Bookstores’ Study Mischaracterizes Washington State Open-Text Effort

To the Editor:

“Open Course Library Sees Little Use in Washington’s Community Colleges” (The Chronicle, January 31) covers a study that mischaracterizes our work to reduce textbook costs for students. Washington community and technical colleges’ Open Course Library offers course materials that cost $30 or less for our 81 highest enrolled courses. OCL leverages open educational resources that can be used, adapted and shared for free, as well as low-cost publisher materials.

The study analyzes the use of OCL materials based on adoption information from campus bookstores. This methodology provides an incomplete picture, as bookstores are not always aware when faculty members assign free, digital resources. Therefore, the study’s findings do not justify its conclusion that OCL has resulted in “insignificant” savings to students. The Student PIRGs estimates the OCL has saved students more than $5.5-million, more than triple the original investment. We believe this is very significant.

The Open Course Library is one of many ways instructors use open resources. Our own statewide surveys found that many faculty use low-cost or free materials to save students money, through the OCL and other means.

We appreciate the bookstores’ interest in open resources and invite them to work with us on future research.

Marty Brown
Executive Director
Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
Bellevue, Wash.

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