Author: Pablo Markin
Published Online: 2017-12-20
Following suite of its international counterparts, the Australian National University has published its first batch of six Open Access course books, in a strategy switch aimed at increasing student engagement. In recent years, Open Access textbooks are increasingly championed by global organizations and publishers, as demand from financially burdened students and universities surges.
In its effort to relieve the textbook price pressures on its students a fifth of which have been found to drop out from their academic studies, the Australian National University (ANU) has discovered that its Open Access textbooks have been downloaded more than 27,000 times in 2017, enabled teaching methodology experimentation, significantly increased student satisfaction rates, and contributed to students’ progress and performance. In doing this, the ANU has joined a growing international trend, as Open Access textbooks have been found to be associated with improved academic grades, higher student retention rates and greater course completion rates. Especially undergraduate students stand to benefit from Open Access books, which in 2015 have been found to be used by 31% of students across 15 courses based on a sample of 16,000 undergraduate survey participants at 10 academic institutions in the United States.
In other words, Open Access textbooks have been demonstrated to be as good as or of superior quality as compared to commercial textbooks. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that Open Access pedagogical resources can significantly reduce course failure rates. At the same time, the long-term financial viability of Open Access textbook projects remains in question, as they require third-party or governmental support, to ensure their continued adequacy to student needs and course curricula. Nevertheless, as the cost of living rises, the adoption of Open Access textbooks by universities can significantly alleviate the economic burdens that students shoulder and because of which they can terminate their academic studies.
By Pablo Markin