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Guidelines for the Use of Online and Digital Resources

As endorsed by VPAC.

Approved by the Non-Tuition Protocol Committee, April 15, 2015​.


The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) regulates the ability of universities to charge compulsory ancillary fees, defined as those fees, other than tuition, which students are required to pay to enrol in, or successfully complete, any credit course. These guidelines address permissible online and digital learning resources for online and digital resources, and are separate from ancillary fee protocol agreements in effect between the university and its student government representatives.

The MAESD regulations now permit charging fees for online and digital learning materials, which may include assessment tools. However, digital resources do not replace the central role of instructors in teaching and assessing students, which should be covered by tuition.

In order to comply with ministry guidelines, and as a matter of good pedagogy and fairness to students, the following should be considered when using digital and online resources.​

Guidelines​ for the Use of Online and Digital Resources

Course-related digital learning materials can provide benefits to both students and instructors in terms of enhanced student engagement, achievement of learning outcomes, and a variety of assessment opportunities. Technology-enabled learning is recognized and encouraged at Wilfrid Laurier University for classroom-based, blended and online courses and programs in terms of digital content, online examinations and quizzes, electronic submission of assignments and reports, discussions groups, and so on.

Digital Learning Resources (Including Online or Downloaded Resources)

The MAESD's guidelines establish that where students are required to purchase third-party digital learning resources which become the property of the student and may include test/assessment tools, the use of such tools must not form a substantial part of the overall assessment.

Before implementing a digital learning resource, instructors should consider the following:

  • Instructors can require students to purchase access to third-party digital learning resources, including resources in e-textbooks, simulations and software for the duration of the course. The required resource should contribute to more than 10% of the overall grade of the course.
  • Where digital learning resources include assessment tools, instructors may use these tools to assess student performance provided their use does not form a substantial part of the overall assessment. Normally the proportion of the total course grade determined by such assessment tools should not exceed 25%. Values above 25% must be approved by the dean of the faculty (or designate) responsible for the course.
  • Students cannot be compelled to purchase a print textbook component. Where the digital learning resources have been bundled with a print textbook to which they might have access by others means (e.g. library or classmate's copy), an option to purchase access to the digital learning resources component alone must be supplied. For example, the following options must be available to students:
    • bundled print textbook with digital resources
    • bundled e-textbook with digital resources
    • standalone e-textbook
    • standalone digital learning resources
  • Instructors should endeavour to keep the costs of digital learning resources at a level that students can reasonably afford.
  • Instructors are highly encouraged to provide an alternate free assessment method for students for whom the cost of the digital resources would cause undue financial hardship.
  • All course online and digital resources must be made known to students prior to the start of the course. Whether such resource requirements are mandatory or optional must be identified on course syllabi.
  • No student may be compelled to purchase an online learning and assessment resource from their instructor, instructional assistant, or teaching assistant.
  • Laurier frequently enters into institution-wide agreements (i.e. 'enterprise' licenses) for the use of various technologies related to teaching and learning (e.g. learning management system, clicker technology, lecture capture). Before charging digital learning material fees associated with third party digital learning materials, instructors must demonstrate the absence of institutionally-supported systems, which provide increased support for set-up and resolution of difficulties and are more cost-effective for students. The Centre for Teaching Innovation and Excellence should be contacted to discuss the use of digital learning resources in the classroom or when implementing other new and alternate teaching and learning technologies. Information concerning Laurier's university-endorsed technologies is available on the Educational Technologies website. [Note: Instructors are reminded that they are not permitted to bind the university with respect to agreements or contracts with vendors or suppliers.]

Material Learning Resources (Tangible Resources that Become Property of the Student)

Students can be required to purchase learning materials and clothing retained by the student including:

  • A hardware-based clicker device such as the university-supported iClicker; and
  • Learning resources such as art supplies or laboratory equipment (e.g., lab coats, goggles, lab manuals) as long as those resources are retained by the student after completion of the course.

No student may be compelled to purchase a tangible resource from their instructor, instructional assistant, or teaching assistant.