Exploring Recent OER Research and the Need to Address Experiences, Efficacy and Equity

7 replies
  1. GalleryP
    GalleryP says:

    Interesting piece, but I’m not sure I agree that additional funding is need since it will come – albeit indirectly – from students and taxpayers. Student Monitor reports that students spent, on average, $205 for course materials this fall. Seems to me the competitive marketplace is working well. This is a very small – and shrinking – piece of the costs of higher education.

    • Kevin Kelly
      Kevin Kelly says:

      Thanks for the comment, GalleryP! It’s true that costs are definitely lower when we consider book rentals, subscription-based materials, alternative sources, and of course OER. It should be noted, though, that not all surveys of students found the same low course material costs. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, especially for students at two-year institutions–who face higher rates of food insecurity and lower levels of support from their families.

      Re: The Student Monitor findings specifically, “The Student Monitor findings are the result of comprehensive, one-on-one, on-campus interviews with four-year, full-time undergraduates.” (https://newsroom.publishers.org/new-data-shows-continued-decline-in-student-spending–on-college-course-materials/) While Student Monitor works hard to interview students at different types of institutions in different US regions, a quarter of the students came from private schools with under 5000 students (https://www.studentmonitor.com/). I haven’t had time to review the full Student Monitor report, but I’d be interested to know if the lower costs also account for students just not purchasing textbooks for certain classes.

      Telling a different story, College Board still estimates books and supplies to cost a student between $1200 and $1400 for 2019-20 (https://research.collegeboard.org/trends/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-estimated-undergraduate-budgets-sector-2019-20). My own institution, SF State, found that almost 4 in 5 students polled are stressed by the cost of course materials (https://affordablelearning.sfsu.edu/student-perspective). All that is to say, things are getting better, but still there is work to do!

      • GalleryP
        GalleryP says:

        Kevin – Just to add to the conversation, I append a link to a blog post from Phil Hill, who’s sense of this is similar to mine, though he cites publicly available information from the National Association of College Stores, which is generally in line with the information from Student Monitor. He also explains why the College Board numbers are divorced from reality. I can’t seem to get this to hotlink, but here is the URL for Phil’s column: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Students-Are-Spending-Less-on/235340

      • Kevin Kelly
        Kevin Kelly says:

        Thank you for sharing your meta-analysis, Virginia! This is a great additional resource for people who read this post.
        – Kevin

  2. Steve Greenlaw
    Steve Greenlaw says:

    A couple of observations:
    1. Faculty at large still lack information about what OER and open textbooks specifically are like. Yes, that shows up in the survey data, but the lack of information creates a number of important incorrect understandings about OER.
    2. Adopting an open textbook requires no more effort than adopting a text from a traditional publisher.
    3. “Quality” does not necessarily mean what one thinks. In one session at OpenEd’19, several in the audience worried about the quality of OER, but when pressed indicated that what they meant by “lacking quality” really meant lacking ancillary materials like test banks, powerpoint slides, and instructor’s manuals. As we promote OER, it is imperative to point out that increasingly OER publishers are including those ancillaries as well.
    4. Finally, while I agree that comparing open textbooks & courseware to textbooks & courseware from traditional publishers is important, my experience has shown that context is all important. So in important ways, asking if OER is better or worse than traditional materials is a meaningless question. What matters is what works best in your context. I’ve been able to tailor the OER-based courseware I use in ways that, to date, are impossible with traditional publishers’ courseware despite what the sales reps may say.

    • Kevin Kelly
      Kevin Kelly says:

      HI Steve,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You are correct on all counts. I appreciate you adding nuance to the post. As I work with faculty to select course materials, it’s always a matter of what best serves students reaching the intended outcomes.
      Best wishes,

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