On The Record
It’s a sobering statistic – according to a 2014 Student Public Interest Research Group survey 65 percent of students skip buying or renting textbooks due to cost. Over a ten-year period from 2002 through 2012 textbook prices have increased by an alarming rate of 82 percent.
On average, a student spends approximately $1,200 on textbooks each year. For many, this cost is far beyond what they can afford. These exorbitant costs have caused WCC faculty and administration to collaborate on exploring less expensive ways to deliver quality course materials to WCC students.
Minimizing barriers to success
“We are passionate about and committed to giving our students access to course resources in a way that is affordable and of the highest academic integrity,” said Victor Liu, WCC dean of learning resources. “If a student cannot afford a textbook their academic performance suffers and that’s just not acceptable. Our goal is to see our students prosper academically and to do so, we need to minimize the textbook costs as a barrier to their success.”
Liu noted that a reason textbooks are so expensive is that the production lies in the hands of a small number of publishers who decide on the non-negotiable price points. According to Liu, there are several ways students can save money when it comes to textbooks.
Textbooks are able to be purchased used at a reduced price. At the completion of a course, the student can sell the book back to the bookstore and recover some of its cost.
Some textbooks are now available in an electronic learning platform at a cost lower than a hard copy book.
Textbooks can be rented for the duration of the course at a price point lower than a used copy. These books either expire or must be returned at the end of the semester.
Open education resources
There is growing momentum among faculty nationwide for an option called Open Education Resources. Referred to as OERs, these are teaching, learning and research resources designed to be used in substitution of a commercial textbook at no cost to the student. These course materials can be freely shared as a result of Creative Commons, an organization that provides flexible licensing agreements.
The OERs are multi-faceted and can include textbooks, course materials, modules, streaming videos or classroom activities.
OERs are mostly written by qualified faculty members and carefully vetted for accuracy. Over 3,000 faculty nationwide have adopted open textbooks, and over 2,500 from 750 colleges have signed the Faculty Statement on Open Textbooks.
COM 102 open source text book
Here at WCC, the momentum is growing. Claire Sparklin and Bonnie Tew, WCC faculty members in the humanities department, are collaborating to make open education resources available to students. Tew edited and launched the first OER textbook for COM 102 – an Interpersonal Communication course, in the Fall of 2014. “If students can’t afford the textbook, it places them at a disadvantage academically, said Tew.
“So far the results from my students who use an open source text book have been astounding,” said Sparklin. “They’re learning the same things that they did from the $200 textbook, but they’re not going into debt because of it. And, now, together as a department, we are committed to increasing access to the high-quality, open source text book by creating a site to access the information and additional interactive learning materials,” Sparklin continued. “Each student will have access to the information to be successful in class by using our open source e-text site. That’s exciting!”
According to Tew, since the open resource text book was introduced for the first time in the Fall of 2014, the students in six sections of COM 102 who have used it, have collectively saved approximately $25,000 in traditional textbook costs.
To assist students and faculty on how to access OER materials, the Bailey Library has compiled guides for 42 subject areas. The library also provides in-service workshops for WCC faculty to raise their awareness of OERs. The library staff are also ready to assist faculty members individually in locating OERs for a particular course. To access the guides, visit Teaching Resources on libguides.wccnet.edu.