A new provincewide policy involving online course materials tripped up at least one university in Ontario, Canada, this fall. The University of Windsor is now refunding roughly $210,000 to 3,000 students who purchased access codes.
According to a report in The Windsor Star, the university inadvertently charged students for the codes, which enabled them to go online to complete assignments, quizzes, and/or exams required as part of their course grade. That’s a no-no, says the Ministry of Colleges, Training, and Universities.
As Assistant Deputy Minister Nancy Naylor explains in a July 2011 memo, the ministry’s new policy, which went into effect this fall, is that schools are responsible for picking up the cost of mandatory assignment and examination materials, including those in digital formats. The schools cannot charge students extra to access those materials if the students must fill them out for course credit. Most of the affected University of Windsor students, primarily in introductory courses, bought access codes bundled with a new textbook.
The university is trying to determine whether it can afford to cover the cost of those online assignments and tests from now on.
The ministry’s policy isn’t intended to prohibit universities from charging for other digital course materials.