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Friday, August 3, 2012

Open-Access Deal a First for Canada Campuses

Here and there across the U.S., colleges and universities are trying out open-access course materials, often cautiously as part of structured pilots. Now Canadian schools are starting to join them. Recently the University of Windsor in Ontario became the first to sign a licensing agreement for open digital materials for a fall course in management information systems.

In its press announcement of the deal, the school touted the cost savings to students. The local paper, the Windsor Star, also beat the same drum, starting off its report, “There’s a lot to hate about traditional textbooks…”

Students will pay $20 for e-books and study aids that can be downloaded to a computer, laptop, smartphone, e-reader, or tablet. The materials are being provided through Flat World Knowledge. About 200 students are expected to take part in this initial pilot.

If that goes well, the university plans to add more courses for the second term and then expand depending on how quickly faculty are willing to adopt Flat World titles. There may be somewhat more pressure on them to do so than at other institutions, given that Windsor’s tagline is “Thinking forward.”

The University of Windsor Bookstore already sells e-books and furnishes online assistance with e-reader apps as part of an array of textbook services that includes rentals, used books, and an RSS feed to provide textbook updates. The store is also one of a handful of campus stores offering print-on-demand through an in-store Espresso book-printing machine.

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