Majority of students don’t buy textbook because of cost

Well, maybe it’s not surprising news that many students don’t buy all their required textbooks, but I was surprised by the high percentage reported in this survey conducted by the PIRG:

For the report, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market,” more than 2,000 students at 156 college campuses in 33 states were surveyed during the fall of 2013. Sixty-five percent of the students said they were not buying all of their required textbooks because of the books’ cost, and 94 percent of those who didn’t buy the books reported being concerned about how that would affect their grades.

Again, maybe this isn’t surprising news. But if there is an issue like this that affects student learning *and* we can do something about it, why not give an open textbook a try? Here’s how one professor at the University of Minnesota tried out an open textbook:

Irene Duranczyk, an associate professor of postsecondary teaching and learning at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, said her students had had positive reactions to open textbooks. She began using open textbooks in the fall of 2012 out of concern about the cost of the required materials.

“I assigned the open textbook to half of my class while using a traditional text for the other half. The traditional textbook for my class cost about $180. The open textbook was free online, with the print version costing $32 at the bookstore,” Ms. Duranczyk said.

“They were happy, and so was I,” Ms. Duranczyk said. ”I could maintain my high standard of quality instruction while having the ability to customize the text to fit my teaching style.”

If you are an instructor at Kirkwood and you’d like to see what open textbook options there are for your course, I’d be happy to help. Just send me an email and we’ll get started! (kate.hess at

OpenStax Open Textbooks – A Growing Resource

I’m highlighting OpenStax here today because I’ve been watching their work for the past couple of years, and I’m amazed at how quickly they’re growing and at the quality of their titles. OpenStax is an outgrowth of Connexions, a long-standing OER repository and content management system run by Rice University, and supported by a number of different non-profit organizations. OpenStax is a place for instructors who simply want an open textbook that’s ready to go. These textbooks can be adopted as-is, can be edited by faculty adopters through the Connexions website, and are free to use online or downloaded in PDF format. They also have print and bound versions available for purchase (as of now the price varies by title, between around $30 and $60). The quality of these texts is very good. They are authored by faculty and have been carefully edited and peer reviewed. They also have ancillary materials to accompany each text. Currently, 6 titles are available for these courses:
College Physics

Introduction to Sociology


Concepts of Biology (Biology for Non-Majors)

Anatomy & Physiology

Introductory Statistics

And 7 more titles are on the way soon:

Precalculus (summer 2014)

Chemistry (winter 2014)

U.S. History (winter 2014)

Principles of Economics (winter 2014)

Principles of Macroeconomics (winter 2014)

Principles of Microeconomics (winter 2014)

Psychology (fall 2014)

If you give OpenStax College a try, please share your thoughts below!

Why OERs?

It’s true. Adopting OERs can be time consuming for faculty making the switch. There are new considerations you may never have needed to think about before: How will students access the content? Is all the information I’ve included truly open — that is, can I and my students make digital or paper copies without paying copyright permissions?

Those faculty who do successfully adopt OERs have found some pretty great benefits, enough to outweigh any drawbacks. Here are some to consider:

  1. The obvious: students save money. Depending upon the text you currently use this could be a little or a lot!
  2. The ability to update and edit the content to suit your and your students’ particular needs is a huge benefit. Students don’t have to skip through content that doesn’t pertain to them or is written at a level beyond their understanding or their needs. Faculty don’t need to specify sections to read and to skip, or jump around from chapter 3 to 8 to 5.
  3. The process of tailoring the information to your course and class needs may be an enlightening process for you. Preliminary results from a national survey of OER adopting faculty suggests that these instructors become more engaged in their course as a result of the work of essentially doing a custom information redesign for their students.

Have you adopted OER for your course? Are you somewhere in the middle of the process? What do you like about it? Please share with us in the comments below, or in an email to Kate. (kate.hess at