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This month I’ve had the opportunity to return to a difficult, but necessary, topic of discussion as OUSA launched our #TextBookBroke campaign. The price of textbooks, and the financial burden, stress, and barrier to access expensive course materials places on students, is a persistent issue for those attending post-secondary institutions in Ontario. OUSA’s campaign shed light on this, and also encouraged the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in Ontario as a way to combat these issues.
With the release of our #TextbookBroke campaign we’ve seen stories from students all across Ontario on how the cost of textbooks are greatly affecting their educational experiences. The stories have been centered on the costs of textbooks and how students could have spent their textbook money on essentials such as groceries and rent. I’m going to focus on something a little different and try and bring to light OTHER ways Open Educational Resources (OERs) can help students succeed.
Last week OUSA launched our #TextbookBroke campaign and the uptake on social media has been phenomenal. Students have been sharing their struggles with the high cost of course materials and explaining what they could have spent that money on instead, including rent and groceries. Reading the tweets and messages from students across the province has led me to reflect on my undergraduate experience, and to think about the impact that Open Educational Resources (OERs) could have had on me during my university studies.
Welcome to 2018!
We hit the ground running this term with the #TextbookBroke campaign. With some inspiration from our friends in British Columbia and Alberta, we are running this campaign to increase awareness about the burdensome cost of learning resources, and the alternatives available, such as open textbooks! Earlier this year, eCampusOntario launched an Open Textbook Library, housing over 200 open resources for instructors to adopt and adapt. Through initiatives such as tweeting out receipts and writing letters to faculty, students are making instructors aware of these resources.
Hello there! My name is Martyna Siekanowicz and I’m super excited to be joining OUSA’s Home Office team as the newest Research and Policy Analyst.
I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto where my plans to major in English Literature quickly fell through as I became more interested in political issues, public policy, and political theory, ultimately completing my degree in Political Science. After some time off I decided to head back to university to complete my Master’s degree in Political Science at McMaster University. At McMaster I continued to build on my interests and knowledge in public policy, theory, and politics more broadly. It was also at McMaster where I had the opportunity to become more involved in student issues as well as to further explore post-secondary education in Ontario, which led me to OUSA and the amazing policy and advocacy work the organization has been doing over the years.
Every year, some 55,000 students make transfers between post-secondary institutions within Ontario (ONCAT Annual Report 2016-17). Some students decide to transfer mid-degree to enter specific programs with courses they could not take elsewhere. Others may transfer for a variety of reasons, whether it be to make university more affordable, to be closer to family, or to improve the student’s mental health. The choice to transfer institutions is one made with the student’s academic and personal best interests in mind, and oftentimes the student has little to no control over the circumstances driving their decision.
It is with a heavy heart that I write my exit blog. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and that adage has never been truer for me than in my time with this stellar organization.
What initially drew me towards OUSA was its student-driven nature and fantastic team of home office staff and steering committee members. I have always believed that students should be at the forefront of higher education policy, and it’s been inspiring to be part of an organization that emulates that principle so well. Although I came to OUSA with higher education policy experience, I learned more about it in my time here than I could have ever imagined.
If you’re a student at one of our member schools, you will have already heard from us in November since we launched the Ontario Post-Secondary Student Survey. If you haven’t filled it out already, please do! The data we collect helps us write better recommendations for government (and there’s a chance for you to win a prize!). You can find your university’s unique survey link here.
This past spring, the Ontario government announced a new Career Kick-Start Strategy aimed at helping secondary and post-secondary students develop real work-related experience to use on a resume after they leave their educational institution. In the post-secondary realm, the Career Ready Fund has been created to assist universities and colleges in creating career-oriented learning experiences and related supports for students and recent graduates. This, of course, is a good thing. But what does this plan mean for students who might have an interest in pursuing further education and research? The federal government has made their commitment to strengthening scientific research in Canada quite clear. By commissioning the Fundamental Science Review and appointing a Chief Science Officer, we can be hopeful that the government will continue to invest and fund future research, which means funding students who wish to take this path. However, how do we encourage students to pursue this field? If Canada wants to be a strong leader in the scientific research, we need to make sure we’re supporting the researchers of tomorrow in their undergraduate careers in order to get them there.
Campaigns to promote mental health and wellness are ubiquitous on university campuses in today’s day and age. Mental health of post-secondary students is an incredibly important issue with no shortage of advocates. However, these conversations stem around “raising awareness,” “smashing the stigma,” or “increasing resources (through more funding)” through services, without discussing accessibility issues to mental healthcare that, if addressed, could simultaneously address all three of these goals.