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UCalgary students’ union wants learning resource help to ease education cost

The Students’ Union at the University of Calgary (SUUC) is asking for institutional and government support for Open Educational Resources (OER) to help with the rising cost of schooling.

According to SUUC vice president of academics, Shaziah Jinnah Morsette, U of C students are paying at least 25 per cent more in tuition than they did in 2019. There’s no corresponding increase in education quality,” Morsette said.

“Students aren’t just broke, they’re at a breaking point,” said Morsette.

“Tuition, fees, books, and rent have all increased at rates well above inflation for the last three years.”

The Students Union quoted 2018 a MacLean’s article showed that the average student pays $773 for books each year.

Morsette said the current inflation crisis has compounded it even more. Government and university help is needed.

“One way they can do that is to support, encourage, and fund Open Educational Resources (OER),” said Morsette.

What is Open Educational Resource?

Open Educational Resource (OER) is any type of teaching, learning or research resource from textbooks to presentations to videos that are free and openly available through an open copyright license such as Creative Commons. They can also be available through the public domain.

OER and can be repurposed, reshared and utilized at no cost. It’s up to date as well, making it a valuable resource for students and faculty alike.

According to Morsette, the university’s student union has already taken a step to making OER a reality at UCalgary.

Morsette said U of C students are fortunate there’s a permanent library position for open educational resources. It’s been essential in creating a $500,000 investment from the student union last year into the creation of at least 50 OER’s over the next five years.

“Together we’ve been able to work towards increasing the amount of Open Educational Resources use on campus by providing information and guides and tools for accessing open educational resources on the student end and also for professors and faculty to start integrating it into their personal lines and other educational resources that they would have been assigning that are costly to students,” she said.

“Not just for one semester, but consistently semester after semester.”

Province supports further OER development

In a statement to LiveWire Calgary, the minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, said the province’s Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs Strategy is supportive of expanding Open Education Resources.

“We’re open to working with Alberta’s post-secondary institutions to determine the best ways to support developing these tools for students,” said Nicolaides.

Nicolaides also said the provincial government will continue making investments so that Alberta’s post-secondary students are able to access financial aid and assistance to support their studies.

“Budget 2022-23 makes $167 million available to students in financial assistance, including $54.4 million for the Alberta Student Grant, $12 million for new scholarships and $15 million for the New Beginnings Bursary,” said Nicolaides.

Announced in June, the New Beginnings Bursary will provide 1,000 bursaries valued at $5,000 each year for three years. It will help low-income students study in high demand fields such as energy, technology, aerospace and aviation, finance and financial technology.