The Ohio Board of Regents hosted its second annual Textbook Affordability Summit at Columbus State Community College on Friday, September 28, 2012. Attendees included faculty, librarians, staff, and a handful of students from higher education institutions across Ohio, as well as representatives from textbook publishers, college bookstores, and others interested in the consequences of escalating college textbook costs. Throughout the day, panels and breakout sessions offered different perspectives and approaches in which to dialogue about the rising cost of textbooks. Additionally, during a lunchtime keynote presentation, a representative from the National Association of College Stores offered a legislative perspective about the issue, informed in part by changes at the state level since the passage in 2008 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act.
Summit attendees’ familiarity and comfort level with digital textbooks and learning management systems appeared to be as diverse as the attendees’ respective backgrounds and interests. A number of the faculty attendees reported being fairly proficient with technology, and were comfortable incorporating Open Educational Resources (OER) into their course designs—while others were easing more gradually into this approach, often with the assistance of instructional designers in their departments, as well as other IT staff at their institutions.
Irrespective of attendees’ approach to technology, virtually all the attendees from colleges and universities shared a common concern: how best to harness some of the newest innovations in their respective professions and disciplines, to help offset the negative consequences related to textbook prices. In a panel discussion among faculty from Columbus State Community College, several noted that for their students, the cost of a car repair can make all the difference between whether a student will have to drop out, or instead can remain enrolled and complete classes for that particular term. As textbook prices continue to climb, the cost of textbooks for a single academic term—depending upon a student’s coursework—can easily surpass that of a $250 to $1000 bill from a local auto mechanic.
During an afternoon panel discussion, one community college administrator cautioned that any institution engaging in the effort to address prohibitively high textbook costs must be careful not to make any assumptions. (For example, textbook publishers often are able to help identify business models that may work, which initially may not appear to be appropriate options for a particular institution.) All institutions should beware of assuming that just because a textbook is now available in a digital format does not by definition mean it will be cheaper. “Don’t,” she said, “make the same mistake as we did when we began offering classes online. The costs are still there.”
The same panelist observed that any serious efforts to respond to the complex problem of college textbook costs must have a number of participants on board. In addition to faculty, instructional designers, information technology specialists, librarians, and student representatives, she noted, an initiative must also include staff from the institution’s academic affairs, curriculum, finance, and faculty development areas, as well as representatives from the school’s legal counsel unit. She recommended that institutions must be intentional not only about including people from each of these areas, but also to challenge people from each area to identify others who may also need to be included in identifying new approaches and strategizing how best to implement them, in order to promote a greater likelihood of holistic and enduring success.
In her closing remarks, Darlene Evans McCoy, Director of Digital Initiatives at the Ohio Board of Regents, and one of the coordinators of this year’s Summit, highlighted additional concerns related to textbook affordability, such as the importance of providing support for adjunct instructors at institutions of higher education, and the need to give accessibility training to anyone providing technical support in instructional environments. She also noted that textbook affordability and accessibility are of primary concern to Jim Petro, Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents.
Want to learn more? Below are links to access many of the Textbook Affordability Summit handouts (some have been reformatted, but the content is the same).
Textbook Affordability Summit Final Program
Textbook Affordability Summit- Bookstore Panel Bios
Textbook AffordabilitySummit-Faculty Panel Bios
Textbook Affordability Summit IT Panel Bios
Textbook Affordability Summit Library Director Bios
Textbook Affordability Summit -Speakers Bios
Textbook Affordability Summit-Textbook Publishers Panel Bios