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Textbook Affordability

Options for reducing overall textbook costs from the Earlham College Libraries.


These resources provide a good introduction to why textbook affordability matters, how costs affect student learning, and how lessening these costs can increase students' success rates. 


Clinton, V., & Khan, S. (2019). Efficacy of Open Textbook Adoption on Learning Performance and Course Withdrawal Rates: A Meta-Analysis. AERA Open.

Authors conducted a meta-analysis of OER to evaluate student learning and course withdrawal rates between open and commercial textbooks. Found no differences in learning efficacy between open textbooks and commercial textbooks, while withdrawal rate for postsecondary courses with open textbooks was significantly lower than that for commercial textbooks.

Colvard, Nicholas and C. Edward Watson. (2018) The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 30 (2): 262-275.

Investigated benefits for using OER beyond cost savings. Nearly 22,000 students were studied between 2010 and 2016, about half in non-OER classes and half in OER classes. In addition to cost savings of more than $3 million, study found that OER significantly improved outcomes in courses for underserved populations: students who received Pell Grants, non-White students and part-time students.

Hilton, J. (2019) Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Educational Technology Research and Development. 

"Synthesizes results from sixteen efficacy and twenty perceptions studies involving 121,168 students or faculty that examine either (1) OER and student efficacy in higher education settings or (2) the perceptions of college students and/or instructors who have used OER. Results across these studies suggest students achieve the same or better learning outcomes when using OER while saving significant amounts of money. The results also indicate that the majority of faculty and students who have used OER had a positive experience and would do so again." 

Student PIRG (Public Interest Research Group)

Offers advocacy training for student leaders on their campuses. One major campaign relates to Affordable Textbooks. They've created several useful reports including the Open Textbooks Guide (outlining textbook affordability as an issue, how open textbooks can help, and four sample initiatives campuses could start) and an Open Textbooks Organizing Toolkit (outlining in-depth strategies for raising awareness). While targeted toward student advocates, their reports offer a good introduction to anyone interested in the topic.

Florida Virtual Campus Reports (various)

Florida Virtual Campus' Office of Distance Learning & Student Services has conducted several large-scale studies demonstrating negative effects of high textbook cost on student learning and success. Key findings include students' reports that textbook costs have caused them to take fewer classes, and drop or avoid classes with expensive textbooks. 2018's study found 64% skip buying required texts, and 36% report lowered grades due to not having the required text. 

Bay View Analytics Reports (various). 

The Bay View Analytics survey team (formerly Babson Survey Research Group) has conducted several years of large-scale faculty studies regarding awareness of OER and concern for textbook affordability issues. These reports offer insights into faculty perspectives on textbook affordability.


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