Where’s the textbook?
OER may offer respite from campus bookstore headaches.
Your textbooks are late and it’s probably not the first time. You needed your books for class, but they did not arrive until a few days after the semester had started. According to former Campus Store manager Jason Thomas, the fault lies with faculty not meeting book order deadlines. Thomas was so fed up with this continual issue that he left his job last semester.
“Dear Anoka-Ramsey Community College,” Thomas wrote in an email on Sept. 30, 2019 to the entire faculty and staff of Anoka-Ramsey and Anoka Technical College. “I quit.”
Thomas’s email brings up grievances, mostly pointed to the inaction of staff, faculty, and administration to help the students. He said that students deserve better than “the lip service that the administration is giving them” about delayed textbooks.
The primary reason students cannot get books on time, according to Thomas, is getting orders from the instructors on time. Because books need to be ordered, there needs to be proper time for them to be shipped and arrive at the school. Thomas says that over 50 percent of the instructors at Anoka-Ramsey fail to meet their order deadlines, in turn failing their students.
“When the campus store sets a deadline for course ordering it is to ensure we have the right book, on the right shelf, at the right time,” Thomas explains in his email. He compares the deadline for book ordering to deadlines professors set for their students; how unacceptable it would be to the professor if students were to not meet their deadline.
“Leading up to each semester, ongoing communication and collaboration between the Campus Store staff, the deans and the faculty largely mitigates any potential for book orders not being placed on time,” Mary Jacobson, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer said in response to Thomas’s claims.
Although Thomas argues the blames rests with the faculty, the store employees are the ones who get caught in the students’ crossfire.
“[Students] get mad at us, when in fact we explain to them; ‘yeah, the instructor didn’t order them on time,’” an anonymous Campus Store worker, concerned about losing their job for speaking out, said.
The Coon Rapids Student Senate have proposed an alternative for students: open educational resources. OER are free online educational resources with open licenses that allow instructors to adapt and redistribute the content with little to no restrictions.
OER solve ordering issues because students do not need to wait for the books to arrive at the Campus Store before being used. Utilizing OER not only addresses the bookstore frustrations but also the cost of the textbooks.
“The idea of broke college students is definitely a thing,” Musawwar Alvi, a Coon Rapids campus student senator, said. “One of the reasons we’re pushing for OER are free textbooks for students to use. They can get rid of that [financial] barrier that many students face.”
Political Science instructor John Herbert has been using online resources since he began teaching 18 years ago but has switched exclusively to OER in the last few years. Herbert said the benefits for students is his primary reason to utilize the online resources.
“Research shows that 30 percent or more of students will not even purchase the textbook, which immediately sets up another roadblock to their success,” Herbert said. Having a resource available to students for free, although requiring internet access, is beneficial to student success, according to Herbert.
As the student senate continues to support the widespread adoption of OER in classrooms, physical textbooks will still be commonplace. Luckily for students, the ability to have their books on time is greatly improving from Thomas’s time with the school.
“Regularly clarifying updates and processes has resulted in nearly all books being available at the Campus Store when students start their courses each semester,” Jacobson said. “In fact, 100% of orders were in place spring 2020.”