Freeing the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2018

Key findings from the report include: • Faculty awareness of OER has increased every year, with 46 percent of faculty now aware of open educational resources, up from 34 percent three years ago. • For the first time, more faculty express a preference for digital material over print in the classroom. 61 percent of all faculty, 71 percent of those teaching large enrollment introductory courses, and 73 percent of department chairpersons, “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that “the cost of course materials is a serious problem for my students.” • Department chairpersons overwhelmingly believe that making textbooks less expensive for students would be the most important improvement to course materials. • Less than one-in-five faculty members are aware of any departmental-, institution-, or system-level initiative to deal with the cost of course materials. • Faculty are acting independently to control costs by supporting used textbooks and rental programs, placing copies on reserve, and selecting materials based on cost. • Overall faculty satisfaction with required textbooks is high, with over 80 percent either “Extremely Satisfied” or “Moderately Satisfied.” That said, faculty express considerable resentment about price, unnecessary frequent updates, and other issues with commercial textbooks. • Faculty often make changes to their textbooks, presenting material in a different order (70 percent), skipping sections (68 percent), replacing content with their own (45 percent), replacing with content from others (41 percent), correcting errors (21 percent), or revising textbook material (20 percent)….”

Freeing the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2018

Key findings from the report include: • Faculty awareness of OER has increased every year, with 46 percent of faculty now aware of open educational resources, up from 34 percent three years ago. • For the first time, more faculty express a preference for digital material over print in the classroom. 61 percent of all faculty, 71 percent of those teaching large enrollment introductory courses, and 73 percent of department chairpersons, “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that “the cost of course materials is a serious problem for my students.” • Department chairpersons overwhelmingly believe that making textbooks less expensive for students would be the most important improvement to course materials. • Less than one-in-five faculty members are aware of any departmental-, institution-, or system-level initiative to deal with the cost of course materials. • Faculty are acting independently to control costs by supporting used textbooks and rental programs, placing copies on reserve, and selecting materials based on cost. • Overall faculty satisfaction with required textbooks is high, with over 80 percent either “Extremely Satisfied” or “Moderately Satisfied.” That said, faculty express considerable resentment about price, unnecessary frequent updates, and other issues with commercial textbooks. • Faculty often make changes to their textbooks, presenting material in a different order (70 percent), skipping sections (68 percent), replacing content with their own (45 percent), replacing with content from others (41 percent), correcting errors (21 percent), or revising textbook material (20 percent)….”

Textbooks are pricey. So students are getting creative. – The Washington Post

“George Mason and hundreds of campuses throughout the country — including American University and the University of Maryland — are slowly adopting open educational resources, materials that are written by academics for the public domain and available at no cost to students and professors.

Max Paul Friedman, a history professor at American, started using open-source textbooks five years ago. Before that, he had been assigning a textbook that cost about $100.

“For some time, I’d been concerned about the high price of textbooks. All of our students are struggling,” Friedman said. “For generations, textbook publishers have enjoyed captive markets of students who don’t have a choice when it comes to what they have to pay for and who have paid fairly high, if not inflated, prices for books.” …

Nearly a quarter of educators who taught introductory courses during the 2017-2018 school year required students to use open-source textbooks, up from 15 percent the year before, according to data from the Babson Survey Research Group….”

Textbooks are pricey. So students are getting creative. – The Washington Post

“George Mason and hundreds of campuses throughout the country — including American University and the University of Maryland — are slowly adopting open educational resources, materials that are written by academics for the public domain and available at no cost to students and professors.

Max Paul Friedman, a history professor at American, started using open-source textbooks five years ago. Before that, he had been assigning a textbook that cost about $100.

“For some time, I’d been concerned about the high price of textbooks. All of our students are struggling,” Friedman said. “For generations, textbook publishers have enjoyed captive markets of students who don’t have a choice when it comes to what they have to pay for and who have paid fairly high, if not inflated, prices for books.” …

Nearly a quarter of educators who taught introductory courses during the 2017-2018 school year required students to use open-source textbooks, up from 15 percent the year before, according to data from the Babson Survey Research Group….”

Students call for open access to publicly funded research | U.S. PIRG

“On behalf of the U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) and the Student PIRGs, nonpartisan organizations representing more than 83,000 citizen members and 600,000 college students nationwide, we write to express our strong support for updating U.S. federal policy to make the results of taxpayer-funded research immediately available for the public to freely access and fully use. 

The U.S. government spends tens of billions of dollars annually on scientific research. As taxpayers, we invest in this research because advancing scientific progress benefits our economy, our quality of life, and our global competitiveness. However, under current policy, this research is often locked behind paywalls where most American taxpayers—including college students and our professors—cannot access it for at least a year after it is published.

Ensuring immediate access to the latest, cutting-edge research provides critical knowledge that we as students should be able to learn while and school and continue to access throughout our careers. Our education should be based on the latest, groundbreaking information and we should get access right away, not just when our campus can afford a journal subscription or after an embargo period expires. Making federally-funded research openly available to everyone—along with the data needed to validate the conclusions and any corresponding computer code—will significantly expand our access to the resources necessary for a complete, up-to-date education….”

Saskatchewan Government Investment Saves Students Money | News and Media | Government of Saskatchewan

“The Government of Saskatchewan is providing a quarter of a million dollars to save students money on their textbook purchases.

The innovative approach supports professors and instructors at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina to develop open textbooks and other open educational resources for students.  The initiative is expected to save current and future students at least $6.4 million with the resources developed so far….”

OASPA Webinar: PhD students take on openness and academic culture – webinar key takeaways – OASPA

“Following on from this week’s webinar entitled PhD students take on openness and academic culture, we asked our speakers to summarise their talks by offering a few key takeaways, which you can find below. This may be useful for those who missed it or wish to share with colleagues. You can also access the full audio recording.

We have also asked speakers to respond to the questions that were posed by attendees via the webinar chat.  Those questions and answers will be posted directly under the takeaways in a short while….”

AAP: US Student Spending on College Materials Down 23 Percent in Fall

“Charting a five-year downturn in US college students’ average spend on course materials, the Association of American Publishers reports an autumn-semester drop of 23 percent….”

And the issue of course content costs for students as an ethical dilemma was brought into focus on Wednesday (December 11) with the publication at The New York Times of Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu’s opinion piece “How Professors Help Rip Off Students.” Wu’s piece examines what he calls “the professional ethics of allowing a book to be sold at exploitative prices to young people.” …

Asserting that instructors should at least survey “what’s out there” as an alternative to expensive traditional options, Wu lists several potential alternatives, writing, “The Rice University-based nonprofit OpenSTAX has spent years developing high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free or cheap for more than 20 of the most popular college subjects. MIT has an impressive collection of free online textbooks, and there are others. The publisher Cengage has been experimenting with a Netflix-style subscription model.” …”

Opinion | How Professors Help Rip Off Students – The New York Times

“…For professors the path of least resistance is just to keep assigning the same book, in its latest edition. When prices were reasonable, that was a fine practice, but it is increasingly indefensible. There is sometimes substantial variation among textbook prices, and also books with stronger rental and used markets. In addition, important progress has been made by groups trying to create high quality alternatives. The Rice University-based nonprofit OpenSTAX has spent years developing high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free or cheap for more than 20 of the most popular college subjects. M.I.T. has an impressive collection of free online textbooks, and there are others. The publisher Cengage has been experimenting with a Netflix-style subscription model. At a minimum, instructors should at least take a look at what’s out there….”