19 Talking to Instructors
The OER Student Toolkit (BCcampus) and Textbook Affordability Toolkit Revised 2018 Edition (Open Oregon) provide useful information for students wanting to talk with their instructors about open textbooks.
The OER Student Toolkit suggests that students talk to their professors or instructors about open educational resources. It says:
The final say about what resources will be used in a course usually lies with faculty, to whom students have unique, direct access. Some ways of doing this include:
Show faculty students care about this issue by sharing your thoughts on high textbook costs or showing them you appreciate it when they use cheap or free alternatives. One easy way to do this is through anonymous midterm or end of term course evaluations that take place at many institutions.
Tell faculty whom you think may be interested about open education. If you know of any examples of OER that would be useful in a course you have taken, tell the instructor about it. You can also refer them to resources or OER repositories (see below), or share stories of other faculty adopting OER at your institution.
Below is a sample script from the Textbook Affordability Toolkit that can be used when talking to an instructor about open textbooks.
Sample talking points for meeting with a faculty member
Intro: Hi, Professor. I’m [Name] from [Student Group]. Thank you for letting me come talk to you about our campaign to make textbooks affordable.
Introduce the problem: Textbook costs are a big issue for students here on campus. Textbooks are expensive—$1200 per student per year for books and supplies, and prices have been rising at three times the rate of inflation. Students are even opting not to buy the books—65 percent of students surveyed reported not buying or renting a required book because of the price. [If relevant, tell a brief personal story about how textbook costs have affected you.]
Ask: Is this a problem that’s come to your attention before?
Introduce the solution: The good news is that affordable alternatives exist that can save students a lot of money. Open textbooks are books that are published under an open licence that allows them to be used and shared for free.
Open textbooks are comparable to traditional textbooks: They are written and reviewed by experts and cover the standard material for a course. Open textbooks have benefits that make them preferable to traditional textbooks because instructors can adapt the text by adding their own content or problem sets or removing unwanted material.
Ask: Have you come across open textbooks before?
Call to action: Open textbooks are a great solution, but the challenge is that not enough professors have the support they need to use them. I wanted to discuss a couple ways you might be able to help.
Sample ask: Would you be willing to talk with a librarian about using open textbooks in your classes?
Sample ask: Would you be willing to share information about open textbooks with your colleagues?
Sample ask: Would you be willing to support our campaign to expand the use of open textbooks?
Closing: Thank you for agreeing to [Action]. I will email you in a couple weeks to follow up and see how it went.
Open Textbook Research
Below are three studies about open textbooks that can be shared with faculty members.
- Hendricks, Christina, Stefan A. Reinsberg, and Georg W. Rieger. “The Adoption of an Open Textbook in a Large Physics Course: An Analysis of Cost, Outcomes, Use, and Perceptions.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, no. 4 (2017). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i4.3006.
- Jhangiani, Rajiv S., Farhad N. Dastur, Richard Le Grand, and Kurt Penner. “As Good or Better than Commercial Textbooks: Students’ Perceptions and Outcomes from Using Open Digital and Open Print Textbooks.” The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 9, no. 1 (2018). https://doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2018.1.5.
- Jhangiani, Rajiv Sunil, and Surita Jhangiani. “Investigating the Perceptions, Use, and Impact of Open Textbooks: A Survey of Post-Secondary Students in British Columbia.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 18, no. 4 (2017). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i4.3012.