or U of T licensing agreements, and through securing additional licenses as necessary. These efforts are all part of a commitment to serving the research and teaching mission of this institution, and to helping provide the highest quality educational experience to our students at the fairest price.

Data collected through this pilot project will be analyzed for Spring 2015, and will include a feasibility study measuring whether the service could be expanded and implemented as a campus-wide program. The feasibility study will focus on the pilot project’s workflow, and the results of both a before-and -after cost analysis and a faculty questionnaire on resource selection practices.

160x160xcopyright-utl-logo160_0.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Zu4UzauKHVFor questions about these services, or for general inquiries about the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office, please don’t hesitate to contact us at

Contributing Author: University of Toronto Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office.


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