SPARC

U.S. PIRG report finds students would perform better with open textbooks

Jane Park, January 30th, 2014

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a report this week called, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives.” The report features responses to a survey administered to over 2,000 students across 163 college campuses in the U.S. in regards to the rising cost of textbooks and how it affects student usage and academic performance. The report has been making the rounds in major news outlets and is highlighted in a letter to Congress by Senators Durbin and Franken as a push for the Affordable College Textbook Act. It is available for anyone to read online under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, but here are the tl;dr highlights:

What the survey results say

  • 65% of students choose not to buy a college textbook because it’s too expensive
  • 94% report that they suffer academically because of this choice
  • 48% say they altered which classes they took based on textbook costs, either taking fewer classes or different classes
  • Senator Durbin wholeheartedly agrees: “According to the students surveyed in this report, the rising cost of textbooks not only adds to the overall financial burden of attending college, it can also have a measurably negative impact on their academic performance and student outcomes.”
  • 82% of students say they would do significantly better in a course if the textbook were free online and a hard copy was optional!
  • Case studies at both Houston Community College and Virginia State University suggest that classes using open textbooks have higher grades and better course completion rates

Textbook industry facts

(as reported by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs)

  • College textbook prices have increased by 82% in the past ten years, aka 3x the rate of inflation
  • Though alternatives to the new print edition textbooks exist, the costs of these alternatives (such as rental programs, used book markets and e-textbooks) are still dictated by publishers who re-issue editions every few years
  • Ethan Sendack at U.S. PIRG says: “[Students] can’t shop around and find the most affordable option, meaning there’s no consumer control on the market.”
  • On average students spend $1,200 a year on textbooks which = 14% of tuition at a four-year, public college; 39% of tuition at community college

Open textbook facts

  • Open textbooks are written by faculty and peer-reviewed like traditional textbooks
  • Open textbooks are free to access, use, download to electronic devices, and affordable to print — all thanks to the open content licenses on them that legally allows these uses
  • U.S. PIRG estimates that open textbooks could save each student ~$100 per course they take

Find out for yourself

Links to the press release, full report, and news coverage below.

What you can do

Support the Affordable College Textbook Act which would establish open textbook pilot programs at colleges and universities across the country! Learn more at http://www.sparc.arl.org/advocacy/national/act and read Senators Durbin and Franken’s Dear Colleague letter to Congress at http://www.sparc.arl.org/sites/default/files/S.%201704%20Dear%20Colleague.pdf.

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US Senators seek to make college textbooks affordable and open

Jane Park, November 15th, 2013

A Human Timeline of Open Education
Opensourceway / CC BY-SA

United States Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota have introduced legislation called the Affordable College Textbook Act that seeks to make college textbooks affordable and openly available under the Creative Commons Attribution license. According to Durbin’s press release, Bill S.1704 does 5 things:

  • Creates a grant program to support pilot programs at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for those programs that will achieve the highest savings for students;
  • Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using program funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public [via CC BY];
  • Requires entities who receive funds to complete a report on the effectiveness of the program in achieving savings for students;
  • Improves existing requirements for publishers to make all textbooks and other educational materials available for sale individually rather than as a bundle; and
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress by 2017 with an update on the price trends of college textbooks.

You can read the full text of Bill S.1704 here. In addition to highlighting the rising cost of textbooks, Bill S.1704 defines the following terms:

(3) OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE.—The term ‘‘open educational resource’’ means an educational resource that is licensed under an open license and made freely available online to the public.

(4) OPEN LICENSE.—The term ‘‘open license’’ means a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable copyright license granting the public permission to access, reproduce, publicly perform, publicly display, adapt, distribute, and otherwise use the work and adaptations of the work for any purpose, conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given to authors as designated.

(5) OPEN TEXTBOOK.—The term ‘‘open textbook’’ means an open educational resource or set of open educational resources that either is a textbook or can be used in place of a textbook for a postsecondary course at an institution of higher education.

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) note several existing open textbook programs that have proved successful in lowering costs for students, including the University of Minnesota’s online catalog of open textbooks which has so far saved students $100,000; Tidewater Community College’s degree program where each course uses open textbooks lowering costs to zero for students; and Washington State’s Open Course Library project for its 81 largest enrollment courses that has saved students $5.4 million to date.

In addition to cost savings, SPARC highlights Bill S.1704’s potential impacts of high quality and innovation:

  • High quality materials. Open educational resources developed through the grants will also be available for all other colleges, faculty and students across the country to freely use.
  • Supporting innovation. At a time where new models to support open educational resources are rapidly emerging, this bill would help foster innovation and development of best practices that can be shared with other institutions.

For more info, see:

You can take action to support Bill S.1704 here and use Twitter hashtag #oerusa to share the news!

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Stop U.S. legislation that would block public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, January 6th, 2012

In December 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives introduced The Research Works Act (H.R.3699), a bill that will ban public access to publicly funded research. SPARC says, “Essentially, the bill seeks to prohibit federal agencies from conditioning their grants to require that articles reporting on publicly funded research be made accessible to the public online.” The bill was introduced by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). The sponsorship by Issa is odd considering his strong support for OPEN Act, the tolerable alternative to the SOPA/PIPA legislation. The bill stands in stark contrast to OSTP’s recent request for ideas about how the U.S. government can support public access to federally funded research articles and digital data (note: you can still submit comments until January 12 to the OSTP call). One of the primary proponents of the The Research Works Act is The Association of American Publishers, who describe the bill in a press release:

The Research Works Act will prohibit federal agencies from unauthorized free public dissemination of journal articles that report on research which, to some degree, has been federally-funded but is produced and published by private sector publishers receiving no such funding. It would also prevent non-government authors from being required to agree to such free distribution of these works. Additionally, it would preempt federal agencies’ planned funding, development and back-office administration of their own electronic repositories for such works, which would duplicate existing copyright-protected systems and unfairly compete with established university, society and commercial publishers.

The legislation would be toxic for progressive initiatives such as the NIH’s Public Access Policy, which requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the PubMed Central digital archive. PubMed Central provides free public access to research the public pays for. SPARC’s Alliance for Taxpayer Access website has outlined specific ways that supporters of public access can speak out against this proposed legislation. Especially helpful is contacting the Congressional offices listed below. Please voice your support for public access to publicly funded research.

Representative Issa
@DarrellIssa
http://issa.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=597&Itemid=73
Fax: (202) 225-3303

Representative Maloney
@RepMaloney
https://maloney.house.gov/contact-me/email-me (Using zip code 10128-3679)
Fax: (202) 225-4709

Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – especially if you’re a constituent.
http://1.usa.gov/zDqnne

Your representative – through the Alliance for Taxpayer Access Action Center: http://www.congressweb.com/cweb2/index.cfm/siteid/sparc

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CC and Open Access Week 2010

Jane Park, October 19th, 2010

This week is the fourth annual Open Access Week, and starting yesterday Oct 18, the official kick-off date, the CC community has been participating in various open access events around the globe. “Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” Taking place the same week everywhere, Open Access Week brings together people from all ends of the academic and research communities at various worldwide conferences, workshops, and other events to “continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.” Below is a (not exhaustive) list of what CC jurisdiction leads, open culture and open education advocates, and the Creative Commons staff are doing to inspire open access.

CC Colombia
CC Colombia is kicking things off at a CC Salon in Cali today with the Universidad Autónoma de Occidente (UAO). Tomorrow (Oct 20), they are holding a training activity on copyright and CC licenses for teachers at the Universidad de la Sabana (Chia), and they’ll end the week with a conference with the research group of students at the National University (Bogotá) on Oct 21. More info can be found at CC Colombia’s blog, the heart of which was kindly translated by CC Colombia Project Lead Carolina Botero.

CC Aotearoa New Zealand
CC New Zealand will be focusing on open education this week, holding a webinar on Friday entitled, “Remixing Aotearoa,” as part of the Open Education Resource Foundation’s OA Week’s webinar series. If you’re in a manageable timezone, you can sign up to attend the webinars via WikiEducator. CC NZ will also be featuring a series of interviews and profiles of individuals using CC. For more info, visit their site.

CC Spain
CC Spain Project Lead Ignasi Labastida i Juan, also the head of the Office for Knowledge Dissemination at the Universitat de Barcelona, has organized several talks on open journals and open repositories following last year’s events. More info about the program in Catalan can be found at the University site and in English at the OA Week site. Ignasi himself spoke on Monday about OA policies and developments, and today will be speaking about research repositories.

CC board and staff
Founding board member and professor at American University, Michael Carroll, will be speaking at the University of Maryland later this week (Oct 21) to “discuss the growing open access movement, why access to information is so important, and what you can do to promote open access to your research.” Science Commons Vice President, John Wilbanks, started the week yesterday at the University of Utah, and will be speaking at UC Davis again on Friday, in addition to a webinar for open access participants in Portugal on Thursday. CC Fellow Greg Grossmeier is speaking at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale on Wednesday, and will also give a talk on open educational resources (OER) at berlin8 in Beijing, China next week (Oct 26). Myself, Jane Park, am participating in a panel today at NYU on open access for education, following the recent launch of NYU’s Open Education Pilot. Also stay tuned for Open Society Foundation (OSF) Policy Fellow Timothy Vollmer’s interview with SPARC’s Right to Research Coalition this week; the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is also a major organizer of OA Week activities.

Creative Commons and Open Access — Doing our homework: Science @ Creative Commons, Open Access, and Lessons for OER
To further celebrate open access week in your part of the world, check out our brief analysis of Creative Commons’ contribution to the Open Access movement. We cover university access policies, the NIH Public Access Policy, the protocol for implementing open access data, and more, drawing comparisons and lessons from the development of the movement to how the open educational resources (OER) movement is progressing today. This is how we’re thinking about open access and open education, and we’d love your feedback.

Digitally Open: Innovation and Open Access Forum in Qatar
Lastly, we’d like to point you to a major event that’s going to happen this Saturday in Qatar. This day-long forum celebrating open access features CC CEO Joi Ito, Science Commons VP John Wilbanks, CC Collecting Societies Liaison Paul Keller, CC Creative Director Eric Steuer, and CC Arab World Media and Development Manager Donatella Della Ratta (who is involved in organizing the event). For the full line-up of open access superstars, check out the event page.

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NIH Open Access mandate made permanent

Kaitlin Thaney, March 17th, 2009

Over on the Science Commons blog, Thinh writes:

The NIH Public Access Policy, which was due to expire this year, has now been made permanent by the 2009 Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law last week.

Last year, Science Commons, SPARC, and ARL jointly released a White Paper authored by our board member Mike Carroll called “Complying With the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy,” explaining the new NIH-mandated PubMed deposit requirement and questions that grant recipients should consider in designing a program to comply with it. At that time, the new mandatory policy had just taken effect, and many recipients were still learning how to comply. Nevertheless, the results were dramatic. Prior to NIH’s mandatory deposit requirement, under a voluntary policy NIH began in 2005, the compliance rate in terms of deposits in PubMed had been very low (4%, as published in an NIH report to Congress in 2006). Shortly after the adoption of the new mandatory policy, submissions spiked to an all time high, prompting an NIH official to project compliance rates of 55-60%. Just take a look at this NIH chart, and note the sharp rise after the policy took effect in early 2008.

In a subsequent White Paper that Science Commons and SPARC jointly issued, our recommendations included looking beyond compliance with the new policy and taking this opportunity to develop comprehensive institutional deposit and public access policies, such as Harvard’s open access policy.

Making the NIH Public Access Policy permanent will provide scholars and institutions with much needed certainty and impetus to focus on implementing these requirements within their institutions. It also creates a opportunity for scholars, universities, and the research community to take a broader look at their institution’s scholarly publishing and open access policies, not only as it applies to deposit in PubMed, but also as it applies to their own institutional repositories and scholarly communities.

We will work with our collaborators to develop further policy and legal briefings for university and public research institutions who are studying these issues. Look for that this summer.

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2008 Sparky Award Winners

Jane Park, February 3rd, 2009

The winners of last year’s Sparky Awards are now officially up online (see today’s press release). The Sparky Awards is “a contest organized by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and adopted by campuses nationwide that calls on entrants to creatively illustrate in a short video the value of sharing ideas.” The student winners were announced on January 24th in a public screening in Denver. The theme for 2008 was “MindMashup: The Value of Information Sharing”, and all four winning teams’ videos do a great job of expressing this value in the internet age via online videos, all CC licensed.

My personal favorite, and the grand prize winner, is:

To Infinity and Beyond
by Danaya Panya, Sebastian Rivera, Hemanth Sirandas, Uriel Rotstein, and Jaymeni Patel, University of Illinois at Chicago Honors College

Coincidentally, or fittingly, the winning video was the only video licensed under the attribution-only license (CC BY), the most open license encouraged for open educational resources (since you can remix it with most anything as long as you credit the original creators—what the Sparky Awards are all about!). “To Infinity and Beyond” also had the most student collaborators, demonstrating the value of teamwork and collaboration—an integral component of effective information sharing.

The first and second runners up are also very compelling (and dare I say funny). Licensed CC BY-NC-SA, they are available for you to remix with similarly licensed works:
How to Make Things Easier by Taejin Kim, Savannah College of Art and Design (CC BY-NC-SA)
Brighter by Christopher Wetzel, Ohio Northern University (CC BY NC-SA)

The fourth video, GrowUp, received the Special Merit Award and is licensed CC BY-NC-ND (ironically, you can’t mash this one up!) by Cécile Iran, Laurie Glassmann, Christophe Zidler, and Aldric de Villartay (University of Versailles-Saint Quentin, France)

Do check them all out on your lunch breaks; they are only two minutes or less! Perfect for internet age attention spans.

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