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Use of Free or Low-Cost Course Materials Slow to Catch On

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SOURCE National Association of College Stores

OBERLIN, Ohio, Jan. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A study released today of a statewide effort in Washington to offer free or reduced-cost course materials for the most popular community college courses shows that many students and faculty are not using the materials, despite the potential for substantial cost savings.

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In the survey conducted by OnCampus Research last fall, only 2.8 percent of class sections surveyed at 25 of the 34 institutions in the Washington Community and Technical College system that were selected to offer the materials were using them. Nine of the 25 institutions that responded indicated at least one section was using the Open Course Library (OCL) materials. Course sections that used open educational resources that are free to students online comprised 21% of the class sections using OCL materials, while 79% of OCL class sections utilized commercial material that had an average cost of $25 for the materials. 

The OnCampus Research survey was sent to 34 campus stores in the Washington Community and Technical College system, which created an Open Course Library in 2011 through a $1.8 million dollar matching grant investment between the state legislature and the Gates Foundation. The OnCampus Research survey evaluated the first 42 courses that could use free electronic or low-cost course materials as an alternative to other options in the market in an effort to reduce college costs. The OCL course resources include digital textbooks, syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments in top-enrolled, lower-division courses in Washington's state technical and community colleges. Available courses range from chemistry and accounting to music appreciation and English composition.

The OCL is part of a larger effort across campuses in Washington state to lower costs for students. Low-cost textbook rental programs, e-textbooks, course-packs (print and digital) with copyright clearance, smarter cost-conscious custom packaging, used books, open educational resources, and library reserves are all  helping to reduce costs and increase faculty and student consumer choices in the state.

College stores further noted cases of faculty using lower cost options including open educational resources, but outside of the Open Course Library materials.  Stores also expressed an interest in supporting the initiative in helping faculty identify possible resources and providing students free digital materials and low-cost print options.

"The data shows that the recommendation of specific free or lower-priced course materials for popular courses did not equate to significant use of these materials by faculty," said Elizabeth Riddle, the director of OnCampus Research. She added that additional study would be necessary to understand the reason for the low adoption rate of these specific identified materials.

To view the survey and results please click here: Open Course Library Survey Results 

OnCampus Research is the research arm of indiCo, a division of the National Association of College Stores, with more than 75 years of experience in the college industry.

About NACS
Headquartered in Oberlin, Ohio, the National Association of College Stores (NACS) is the professional trade association representing the $10 billion collegiate retailing industry. NACS represents nearly 3,000 collegiate retailers and approximately 1,000 associate members who supply books and other products to college stores. NACS member stores serve America's college students while supporting the academic missions of higher education institutions everywhere. Additional information on NACS can be found online at www.nacs.org.

About indiCo
IndiCo, a division of the National Association of College Stores, is a centralized source of business support dedicated to independent college stores, providing them with a portfolio of services and business partners that help stores reach their full potential. Additional information can be found at www.indico-uniting.com.

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