Vancouver – An SFU and UBC alumnus has created the student network LocAZu to transform the way Canadians experience post-secondary education. First order of business: lower student debt.
The only network of its kind in Canada, LocAZu is the comprehensive resource for Canadian students. CEO of LocAZu and SFU and UBC alumnus, Dawn Sheirzad explains: “LocAZu puts everything in one place. It allows students from across the country to connect with one another by sharing study material and campus events, evaluating professors and courses, and trading textbooks.”
LocAZu was created in 2009 by a group of British Columbia post-secondary students who were concerned with rising student debt. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, Canadian student loan debt currently over $14 billion. According to a study released by Statistics Canada in 2010 titled “Study: The Financial Impact of Student Loans” the average Canadian student graduates $18,800 in debt. LocAZu’s goals are straightforward: lower student debt and empower students to change the Canadian post-secondary education system.
Sheirzad argues, “The Internet has given us so many tools to share with one another, yet the predominant post-secondary model is based on traditions from the 1700’s. University is about sharing knowledge and resources; not controlling.”
LocAZu’s solution? Bridge the gap and create change by encouraging students to share knowledge and connect to one another both within and across campuses. LocAZu was launched in 2009 at a few campuses around the lower mainland. At that time, it had only one module: textbook trading. Fast forward to 2012 and LocAZu is Canada’s largest student network. It is active at 72 campuses across the country and boasts over 350,000 total postings.
For Sheirzad, who has earned two B.A.’s from SFU and an MBA from UBC, it isn’t the continued growth of the company that is most fulfilling; it is the individual student success stories “LocAZu allows students to extend their personal and professional networks before they graduate. We give students the opportunity to get the most out of university. ”
She fondly recalls a University of Calgary Veterinary student connecting with a Veterinary student from the University of Prince Edward Island via a lecture note sharing. LocAZu provided the perfect forum to make the cross-country connection.
With five modules – textbook trading, study materials, event posting, professor evaluation, and course evaluation – students have plenty of opportunity to connect and share. Users are encouraged to participate through a points system. When a user shares, they earn A+ points which can be redeemed to download study materials or be traded for cash or gift cards. A top LocAZu user Andrew, an SFU student, has posted over 500 quality lecture notes which has earned him over 15,000 A+ points and $300 cash in just over one weekend.
Students can also trade books directly with each other to receive cash for used textbooks without paying commissions to a third party. Jason K. has sold 86 textbooks and made $5,660.
Some professors and academic institutions worry this kind of sharing could threaten academic integrity, particularly when it comes to lecture notes and study materials. However, LocAZu argues that the exchange of lecture notes and study material is a common student practice. LocAZu stresses that notes posted must be the sole property of the user, and there are consequences for policy violations.
Jenna, a fourth year Communications student from SFU, says, “Sharing notes and textbooks happens all the time. It’s really great to have one site that I can go to and connect with other students from across the country.”
At the rate LocAZu is growing, it has quickly established itself as the Canadian student network and is making Vancouverites proud as a local technology success story.