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Directives on the use of Digital Learning Resources for Assessment Purposes

Classification number ACD 1599.07
Parent policy Academic Staff Responsibilities with Regard to Students
Framework category Academic
Approving authority Academic Council
Policy owner Vice-President, Academic and Provost
Approval date June 25, 2019
Review date March 2026
Last updated Substantive Amendment March 23, 2023, Editorial Amendments, February 18, 2020


The University recognizes the ongoing emergence of new learning materials and methodologies that may support pedagogical practice and enhance teaching and learning. Digital Learning Resources (DLRs) provide an alternative to physical textbooks and may include bundled Digital Assessment Tools (DATs) used for self-assessment and/or to contribute to a course mark. DATs may also be standalone in nature. The University recognizes that these resources may come with additional costs that may be onerous for some students.

To provide direction on the use of those DLRs for which there is a charge in accordance with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities Tuition Fee Framework and Ancillary Fee Guidelines for Publicly-Assisted Universities 2013-2014 to 2016-2017.


For the purposes of these Procedures the following definitions apply:

“Digital Learning Resource (DLR)” means digital materials (e.g. online applications, online textbooks, or other online course materials) as well as associated devices (e.g. clickers) that would aid or facilitate instruction, learning, and assessment.

“Digital Assessment Tools (DAT)” means a standalone or bundled portion of a DLR which is used for assessment purposes.

“Ministry” means the Province of Ontario's Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

Scope and authority

These Directives apply to DLRs, DLR-embedded DATs, and standalone DATs and their use for instruction, learning, and assessment purposes in credit courses and programs at the University.

DLRs and DATs approved through the ancillary fee process are exempt from these Directives.

The Provost, or successor thereof, is responsible for overseeing the implementation, administration and interpretation of these Directives.


Under certain conditions, the Ministry permits Ontario universities to ask students to purchase DLRs. DLRs can include access to online learning resources or databases. DATs can include simulation tools, online quizzes and online exercises. DATs may or may not be embedded within DLRs.

Note: In establishing these Directives, the University acknowledges that it is the responsibility of instructors to determine what resources are most appropriate in supporting students’ learning.

  1.  In all cases, instructors are strongly encouraged to consider the affordability of DLRs and DATs for students. Instructors should first reach out to the University's Teaching and Learning Centre and/or Library to discuss DLR and DAT alternatives and seek cost-effective measures already provided at the institution prior to determining if they may need to ask students to purchase a DLR or DAT for assessment purposes.
  2. When such DLR and DAT alternatives are not available or appropriate, the instructor may ask students to purchase DLRs and their associated DATs provided the following conditions are fulfilled:
    1. Instructors may require students to purchase physical and/or digital textbooks that have bundled software or online access to additional learning resources, provided students have options to purchase the bundled components separately. Students shall not be required to purchase DLRs to obtain the assessment component of the materials.
    2. When selecting a DLR or DAT, instructors should ensure that the resource meets the requirements and guidelines of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Province of Ontario's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). For guidance or help on whether a DLR or DAT is compliant, instructors should contact the Teaching and Learning Center.
    3. Instructors may assign up to a maximum of 20% of their students’ overall grade in a course to assessment activities embedded as DATs within purchased DLRs or purchased standalone DATs.
    4. In exceptional circumstances, the Dean may approve written requests for the use of DLR-embedded and/or standalone DATs for mandatory assessments that have a higher grade value.
    5. Where an exception is made to the maximum 20% assessment amount, the instructor must provide a no-fee alternative to assessment activities upon request. 
    6. The maximum cost permitted per each one-term course for the DAT portion of a purchased DLR will be $65 (before taxes). Instructors may request an exception to the maximum amount with the Dean. Such a request must be made and approved in writing.
    7. General bursaries are available through Student Awards and Financial Aid located in the Registrar's Office to assist students in need.
    8. Instructors will communicate details concerning the use of DLRs and standalone or embedded DATs clearly in their course syllabus. These outlines are submitted to the Dean’s office. Course syllabi will indicate, where relevant:
      • The DLRs (required or optional), including explicit identification of the embedded DAT/assessment tools;
      • The weight of the total course grade associated with the use of DATs;
      • The details on how to obtain these DLR and DAT materials, and;
      • The details on the no-fee alternatives (if applicable) and how to obtain them.

Deans must report their faculty's use of DLRs, DLR-embedded DATs, and/or standalone DATs, or declare no use of the same, to the Office of the Provost prior to the beginning of each academic term or no later than:

  • September 15 Fall Term
  • January 15 Winter Term
  • May 15 Spring Term
  • July 15 Summer Term

The report must include the following: term, course code, cost, DLR/DAT name and where applicable, whether the DLR and DAT are bundled, and assessment weight for DATs. The purpose of this reporting is to gather data that will help the University to review and revise this policy as necessary.

Based on the information received, the Office of the Provost shall prepare and make available an annual report on each faculty’s use of DLRs and DATs on an annual basis, from September 1 through August 31 of each academic year.

Monitoring and review

These Directives will be reviewed at least every three years unless the Ministry’s Tuition Fee Framework and Ancillary Fee Guidelines is reviewed and updated before then. The Provost, or successor thereof, is responsible to monitor and review these Directives.

Relevant legislation

Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, Tuition Fee Framework and Ancillary Fee Guidelines for Publicly Assisted Universities.

Related policies, procedures & documents

Academic Staff Responsibilities with Regard to Students (ADM 1599.02)