In a survey conducted at the end of Fall 2022 by Clovis Community College where 339 students responded, nearly 50% of students indicated they were moderately to extremely worried about meeting course material costs for the year. 31% of students said they have had to choose between buying textbooks and buying essentials. Nearly half of students indicated they avoided taking a full load because of textbook costs. Only around 33% of students can afford their textbooks at the beginning of the semester and nearly 13% indicated they were not able to afford all of their textbooks at any point in the semester. In free responses, students talk about having to borrow money, choosing to drop classes with expensive books, and choosing between paying bills and buying books.
Students are telling us that textbook costs are hurting their wallets and their progress towards degrees and careers. Meanwhile, of 185 students who indicated they had had a class with a free textbook, about 93% said the quality was the same or better than a regular textbook and 50% said they would prefer taking a class with OER over a class with a traditional textbook. Students indicated this reduced their worries in their free responses.
OER and making classes Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) can greatly benefit our students, reduce worry surrounding college costs, and help ensure students stay on track to finish on their timeline.
A multi-institutional study has shown that classes that employ OER have lower drop and withdrawal rates than those using traditional, costly, textbooks keeping students on track to graduate. An additional more recent study confirms this and also found that end-of-course grades trend higher, particularly for Pell grant recipients, part-time students, and other historically marginalized populations. A case study from 2018 found that while students did marginally better in the class using an OER text, more students withdrew from the course that used the commercial textbook.
Textbook prices continue to rise at a significant rate over tuition and fees and more than four times faster than inflation. Open Educational Resources are free of cost. By choosing to use OER in your classes, you help reduce the costs associated with attending college and help make higher education more attainable to those who cannot afford it.
Are you interested in seeing more research about the effectiveness and impact of using OER? The Open Ed Group's Review Project has complied and extensive list of research.
You can also click the link below to access the EBSCOhost databases to continue your research. Databases such as Academic Search Ultimate, ERIC, and Library, Information Science, & Technology Abstracts with Full Text are excellent databases for research on OER. Some suggested search strings include:
(OER OR "open educational resources") AND ("student success" OR "academic success")
(OER OR "open educational resources") AND diversity
(OER OR "open educational resources") AND textbook cost
For more information on using EBSCOhost for research, please visit our EBSCOhost Research Guide.
Textbooks in many fields from academic publishers have been found to lack the true diversity of our student population. With OER, some authors have taken the opportunity to include more diverse narratives. One case study using the OpenStax Psychology textbook found that first-generation students felt a greater sense of belonging than when reviewing a chapter of a book prior to the diversification of the same chapter.
One of the advantages with OER is that if you find a book you want to use that you feel needs improved inclusion, you are not restricted from making changes to included more diverse narratives or photos and videos that showcase historically marginalized communities.
There's a prevailing myth that OER does not provide quality education. While some OER may not be as shiny-looking as what is available from commercial textbooks, there are quality OER materials out there and more being produced all of the time through repositories and initiatives like ASCCC's OER Initiative. Some repositories require authors to have a minimum number of years' teaching experience before signing on to author a book (OpenStax, for example), and many require the books to go through a peer review process (OpenStax, BCcampus). You can also post reviews on several repositories such as the Open Textbook Library.
Remember while anyone can write and self-publish a book, not everyone will. Those writing and producing OER are your colleagues and also experts in the field and they may have decided they wanted a textbook tailored to how they teach their class, or they want to ensure students are not spending their financial aid on textbooks.