Sick and Tired of Textbook Affordability | NobleStream Sick and Tired of Textbook Affordability – NobleStream


Sick and Tired of Textbook Affordability

by Peter O'Reilly on September 16, 2016

Category: Equity of Access, Reducing Cost of Materials

Raise your hand if you hate the phrase textbook affordability. Keep it raised if you don’t want to hear anything else about the average amount students pay for textbooks. First of all, let’s address the fallacy of the “average cost of textbooks.” We all know students do not buy every book and we know that some faculty are attempting to find affordable alternatives. Some faculty, but not enough. On most campuses the only people that can influence the textbook affordability discussion are faculty. Administrators can try to champion the initiative but the buck stops at each faculty member’s door and each departmental meeting. The onus is on the department, not the institution, and definitely not the student.


For the last few years I have been on the frontlines of OER promotion, explaining to faculty that OER exists and then seeding those initial pilots where they begin to consider large-scale change. The change-agents, early-adopters, and courageous faculty that have been willing to share their time and expertise with my OER partners have provided feedback and guidance that has been invaluable. On the content front, the OER courseware and platform space would be years behind without the support of OpenStax and their 15+ free textbooks. Companies like Lrnr and panOpen approach the faculty and student experience a bit differently, but with new faculty signing up each week, we see a common mission to:

  • Increase access of course materials/reduce price points

  • Receive a better understanding of student engagement

  • Utilize learning analytics to inform early intervention

  • Regain control over the content offered to students

While there may be thousands of faculty members that have begun the process of reviewing OER for adoption, a generous estimate would be that 20% of those faculty will make the jump in the next 12 months. We in EdTech sales know that 20% is quite a success…but here are my recommendations to every department and committee out there who feels hesitant to revise a SINGLE course around OER:

  1. Assign a champion

    1. Don’t take no for an answer

  2. Seek out grants to help fund the additional time and work (my company is dispersing 10 grants of $1,000 each this year)

  3. Allow the champion to share her experience at least once per semester at departmental meetings

  4. Give other instructors additional incentives to make the change

  5. Be open to change

In the last year we’ve helped over 50 faculty members make this transition (after speaking with hundreds) and we know this is barely scratching the surface. Our cost savings has now surpassed $500,000 which is a minor and major success at the same time. If we can do that for 50 different classes, why can’t we do it for 5,000?

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