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U of R zero-cost materials (ZCM) courses growing, increasing accessibility to education

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: August 9, 2021 5:00 a.m.

Open educational resources are one example of materials that can be used in zero-cost materials (ZCM courses) at the U of R.
Open educational resources are one example of materials that can be used in zero-cost materials (ZCM courses) at the U of R. Photo: "On open educational resources -- Beyond definitions" by opensourceway is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“As an international student doing my masters, I remember how difficult it was to afford textbooks and other resources,” recalls Dr. Muhammad Asadullah, who is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Justice Studies at the University of Regina. 

His personal experience with the financial struggle that many university students face motivated him to make education more accessible and affordable for his students at the University of Regina. 

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Dr. Muhammad Asadullah is an Associate
Professor in the Department of Justice Studies.
Photo: Submitted by Dr. Muhammad Asadullah

Last summer, the U of R started an initiative to create a list of zero-cost materials courses, also known as ZCM courses, to enhance education and accessibility to course materials – such as textbooks, workbooks, and other educational resources that are available to students free of charge and are easily accessible. Open educational resources are one example of materials that can be used in zero-cost materials courses at the U of R. 

“I saw this initiative and it really clicked for me that making high-quality resources available without cost is very important for our students, especially at this time,” says Asadullah. “I also look at zero-cost materials courses through a decolonial lens – how do we ensure that those who are marginalized and under-represented have access to resources. A lot of the time, that’s the key challenge.”

This Fall semester, Asadullah will be teaching JS 316 Mediation and Dispute Resolution, as a ZCM course, using a combination of peer-reviewed articles and his own materials that he’s developed through his research. 

“There are already 30 students registered for the class – so it’s full – and I have many students on the waiting list. So students are definitely interested in taking this course,” says Asadullah. 

Since the University’s ZCM initiative first started last year, the list of zero-cost materials courses has grown from nearly 77 courses in Fall 2020 semester to almost 90 courses for Fall 2021. And this number will keep growing over the summer as instructors identify their ZCM courses for inclusion in the list. 

Currently, prior to each semester, instructors are approached to identify if they are using zero-cost materials for their courses in order to be included and promoted on the University’s ZCM course listing. Many instructors and faculty members are getting on board with the initiative in a diverse range of disciplines from mathematics, engineering, and computer programming to biology, chemistry, history, and film. 

Ultimately, Asadullah’s goal is to take the concept of zero-cost materials one step further and create a full open access textbook on mediation and dispute resolution. 

For a full list of U of R courses offering zero-cost materials click here. 

To find out more about all U of R Fall and Winter semester courses offered click here.

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New U of R Zero-Cost Material courses offer accessible, affordable education