Indiana University Bloomington undergraduate students are estimated to pay $1,034 for course materials each academic year. Said another way, students must work 142 hours at a minimum wage job to purchase their course materials each year. Thus, high course material costs directly impact first generation, food-insecure, and low-income students and their ability to do well in class.
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A national survey of over 2,000 students found that if students cannot afford course materials, 65% of them will avoid renting or buying texts even though they know it may possibly impact their overall success in a course. Almost half of the students surveyed said that the cost of textbooks also “impacted how many/ which classes they took each semester,” potentially affecting student course loads and degree progression (pg. 5).
Affordable and open course materials offer a potential solution to this issue. Affordable course materials are offered to students at a reduced price, often at a fraction of what they would normally pay. IU’s eText program has helped IU instructors integrate affordable course material into their classrooms since 2010. Students play a reduced, flat fee for their eTexts and they are guaranteed access on the first day of the semester, increasing engagement for the entire class. Students retain access to eTexts throughout their time as an IU student.
Similarly, Open Educational Resources (OER) are course materials that are shared under an intellectual property license that explicitly allows others to use and revise them freely. Examples of OER include textbooks, videos, activities, syllabi, and lectures shared under a Creative Commons license. In addition to cost savings, OER have been connected to student retention and completion. A study at Virginia State University found that students who took courses that utilized OER “tended to have higher grades and lower failing and withdrawal rates.” Thus, affordable and open course materials save students money while also helping instructors improve learning outcomes.
Still, many faculty do not know how to find, evaluate, or create affordable and open course material. The Office of Scholarly Publishing and UITS have partnered to hold a day-long Driving Student Success through Affordable Course Material Symposium on March 8, which will explore the connection between course material costs and student success, progression, and retention. The symposium will feature three experts on affordable course material from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Steel Wagstaff (Educational Technology Consultant), Kris Olds (Professor of Geography), and Carrie Nelson (Librarian and Director of Scholarly Communication) will share their experience locating, creating, assessing, and integrating OER and affordable course material into courses in several disciplines.
Morning workshops will explore tools and repositories for finding and creating affordable course materials firsthand. The afternoon panel will provide an overview of current initiatives at IU and UW-Madison and address how course material costs impact students in more depth. The day will conclude with an informal reception, where attendees can meet one-on-one with IU experts to get started on adopting or creating affordable course material in their own courses.
All IU Bloomington instructors interested in course material creation, new forms of pedagogy, and tools for finding and evaluating affordable/ open content are welcome! Space is limited and registration is required by February 16, as lunch is provided.
Instructors interested in working with the Office of Scholarly Publishing to find or create either OER or eTexts can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.