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6 Problems with OER Access in Campus Bookstores

campus bookstore

Campus bookstores have a critical role to play in open educational resource efforts, according to a recent report from the Driving OER Sustainability for Student Success Collaborative (DOERS3). Yet there is room for improvement in the way stores list and fulfill learning materials and make OER options available to students.

DOERS3 is a collaborative of public higher education systems and organizations committed to supporting large-scale OER initiatives and advancing innovation in OER across the United States and Canada. As the report explained, campus stores are important to OER efforts for two key reasons:

  • They provide a means for compliance with reporting requirements around pricing and available options for course materials; and
  • They provide a resource, sourcing and fulfillment service for students and faculty (including, for example, low-cost printed OER options).

To understand the state of OER in campus stores, DOERS3 surveyed 72 higher education professionals representing 64 systems and institutions across 26 states and provinces. Respondents reported six common challenges in the listing and fulfillment of OER at their institutions:

  • "The campus store does not list a digital ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for open textbooks or other OER, preventing fulfillment of a free, digital version" (cited by 32 percent of respondents);
  • "The campus store lists only the print version of an open textbook or other OER as required when the free, digital version is an acceptable format" (32 percent);
  • "The campus store uses vague, unclear, or inconsistent language about course material requirements (e.g., optional resources suggested for purchase by the store are not presented in context)" (32 percent);
  • "The campus store does not allow for custom messaging about OER" (32 percent)"
  • "Print copies of OER sold in the bookstore are presented on shelves without information about the availability of free, digital access to the content" (29 percent); and
  • "The campus store's discovery and/or course material reporting system does not accurately classify OER (e.g., proprietary resources are tagged as OER; open textbooks are not tagged as OER)" (29 percent).

In a few cases (3 percent of respondents), the campus store even prohibited OER usage.

The report recommended a number of best practices for OER listing and fulfillment, including: making sure OER are included in store catalogs and displays; clearly marking materials as OER; making clear whether materials are required, recommended or optional; transparency in OER pricing; and reporting adoption data for both commercial and open materials on a regular basis. It also emphasized that everyone in the fulfillment process — from content creators, institutions and faculty to the campus store itself — can contribute in improving OER efforts.

"There is clearly improvement needed on behalf of both stakeholders within the institutions and the campus store itself," the report said, "and only through greater partnership can we improve the listing and fulfillment of OER for the benefit of our students."

The full report is available on the DOERS3 site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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