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  • A response to Fact vs. Fiction: 7 Truths about College Course Materials on TM News August 12, 2015

A response to Fact vs. Fiction: 7 Truths about College Course Materials on TM News August 12, 2015

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By Rory McGreal August 12, 2015 - 5:28pm


 Below is my response to the article published in TMNews on August 15, 2015.

Here is the URL for the original article.

Here is my response. 

  1. Fiction:The cost of college textbooks and course materials is a major contributor to student debt.

    The 4% of total cost assumes that the students are not getting any student aid. As the level of aid increases, the proportion of debt taken on by texts rises. It also assumes that the students are only paying university level tuition rather than community college levels, which are much lower. In any case, textbook costs are very high the increases are hardly justifiable.

  2. Fiction:The cost of course materials is climbing.

    Student spending on course materials is dropping because they are simply NOT BUYING the expensive texts as much as they used to. And, there are a growing number of free resources now available that they can use to bypass the need for a textbook in many cases, including OER or accessible Internet content.

  3. Fact: Students can save money on textbooks in a variety of ways.

    They sure can, and that is why student spending on texts is dropping. The publishers charge up to 60% less for online when their savings are in the realm of 95% when they have no distribution costs and much less marketing costs. That is why they can still profit from their reduced quality editions (b&w, restricted, etc.). OER provide even greater savings to students.

  4. Fiction: The reason that new editions of course materials are released so often is to increase publisher profits.

    So, releasing new editions regularly is not for publishers' profit? Then why are they in business? Of course it is for profit. Are instructors really insisting on new editions? Especially when the content doesn't change much as is the case in many subject areas? Besides, profs can use the Web to point out developments in their field. It is no longer necessary to repeatedly update the text, even in rapidly changing fields. And why should students have to pay the full cost when only a portion of the text is updated?

  5. Fiction: Since Open Educational Resources (OER) are free, they will eventually replace purchased textbooks.

    Here is a “straw dog” argument. NO ONE is saying that it is free to create OER. Of course it costs. Yes, someone has to pay for OER and someone has to pay for commercial content. The fact is that OER are considerably less costly to taxpayers and to students. OER may not replace commercial content if the publishers can learn to live with more reasonable profit margins. OER will replace published content if they keep charging the same amount or more for the same content every year.

  6. Fiction: Students with print-related disabilities -- including blindness and dyslexia -- don’t have access to the course materials they need.

    OER are best for students with disabilities. You can use them without permission on any device and mix, mash the material however you want. Commercial content using digital locks (digital rights management;technological protection measures) and legal restrictions control how the content can be used and limit its usefulness to disabled students. They are letting up on some of these restrictions and they call that “improving”. OER don't need improving.

  7. Fiction: Students don’t really need the course materials to pass the class.

    Fact: Course materials are a key component of academic success.Academic improvement from using digital course materials and traditional textbooks is as high as 79 percent.

    I agree with this. Students need their textbooks. That is why it is so important that every student has access to a textbook. OER provide that access to ALL students not just those that can pay the high cost of commercial texts. When OER are available, student achievement levels rise and attrition drops.




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