Posted by: Gregory Linton | 01/30/2019

Babson Survey Research Group releases annual report on faculty use of open educational resources

According to the College Board, the average student now spends more than $1,200 every year for course materials, including textbooks. This cost has risen four times faster than inflation in the last decade. Adding to the cost are expensive access codes that are bundled with textbooks, a gimmick devised by publishing companies to prevent students from purchasing used textbooks. Organizations such as U.S. PIRG have been formed to combat these outrageous costs by promoting the use of Open Educational Resources (OER), which U. S. PIRG claims could save students $1.5 billion a year if adopted nationwide.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation defines OER as follows:

OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

A major benefit of adopting OER has been identified as the 5Rs: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute.

Freeing the Textbook coverEvery year, the Babson Survey Research Group conducts a nationwide survey of faculty members to examine their awareness of, attitudes toward, and use of OER. On January 10, they released the results of the 2018 survey titled “Freeing the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2018.” Here are some key numbers from this survey of 4,000 faculty and department chairpersons:

  • 61% = Faculty who “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that “the cost of course materials is a serious problem for my students”
  • 90% = Faculty who said that the cost to the student of their teaching materials was “Important” or “Very Important” in their selection process
  • 46% = Faculty who are aware of OER
  • 13% = Faculty who are “very aware of OER and know how they can be used in the classroom”
  • 69% = Faculty who report that they have a required textbook
  • $100 = Average cost of textbooks reported by faculty
  • 60% = Faculty who believe that over 90% of their students have access to all the required textbooks
  • 52% = Faculty who believe that cost is the primary reason that not all of their students have access to the required course materials
  • 38% = Faculty who believe that not all students have access to required course materials because students don’t think they need the materials
  • 16% = Faculty who have adopted free or open textbooks
  • 14% = Faculty who are aware of institutional-level initiatives to deal with the cost of course materials
  • 70% = Faculty who present classroom material in a different order from the textbook
  • 68% = Faculty who skip sections in the textbook
  • 37% = Faculty who require access to an online homework system
  • 7% = Faculty who require an inclusive access subscription where students have access to all course material
  • 40%, 25%, 36% = Faculty who prefer digital materials; faculty who prefer print materials; and faculty who are neutral


  1. It is known that every student has their own unique learning style. OER could help with student retention nationwide, if adopted nationwide, because sometimes things are better understood “in other words”. Those faculty members that agree that course materials are overpriced can choose their materials based off what is found in OER; they can then find alternate materials that are not represented on OER and that will actually be used. Smaller books could possibly equal to lower prices therefore not taking away from the required text for class, cut down costs, increase the use and need of OER, and overall lower the retention rate.

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