Are SFU students #textbookbroke?

There are serious efforts to keep from being a reality for students.

What would you do with a couple extra hundred dollars a semester? A pipe dream for most students, it’s a question the Simon Fraser Society is starting to throw out there with the interest of helping students save a bit more money.

During the first few weeks of school, SFU students scavenge to find a copy of their required course materials, only to be met with the heartbreaking realization that the class has upgraded to the newest, shiniest, and most expensive version of the textbook.

The #textbookbroke campaign has found a home at SFU after popping up across various post-secondary institutions, and is being championed by the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS). Students across campus are being asked how much they’ve spent on textbooks in a campaign to petition for the use of Open Educational Resources at SFU by demonstrating the amount it truly costs to purchase mandatory course materials.

Hundreds of tweets displaying the hashtag #textbookbroke show students in schools across the country and even beyond Canada demonstrating their support for the movement for open source textbooks. Various university and college student societies are asking students to join and pledge their support, while also including how much they’ve spent on textbooks. Some of the images posted on the SFSS Facebook page show how much students are really spending, ranging from $12 to $780.

The movement took up their fight across the hall from the SFU Burnaby bookstore at the start of this semester, encouraging students to leave post it notes with their stories for all to see.

Said one arts student, “I could’ve bought groceries for the whole month with the $300 I spent on textbooks, and that amount is almost half of my rent for the month.”

Another note left by a sciences student read, “[If I didn’t have to pay for textbooks] I would feel a lot more freedom to take classes with extra costs or where I need extra supplies.”

Open Educational Resources are “freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.” The goal is ultimately to offer students affordable and accessible educational resources that don’t break the bank.

VP University Relations Brady Yano explained that the provincial government has in the last year invested in 40 educational resources that could be used for “up to 40 undergraduate first- and second-year courses at postsecondary institutions.”

Said Yano, “The number has now grown to 150. If adoption [of these resources] took place in larger first- and second-year courses it could save them up to $100,000.”

Yano went on to say, “over the past two weeks the student society has been tabling outside of the bookstore educating students on the availability of these [open education] resources, and we started a photo contest on the SFSS Facebook, and whoever got the most likes will get their textbooks paid for by the SFSS, in this case saving the student $410 and hopefully generating more buzz and support for this campaign.”

In addition, the Library and the Teaching and Learning Centre will fund three grants of $5,000 to incentivize faculty to use open educational resources.

For more information on how you can get involved, sign your pledge at sfss.ca/OER, search the hashtag on Twitter, or contact VP University Relations Brady Yano.

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