Week 3: Individual and institutional readiness for a move to openness

Are you ready?

Are you ready?

by Mary Burgess -
Number of replies: 14

How ready do you feel you are to adopt an open textbook? Are there ambiguities you're unsure of that would need resolution before you could move forward? Do you need support from others at your institution to adopt? If so, what kind of support? 

It's also totally legitimate to say "I don't know if I'm ready because I don't know what I need to consider"!

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Are you ready?

by Shivanand Balram -

I feel I can immediately adopt an open textbook and open resources for some courses I teach.

My only reservation would be how would this choice impact the existing university financial modes of operation. There is no question that students would benefit tremendously. However: Would bookstores see reduced revenues and have to close down? Would traditional publishers that maybe have some investments in the university or local department react negatively? The uncertainties in the re-balancing of the financial ecosystem is my primary reservation.

If these questions are clarified from the top brass, then it becomes easier to adopt OER.

In reply to Shivanand Balram

Re: Are you ready?

by Mary Burgess -

You're absolutely right Shivanand, new models of acquiring resources are a threat to the traditional revenue stream of bookstores, and thus the revenue stream of the institution overall. Open textbooks are not the only pressure; students are also buying their books from places like Amazon more and more, and the use of electronic resources further reduces the funding generated by book sales. 

What I've heard from bookstore staff who have attended our face to face workshops is that they are actively seeking new ways to maintain relevance, as in the case of the SFU Document Solutions group you mentioned in your other post. In the case of Oregon State U's Open Textbook project, the document solutions group was one of three groups on campus who actually initiated the project. To me this seems like a good potential path forward.

I find myself conflicted about this issue because on the one hand, it is obviously hugely problematic to rely on revenues taken from students for grossly over-priced textbooks. On the other hand, some of those revenues support the provision of services for students and removing them would have a negative impact on the student experience.  
In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Are you ready?

by Steve Foerster -

You all are a lot nicer than I am!  I think student needs prevail here, and bookstores and publishers can either adapt or perish.  I expect that bookstores now sell so many other things, and will still be able to sell bound copies of OER materials, and so they'll be more or less okay.  And I expect that most commercial publishers will not adapt well, and will disappear or be unrecognisably changed, and good riddance.

In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Are you ready?

by Shivanand Balram -

Survival of the fittest model?

But on the other hand, when one species (say Open Textbooks) take a dominant non-cooperative approach, the entire living cycle (say the Education Sector) gets dramatically disturbed to the extent some important species die out (say bookstores, small libraries). In the end, those species that remain will spend lots of effort (time and money) to deal with the consequences such as protecting endangered species, fighting back climate change, controlling urban sprawl, etc. and have little time for living life itself. It is something we have to keep in mind as we travel along the OER road.

In reply to Shivanand Balram

Buggy Whip Makers

by Steve Foerster -

I wouldn't call it survival of the fit so much as non-subsidising of the unnecessary.  A century ago when cars replaced horses as the dominant means of transportation, buggy whip makers went out of business because their product was no longer needed.  Any process of improvement means ending that which is inefficient in favour of that which works better.

Specifically to our situation, considering the attitudes we face with the Big 5 commercial publishers, I'm not particulary concerned about producers of open alternatives being noncooperative, especially when the better licenses involved specifically allow for others to adapt released material.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to kill off bookstores and libraries either.  But students come first, and if their needs are met without a campus bookstore, there's no reason to jack prices up to ensure one is there.  And I'm not worried about libraries at all -- our recent experience with XPERT shows that in the digital age competent librarians are as valuable as ever.

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Are you ready?

by Shivanand Balram -

Hopefully, all the parties can find ways to work together to bring down the cost of quality education, while still maintaining their core functions in the education ecoystem.

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Are you ready?

by Annie Swihart -

I feel that I am very ready to adopt open textbooks. I am working on a Department of Labor grant that stresses the importance of using OER resources as much as possible. They are also pushing for content that is created under the grant to be published as OER. Because of this grant, I feel that I have the support of my institution as well as their encouragement. 

In reply to Annie Swihart

Re: Are you ready?

by Mary Burgess -

Annie would you say that was always the case? Is your institution fairly progressive or were certain activities undertaken that created a culture shift that might be helpful for others? 

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Are you ready?

by Annie Swihart -

Mary, I have only been working at my institution for just over 2 years now. But since I have been here there has been discussion about textbook affordability for our students. OER is one way to provide this to them. 

I believe the culture shift for the college was the economic down turn which caused students to struggle with college expenses. In order to keep the students here and to get new students to come, the college had to take a look at the costs to students to attend college which goes beyond tuition. 

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Are you ready?

by Suzanne Touahria -

Since Practical Nursing curriculum in British Columbia is provincially mandated, and there are 17 different public and private schools offering the program  - if there was enough interest by the member schools - it might be feasible for us to work together to develop an open text all our students could benefit from.  I have to wonder though, if the public and the private sector would be able to work together on this.  Could we?  Would it not be public funds supporting the creation of the texts?  So, the private schools could just scoop the texts to profit from them. They currently load the latest texts on to an ipad and include it in their tuition costs - open texts would serve to save them money - not necessarily the students.  Would this be a stumbling block for those in the public system getting involved? 

In reply to Suzanne Touahria

Re: Are you ready?

by Mary Burgess -

In answer to your question about whether public funds could be used to create an open text that both public and private institutions could use, it's definitely a yes, if the right CC license was chosen. If the work was licensed CC-BY-NC (non commercial), then the for-profit schools would not be able to use it. 

Ideally the work would be co-created and adopted widely across the province, so the largest number of students could benefit, as well as those out of province. 

In reply to Mary Burgess

Re: Are you ready?

by Steve Foerster -

I think for-profit institutions actually can use NC-restricted materials in peripheral ways.  For example, I believe a for-profit institution could develop courses that require students to read NC-restricted textbooks if the students can obtain those books costlessly.  In that case, providing instruction is a commercial activity, but making the textbook available is not.  Now, if the institution specifically charged students for access to a respository with the NC-restricted materials in it, that would not be okay.  More obviously, nor would it be okay for commercial publishers to remix NC-restricted materials in their own textbooks and sell them.

In reply to Suzanne Touahria

Re: Are you ready?

by Steve Foerster -

Suzanne wrote:

"I have to wonder though, if the public and the private sector would be able to work together on this.  Could we?  Would it not be public funds supporting the creation of the texts?  So, the private schools could just scoop the texts to profit from them."

Another thing to consider is that public funds don't come from thin air, they come from taxpayers, which include private schools.  So they're not "scooping" anything, they're just taking advantage of materials that they themselves helped make possible, which hardly seems unreasonable.

In reply to Steve Foerster

Re: Are you ready?

by Suzanne Touahria -

Thanks for bringing that up Steve - you're absolutely right!  I guess I've only ever looked through the lens of a not-for-profit institution and have a limited perspective as a result.  I'm becoming a bit more aware of it now though...

Thanks