U of T students can now be required to buy electronic and digital learning materials, such as iClickers, under the new Provostial Guidelines on the Use of Digital Learning Materials for the 2014–2015 academic year. The purchase of these materials was previously not mandatory.
The iClicker, a personal response system commonly used in large classes to engage students in class quizzes and to gauge attendance, costs upwards of $40.
Abdullah Shihipar, Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU) president, took issue with the university’s decision. “While the cost of things like iClickers are marginal for some and do add to the learning experience, the cost of delivering a high quality of education should lie with the university — not students who have already paid tuition fees to begin with,” said Shihipar.
The previous provostial guidelines stipulated that “all of the costs associated with student participation in a course are expected to be funded through tuition revenue and the University’s provincial operating grant.”
The new provostial guidelines come in response to a December 2013 revision to the Tuition Fee Framework and Ancillary Fee Guidelines for Publicly-Assisted Universities by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. This revision allows for a number of learning materials, including art supplies, lab coats, and online manuals, to be conditionally exempt from the Memorandum of Agreement between the University of Toronto and student governments regarding the increase or introduction of compulsory non-tuition-related fees.
The new guidelines also outline the processes to control non-tuition costs to students. “The University will continue to investigate the use of open-source assessment tools and engage in discussions with publishers to obtain the best options for our students. Additionally, the University will investigate the suitability of reduced cost options for textbooks such as open source and/or commercially available e-textbooks,” a statement from the document reads.
All provostial guidelines are reviewed annually in the late spring or early summer.