Can students be charged a fee for online or digital learning materials?

Asking students to pay money (other than tuition) to purchase, rent or license hardware or software in order to successfully complete any credit course is considered a Compulsory Ancillary Fee (CAF).

The provincial Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, within some guidelines, permits charging CAF for online and digital learning materials, including tools used for student assessment.

Western's Guidelines

1. First and foremost, students are not to be charged a CAF for a tool or resource that replaces the central role of an instructor in teaching and assessment.
2. If digital learning resources are bundled with a physical text, the student can't be compelled to purchase the text. An option should be provided to purchase access to the digital learning resource alone.
3. Instructors can use a digital learning resource for summative assessment purposes, provided the tool's use does not form a substantial (greater than 25% of a course grade) part of the overall assessment.
4. Instructors should endeavour to keep additional fees to a level affordable for students; options should be available for students unable to pay for the purchase of the digital learning resource.

Best practices

If a third-party digital learning resource is attached to course assessment, then a no-cost alternative should be provided to students which would allow them to demonstrate that they've achieved the same learning outcomes.

Source: Western University's Guidelines on the Use of Online and Digital Resources

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