When the Cost of Textbooks is too High
Fairfield University’s Dimenna-Nyselius Library hosted “A Workshop on the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement" this past Wednesday, October 7, 2015. More than eighty educators, faculty, librarians and students from the Fairfield community and across the state attended this full-day event.
OERs are free and available teaching and learning materials that belong in the public domain, and have the potential to benefit students by lowering the cost of course materials, enrich university libraries, foster collaborations among instructors and increase public access to useful educational resources.
“This workshop provided a fantastic forum for faculty, librarians, and administrators from all over Connecticut to engage in thoughtful discussions on this timely and important topic,” said Joan Overfield, Dean and University Librarian. “The high level of energy and engagement was palpable.”
The workshop comes at a relevant time, just three months after the state of Connecticut formalized a commitment to lowering textbook costs for higher education students with the passage of the OER bill on July 2, 2015.
“Students can’t learn from material they cannot afford,” special guest Nicole Allen, the Director of Open Education for SPARC and nationally recognized expert on OERs and textbook affordability, emphasized.
Dean Overfield shared a startling, but not surprising statistic: 65% of students reported not purchasing a textbook because of the cost. With the constant rising price of textbooks, students’ and families’ budgets are burdened, and education is being jeopardized as some weigh the costs higher than the benefit, choosing not to purchase the required course materials.
Students in discussion groups expressed their frustration when costly, required textbooks were never used in class. “I never opened it once, so no. The cost is not worth it,” a student anonymously reported on the public board that was placed in the library foyer in an effort to make this a campus-wide conversation. Another wrote that over $1,000 was spent on textbooks freshman year, underlining “NOT worth it.”
However, the day concluded with a reflective breakout session between stakeholders called “Strength in Numbers: Defining Next Steps,” where individuals offered and discussed a variety of hopeful solutions to this national institutionalized issue.
“The DiMenna-Nyselius Library was pleased to be the host and organizer for this Open Educational Resources event, and wishes to thank the multiple schools and departments at Fairfield University who supported it,” said Jacalyn Kremer, Head of Library Academic Partnerships & Assessment. “The sold-out crowd of over 80 faculty, administrators, and librarians from higher education institutions left feeling energized and inspired.”
By Lindsay Stephen '16