Are students #TextbookBroke?

Twitter feed of #textbookbrokeWith the rising costs of textbooks (3 times the rate of inflation or over 1000% since 1977), more students choose not to or are simply unable to purchase them. You are probably aware of this phenomenon from recent articles in the Chronicle, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, NBC, or from the hashtag #textbookbroke. Or maybe you, like me, hear new stories from students and colleagues every day this time of year… and again in January. The high cost of textbooks does affect our community. It is time to reconsider the traditional textbook.

Using Open Educational Resources (OER) is one alternative. OER are quality online learning materials (textbooks, videos, games, learning modules), often peer reviewed, that are available through an open license. OER are current, flexible, authoritative, accessible, and have even been shown to have a positive effect on student learning. Here is a great summary of the empirical research published on OER adoption.

To begin this conversation, I invite you to two events scheduled this semester. First, on October 7, Fairfield University is hosting a one-day conference on Open Educational Resources (OER). The workshop will be led by Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).  Additional presenters include Kevin Corcoran, Executive Director of the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC) and our own Karen Gonzalez Rice and Joe Schroeder.

Because we want to start exploring the possibilities of OER for our community, Information Services will provide support for up to ten faculty to attend this conference. If you are interested, contact Jessica McCullough. I just learned that the conference is filling up very quickly, if you are interested get in touch soon. (We promise you will be back on campus in time for the faculty meeting scheduled on the same day!)

The second event will take place here on Wednesday, November 11th from 10:30-11:30 in the Haines Room. Find more information and register in the IS events calendar.


2 thoughts on “Are students #TextbookBroke?

  1. Leo Garofalo September 12, 2015 / 7:18 pm

    Certainly textbooks can be expensive. That is a problem with for-profit publishers.

    Other academic books can be much more modestly priced. However, when purchased along with overpriced textbooks, these books–costing $18-30–can seem a burden to students. Yet, without producing a book that can be sold, how do we make sure that academic presses still publish and encourage the quality preparation of these valuable, in-depth studies, translations, original sources, testimonials, and other voices and materials that simply will not ever be included in textbooks or in OERs?

    Another important issue is the way we structure promotion largely based on scholarly publications at CC and other colleges and universities in the US. If we do away with academic publications with university presses or eliminate the market for peer-reviewed scholarship, how do scholars prove themselves?

    In the context of rising costs of higher education, I wonder if $500-800 in books a semester is somewhat of a distraction from the enormity of the more than $50,000 a year charged for the whole college experience? Perhaps colleges and universities should consider more ways to make higher education less of a luxury experience and more of one focused just on learning. For example, trimming more costly frills that some students and parents now expect as part of their class privilege. There is so much waste that we could eliminate if we did more things or produced things ourselves or simple did without.

    The only real solution for the cost of higher education is for free universal higher ed. The US needs to join the rest of the industrialized world, and much of the rest of the world. The US could choose–as so many other countries have–to use part of our enormous national wealth to pay for most of higher education. This would make higher ed more affordable to all and less of a drag on the economy (students and families will have less debt, and employers will not have to pay wages high enough for students to pay back those loans from their salaries. Most importantly, the true productive capacity of the population could then be cultivated in school and later tapped in the workforce when all who merit it could go to school–and the best schools–regardless of class background).

    OERs need to be considered in light of all of these issues.

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