How to Get Involved in the Zero Textbook Cost Program

The Zero Textbook Cost pilot program aims to improve equitable student access to learning materials.


The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have shined a spotlight on student access to course materials. Throughout the past 20 months, campuses across the country have experienced periods when access to physical course materials had to be limited because of the pandemic. Access to course textbooks as library-licensed ebooks is based on “how publishers decide whether or not, and how, their books exist as ebooks”. 

The Students’ Union and the Registrar's Office have recently implemented a label in Beartracks that helps students easily identify the costs of textbooks for that course. A course that has the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) label is one where materials are free for students to access instead of paid resources. Free access can be facilitated by using materials available to students through the University of Alberta Library or Open Educational Resources (OER). These efforts are a significant step in improving student access to teaching and learning materials. In Fall 2020, the first term of this pilot program, the Registrar’s Office and Students’ Union received responses from over 500 instructors identifying their course as ZTC.

In addition to making textbook costs more transparent to students, ZTC also recognizes instructors' efforts to reduce costs for their students. National and international strategic efforts to reduce material costs in high enrolment courses through Open Educational Resources means there is a growing amount of free open materials for instructors who choose to remove paid resources. Our university is already a provincial leader by establishing a free OER publishing service for instructors to publish open textbooks. By using zero-cost learning materials and quality OER we allow students to have equitable access to the materials they need to learn. 

How to get involved

Register for a webinette with Krysta on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 to learn more about why and how to identify your course as ZTC.

To find existing ZTC resources there are many options for course materials provided through the University of Alberta Library: 

  • Consider selecting an openly licensed, quality textbook. UA Library staff can help you identify suitable open textbooks for your courses that you can modify to better meet your course needs by adding your own custom examples or problems, or by changing the order of chapters to align with your course delivery.
  • The Library has an extensive collection of ebooks, online reference sources, and journal articles that can be accessed, free of charge, for all members of the UA community. We can help you locate suitable materials or e-versions of texts we already own.
  • If UA Library does not currently own an ebook version of a required textbook, we can investigate purchasing an ebook version for our collection. 

Contact your subject librarian or to get started. 

To explore ways in which open and online resources can be used to enhance teaching and learning, check out the CTL Open Pedagogy Community of Practice or contact CTL at for a consultation with an educational developer. 

Finally, if you are teaching courses with zero textbook costs in Winter 2022, please complete this Google Form

Michelle Brailey is the Digital Initiatives Projects Librarian for University Library. Krysta McNutt is the Open Education Lead for the Centre for Teaching and Learning.