By: Rebecca Day

NAITSA is asking students to sign a petition to support the accessibility of digital textbook alternatives. The petition began Jan. 7 with a goal of one thousand signatures.

NAITSA president Naomi Pela said this was a priority for the year.

“We’re gathering the voices of students to say that the price of textbooks is an important issue that we want addressed, and we want the government to do something about it,” said Pela.

Currently, publishing companies dictate the price of textbooks and are not subject to government regulation.

Pela explains that Open Educational Resources (OERs) are a better alternative to physical textbooks. OERs are educational materials that are freely accessible online to students and institutions through open licensing. This material could include full textbooks, quizzes and course modules.

The Government of Alberta helped finance OERs in the past, but discontinued funding in 2017. This is in contrast to British Columbia’s provincial government, which continues to supports their universities in obtaining OERs.

Canadian universities have found popularity in Twitter campaigns to raise awareness over the past few years, such as the #textbookbroke campaign. NAITSA chose a petition for the interactive element.

Pela said that this allows students to ask questions and provide feedback, while adding that personal element. “There’s no better way to raise awareness and get engagement than chatting with them face-to-face,” said Pela.

The petition can be found at the front desk in the NAITSA office, but there are plans to add an online option as well.

NAITSA Vice President External Karen Velasco explained their intention is to have the petition available online, but they wanted to meet people with a physical copy to have more of an impact.

While advocating to the government for funds is a crucial step towards a successful OER program, Velasco emphasized that instructor involvement is essential for the initiative to work in the classroom.

“We are planning to hold [information] sessions for instructors on what benefits they can get if they use OERs and build that awareness… Instructors are the ones who are creating and incorporating the OERs into their courses,” said Velasco.

Following the collection of signatures, the petition will be presented to the government to build a case for the funding of these alternative resources. NAITSA is hoping for an Advocacy Week, where they would have the opportunity to talk to MLAs and ministers.

Pela and Velasco are determined to bring this issue before parliament.

“[T]his is a cause that is very close to our heart and we want to help make a difference,” said Pela. “Any support from any students, we very much appreciate.”