The difference between “tuition and fees” and “total cost of attendance.”
A nice highlighting of why administrators should be pushing for OER. Unfortunately lost here is the actual cost of the remainder of the enterprise. Where do these OER resources come from? Who creates them? Who gets paid to create and maintain them? Or quite often, whose resources, time, and effort are being exploited to use them? Additionally, who on the institutional level is being paid to talk about OER, push it, educate educators about it, and help professors adopt it?
While it’s readily transparent how his accounting works in this limited example, there’s a lot more accounting and transparency that needs to be taken into account.
Let’s not take the cost and just shift it to others who are also ill-equipped to handle it.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette issued the following statement regarding the pricing of textbook and software materials needed for Accounting 201 and 202. It can be attributed to Dr. Jaimie Hebert, the University’s provost. “We want to make it very clear to our students and the public that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette makes every effort to ensure that the materials required for courses are affordable. “We welcome the opportunity to clarify some confusion that resulted from the pricing of materials for Accounting 201 and 202.
An online textbook priced at almost $1,000 has infuriated students trying to navigate an already confusing textbook marketplace, but Louisiana-Lafayette officials insist they had "good intentions."
This reporting doesn’t drill in far enough. Surely there are a few dozen textbooks that cover all of the same material that are roughly equivalent. What are those textbook prices? What about OER textbooks and their relative prices? Why is the department or even the professors doing anything but recommending textbooks? Why aren’t the students given the freedom to choose their own textbooks?
Anomie (/ˈænəˌmi/) is a "condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals". It is the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community, e.g., under unruly scenarios resulting in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values.
I can’t help but see this definition and think it needs to be applied to economics immediately. In particular I can think of a few quick examples of economic anomie which are artificially covering up a free market and causing issues within individual communities.
Here publishers are marketing to professors who assign particular textbooks and subverting students which are the actual market and consumers of those textbooks. This causes an inflated market and has allowed textbook prices to spiral out of control.
The American Health Care Market
In this example, the health care providers (doctors, hospitals, etc.) have been segmented away from their consumers (patients) by intermediary insurance companies which are driving the market to their own good rather than a free-er set of smaller (and importantly local) markets that would be composed of just the sellers and the buyers. As a result, the consumer of health care has no ability to put a particular price on what they’re receiving (and typically they rarely ever ask, even more so when they have insurance). This type of economic anomie is causing terrific havoc within the area.
(Aside: while the majority of health care markets is very small in size (by distance), I will submit that the advent of medical tourism does a bit to widen potential markets, but this segment of the market is tiny and very privileged in comparison.)
In a non-economic setting it also seems to be highly applicable to social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, et al as they break social norms. I’ll have to circle back to write a longer essay about this with regard to the IndieWeb movement.
Hundreds of colleges are signing on to publishers’ programs, with apparent savings to students. Some applaud the movement, while others are skeptical.
Inclusive Access is a great marketing term. It sounds nice, but has some insidious implications. It would be interesting to do some additonal in-depth reporting on the economics of these models. The article could have done at least a back of the envelop calculation and been far more skeptical of what was going on here.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
The “inclusive” aspect of the model means that every student has the same materials on the first day of class, with the charge included as part of their tuition. ❧
It almost sounds to me like they know they’re not getting a cut of the money from poorer students who are finding the material for free online anyway, so they’re trying to up the stakes of the piece of pie that they’re getting from a different angle.
This other model of subscription at the level of the college or university is also one that they’re well aware of based on involvement with subscription fees for journal access. August 21, 2018 at 10:17PM
She said that her institution, which has inclusive-access agreements with more than 25 publishers, had saved students more than $2 million this semester alone. Morrone said this figure was calculated by taking the retail price of a textbook, subtracting the cost that students paid for the equivalent etextbook and then dividing the cost saving in half to account for the fact that many students would not have bought the book new. ❧
$ 2million compared to what? To everyone having purchased the textbooks at going rates before? This is a false comparison because not everyone bought new in the first place. Many bought used, and many more still probably either pirated, borrowed from a friend, from the library, or simply went without. August 21, 2018 at 10:21PM
Students like the convenience of the system, said Anderson, and all have access to the most up-to-date content, instead of some students having different editions of the same textbook. ❧
They’re also touting the most up-to-date content here, when it’s an open secret that for the majority of textbooks don’t really change that much from edition to edition. August 21, 2018 at 10:24PM
A key difference between inclusive access and buying print textbooks is that students effectively lease the content for the duration of their course, rather than owning the material. If students want to download the content to access it beyond the duration of their course, there is often an additional fee. ❧
So now we need to revisit the calculation above and put this new piece of data into the model.
Seriously?! It’s now a “rental price”? August 21, 2018 at 10:26PM
Campus stores are often the ones driving inclusive-access initiatives, as they receive a cut of the sales. While the profit margins are smaller than for print, inclusive access means that the stores receive revenue from a larger number of customers. Donovan Garcia, course materials manager at the University of Mary Washington, said that lower margins were also mitigated by lower overheads. “We’re not purchasing books, we’re not paying shipping, we’re not having to put any time or effort into returning unused books or paying restocking fees,” said Garcia. ❧
I suspect the publisher is also saving on sales commissions to their sales staff as well. August 21, 2018 at 10:27PM
I’ve spent some time talking about open pedagogy at several universities this Spring, and in each of those presentations and workshops, I have usually mentioned The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature, an OER anthology that my students and I produced last year for an American literature survey course I taught. When I talk about the anthology, it’s usually to make a point about open pedagogy. I began the project with the simple desire to save my students about $85 US, which is how much they were (ostensibly) paying for the Heath Anthology of American Literature Volume A. Most of the actual texts in the Heath were public domain texts, freely available and not under any copyright restrictions. As the Heath produced new editions (of literature from roughly 1400-1800!), forcing students to buy new textbooks or be irritatingly out of sync with page numbers, and as students turned to rental markets that necessitated them giving their books back at the end of the semester, I began to look in earnest for an alternative.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
Most of the actual texts in the Heath were public domain texts, freely available and not under any copyright restrictions. As the Heath produced new editions (of literature from roughly 1400-1800!), forcing students to buy new textbooks or be irritatingly out of sync with page numbers, and as students turned to rental markets that necessitated them giving their books back at the end of the semester, I began to look in earnest for an alternative. ❧
Repackaging public domain texts and charging a steep markup too much above and beyond the cost of the paper is just highway robbery. Unless a publisher is adding some actual annotative or analytical value, they shouldn’t be charging outrageous prices for textbooks of this nature. August 13, 2018 at 12:14PM
If OER is free, what hidden costs exist in its production? Making these textbooks is taking me a chunk of time in the off-season. Thanks to my salaried position, I feel ok about putting in the overtime, but it’s a privilege my colleagues who teach under year-to-year part-time non-contracts can’t afford. Who should be funding OER creation? Institutions? Students? For-profit start-ups? How will you invest time in this project without obscuring the true costs of academic labor? Right now, we pass the corruptly high cost of academic publishing onto the backs of academia’s most vulnerable members: students. But as OER gains steam, we need to come up with funding models that don’t land us back in the same quagmire of exploitation that we were trying to get out of. ❧
This is a nearly perfect question and something to watch in the coming years. August 13, 2018 at 12:35PM
working in public, and asking students to work in public, is fraught with dangers and challenges. ❧
August 13, 2018 at 12:36PM
What David told me was his energy, enthusiasm in the class was at a much higher level with the OER approach. Sure we choose the polished “professional” textbook because of its assumed high standards, quality etc, but then its a more passive relationship a teacher has with it. I make the comparison to growing and/or making your own food versus having it prepared or taking it out of a package. Having produced our own food means we know everything about it from top to bottom, and the pride in doing that has to make the whole experience much more energized. ❧
As I read both this post and this comment from Alan, I can’t help but think again about scholars in the 14th century who taught students. It was more typical of the time that students were “forced” to chose their own textbooks–typically there were fewer, and at the advent of the printing press they were significantly higher in price. As a result students had to spend more time and attention, as Robin indicates here, to come up with useful things.
Even in this period students often annotated their books, which often got passed on to other students and even professors which helped future generations. So really, we’re not reinventing the wheel here, we’re just doing it anew with new technology that makes doing it all the easier.
As a reference, I’ll suggest folks interested in this area read Owen Gingerich’s The Book Nobody Read which I recall as being one of the texts I’ve read that references early teaching and textbook practices during that time period. August 13, 2018 at 12:44PM
Syndicated copies to:
As the new school year draws near and #edtech enthusiasts continue to push the benefits of #OER, let’s also take a moment to remember and celebrate the ability of students to choose their own educational resources and books.
Teachers need to do a better job of providing options, flexibility, and guidance in the panoply of choices available to students of all income levels and abilities. Increased choice at the student level will drastically improve both the literal and proverbial marketplace of ideas.
Here’s some additional detail I wrote on this day a few years back:
In ed tech, schools are the customers, but students are the users.
This also reminds me of the market disconnect between students and their textbooks. Professors are the ones targeted for the “sale” or adoption when the actual purchasers are the students. This causes all kinds of problems in the way the textbook market works and tends to drive prices up–compared to a market in which the student directly chooses their textbook. (And the set up is not too dissimilar to how the healthcare industry works in which the patient (customer) is making a purchase of health care coverage and not actually the health care itself.
Just Skyped with a math student @UofR who has built (beta) an interactive glossary/encyclopedia for challenging technical/academic jargon that can be layered into textbooks. He wants to develop it as an #opensource resource for #OER. More soon, but the future is SO OPEN!
Education and publishing giant Pearson is drawing criticism after using its software to experiment on over 9,000 math and computer science students across the country. In a paper presented Wednesday at the American Association of Educational Research, Pearson researchers revealed that they tested the effects of encouraging messages on students that used the MyLab Programming educational software during 2017's spring semester.
The second in a series of two quarters of advanced math focusing on complex analysis
The topic for Mike Miller’s UCLA Winter math course isn’t as much a surprise as is often the case. During the summer he had announced he would be doing a two quarter sequence on complex analysis, so this Winter, we’ll be continuing on with our complex analysis studies.
I do know, however, that there were a few who couldn’t make part of the Fall course, but who had some foundation in the subject and wanted to join us for the more advanced portion in the second half. Toward that end, below are the details for the course:
Introduction to Complex Analysis: Part II | MATH X 451.41 – 350370
Complex analysis is one of the most beautiful and practical disciplines of mathematics, with applications in engineering, physics, and astronomy, to say nothing of other branches of mathematics. This course, the second in a two-part sequence, builds on last quarter’s development of the differentiation and integration of complex functions to extend the principles to more sophisticated and elegant applications of the theory. Topics to be discussed include conformal mappings, Laurent series and meromorphic functions, Riemann surfaces, Riemann Mapping Theorem, analytical continuation, and Picard’s Theorem. The course should appeal to those whose work involves the application of mathematics to engineering problems, and to those interested in how complex analysis helps explain the structure and behavior of the more familiar real number system and real-variable calculus.
Winter 2017 Days: Tuesdays Time: 7:00PM to 10:00PM Dates: Jan 10, 2017 to Mar 28, 2017 Contact Hours: 33.00 Location: UCLA, Math Sciences Building Course Fee(s): $453.00 Available for Credit: 3 units Instructors: Michael Miller
No refund after January 24, 2017. Class will not meet on one Tuesday to be announced.
Looking for some serious entertainment on Tuesday nights this fall? Professor Mike Miller has got you covered!
Dr. Michael Miller has announced his Autumn mathematics course, and it is…
Introduction to Complex Analysis
Complex analysis is one of the most beautiful and useful disciplines of mathematics, with applications in engineering, physics, and astronomy, as well as other branches of mathematics. This introductory course reviews the basic algebra and geometry of complex numbers; develops the theory of complex differential and integral calculus; and concludes by discussing a number of elegant theorems, including many–the fundamental theorem of algebra is one example–that are consequences of Cauchy’s integral formula. Other topics include De Moivre’s theorem, Euler’s formula, Riemann surfaces, Cauchy-Riemann equations, harmonic functions, residues, and meromorphic functions. The course should appeal to those whose work involves the application of mathematics to engineering problems as well as individuals who are interested in how complex analysis helps explain the structure and behavior of the more familiar real number system and real-variable calculus.
Basic calculus or familiarity with differentiation and integration of real-valued functions.
I often recommend people to join in Mike’s classes and more often hear the refrain: “I’ve been away from math too long”, or “I don’t have the prerequisites to even begin to think about taking that course.” For people in those categories, you’re in luck! If you’ve even had a soupcon of calculus, you’ll be able to keep up here. In fact, it was a similar class exactly a decade ago by Mike Miller that got me back into mathematics. (Happy 10th math anniversary to me!)
(Note that there’s another introductory complex analysis textbook from Silverman that’s offered through Dover, so be sure to choose the correct one.)
As always in Dr. Miller’s classes, the text is just recommended (read: not required) and in-class notes are more than adequate. To quote him directly, “We will be using as a basic guide, but, as always, supplemented by additional material and alternate ways of looking at things.”
The bonus surprise of his email: He’s doing two quarters of Complex Analysis! So we’ll be doing both the Fall and Winter Quarters to really get some depth in the subject!
If you’re like me, you’ll probably take a look at some of the other common (and some more advanced) textbooks in the area. Since I’ve already compiled a list, I’ll share it:
An exclusive look at data from the controversial web site Sci-Hub reveals that the whole world, both poor and rich, is reading pirated research papers.
Sci Hub has been in the news quite a bit over the past half a year and the bookmarked article here gives some interesting statistics. I’ll preface some of the following editorial critique with the fact that I love John Bohannon’s work; I’m glad he’s spent the time to do the research he has. Most of the rest of the critique is aimed at the publishing industry itself.
From a journalistic standpoint, I find it disingenuous that the article didn’t actually hyperlink to Sci Hub. Neither did it link out (or provide a full quote) to Alicia Wise’s Twitter post(s) nor link to her rebuttal list of 20 ways to access their content freely or inexpensively. Of course both of these are editorial related, and perhaps the rebuttal was so flimsy as to be unworthy of a link from such an esteemed publication anyway.
Sadly, Elsevier’s list of 20 ways of free/inexpensive access doesn’t really provide any simple coverage for graduate students or researchers in poorer countries which are the likeliest group of people using Sci Hub, unless they’re going to fraudulently claim they’re part of a class which they’re not, and is this morally any better than the original theft method? It’s almost assuredly never used by patients, which seem to be covered under one of the options, as the option to do so is painfully undiscoverable past their typical $30/paper firewalls. Their patchwork hodgepodge of free access is so difficult to not only discern, but one must keep in mind that this is just one of dozens of publishers a researcher must navigate to find the one thing they’re looking for right now (not to mention the thousands of times they need to do this throughout a year, much less a career).
Consider this experiment, which could be a good follow up to the article: is it easier to find and download a paper by title/author/DOI via Sci Hub (a minute) versus through any of the other publishers’ platforms with a university subscription (several minutes) or without a subscription (an hour or more to days)? Just consider the time it would take to dig up every one of 30 references in an average journal article: maybe just a half an hour via Sci Hub versus the days and/or weeks it would take to jump through the multiple hoops to first discover, read about, and then gain access and then download them from the over 14 providers (and this presumes the others provide some type of “access” like Elsevier).
Those who lived through the Napster revolution in music will realize that the dead simplicity of their system is primarily what helped kill the music business compared to the ecosystem that exists now with easy access through the multiple streaming sites (Spotify, Pandora, etc.) or inexpensive paid options like (iTunes). If the publishing business doesn’t want to get completely killed, they’re going to need to create the iTunes of academia. I suspect they’ll have internal bean-counters watching the percentage of the total (now apparently 5%) and will probably only do something before it passes a much larger threshold, though I imagine that they’re really hoping that the number stays stable which signals that they’re not really concerned. They’re far more likely to continue to maintain their status quo practices.
Some of this ease-of-access argument is truly borne out by the statistics of open access papers which are downloaded by Sci Hub–it’s simply easier to both find and download them that way compared to traditional methods; there’s one simple pathway for both discovery and download. Surely the publishers, without colluding, could come up with a standardized method or protocol for finding and accessing their material cheaply and easily?
“Hart-Davidson obtained more than 100 years of biology papers the hard way—legally with the help of the publishers. ‘It took an entire year just to get permission,’ says Thomas Padilla, the MSU librarian who did the negotiating.” John Bohannon in Who’s downloading pirated papers? Everyone
Personally, I use use relatively advanced tools like LibX, which happens to be offered by my institution and which I feel isn’t very well known, and it still takes me longer to find and download a paper than it would via Sci Hub. God forbid if some enterprising hacker were to create a LibX community version for Sci Hub. Come to think of it, why haven’t any of the dozens of publishers built and supported simple tools like LibX which make their content easy to access? If we consider the analogy of academic papers to the introduction of machine guns in World War I, why should modern researchers still be using single-load rifles against an enemy that has access to nuclear weaponry?
My last thought here comes on the heels of the two tweets from Alicia Wise mentioned, but not shown in the article:
She mentions that the New York Times charges more than Elsevier does for a full subscription. This is tremendously disingenuous as Elsevier is but one of dozens of publishers for which one would have to subscribe to have access to the full panoply of material researchers are typically looking for. Further, Elsevier nor their competitors are making their material as easy to find and access as the New York Times does. Neither do they discount access to the point that they attempt to find the subscription point that their users find financially acceptable. Case in point: while I often read the New York Times, I rarely go over their monthly limit of articles to need any type of paid subscription. Solely because they made me an interesting offer to subscribe for 8 weeks for 99 cents, I took them up on it and renewed that deal for another subsequent 8 weeks. Not finding it worth the full $35/month price point I attempted to cancel. I had to cancel the subscription via phone, but why? The NYT customer rep made me no less than 5 different offers at ever decreasing price points–including the 99 cents for 8 weeks which I had been getting!!–to try to keep my subscription. Elsevier, nor any of their competitors has ever tried (much less so hard) to earn my business. (I’ll further posit that it’s because it’s easier to fleece at the institutional level with bulk negotiation, a model not too dissimilar to the textbook business pressuring professors on textbook adoption rather than trying to sell directly the end consumer–the student, which I’ve written about before.)
(Trigger alert: Apophasis to come) And none of this is to mention the quality control that is (or isn’t) put into the journals or papers themselves. Fortunately one need’t even go further than Bohannon’s other writings like Who’s Afraid of Peer Review? Then there are the hordes of articles on poor research design and misuse of statistical analysis and inability to repeat experiments. Not to give them any ideas, but lately it seems like Elsevier buying the Enquirer and charging $30 per article might not be a bad business decision. Maybe they just don’t want to play second-banana to TMZ?
Interestingly there’s a survey at the end of the article which indicates some additional sources of academic copyright infringement. I do have to wonder how the data for the survey will be used? There’s always the possibility that logged in users will be indicating they’re circumventing copyright and opening themselves up to litigation.
I also found the concept of using the massive data store as a means of applied corpus linguistics for science an entertaining proposition. This type of research could mean great things for science communication in general. I have heard of people attempting to do such meta-analysis to guide the purchase of potential intellectual property for patent trolling as well.
Finally, for those who haven’t done it (ever or recently), I’ll recommend that it’s certainly well worth their time and energy to attend one or more of the many 30-60 minute sessions most academic libraries offer at the beginning of their academic terms to train library users on research tools and methods. You’ll save yourself a huge amount of time.