GEORGE SIEMENS: Now, there have been some movements by I know Washington State, I know British Columbia and others, that have really pushed on the open text movement making these resources available, which embodies a lot of what you're talking about. I mean if a text is freely open, freely available, then you can reuse it, you can revise it, you can remix it, you can redistribute it. Obviously all of these functions are possible because you can actually own the thing in the first place.
Why are faculty using the resources, or teachers for that matter? But the resources that have a far greater cost attached to the student than actually just three psychology profs getting together over a focused summer of lively engaging exchange can create an intro psychology text. They have a lot of the notes already. They have a lot of the references already because they're already teaching it. Why is it that we're buying the text rather than community or even just experts creating the text themselves and then pushing out?
Much like you have systems-- Alberta I know is on this game as well. British Columbia, Washington State is one of the more prominent ones, at least one of the earlier ones out of this approach. I know the work that you've done in Utah as well fits into that profile. So why aren't academics doing that? Just getting together as a group and then creating that one text for all of their psychology, or their math, or their Java programming courses?
DAVID WILEY: I think there's two reasons primarily. The first which we know from, in the US at least, from national surveys is that the overwhelming majority of faculty still don't know that this even exists. They don't know what open educational resources are. Some percentage of those who claim to know what open educational resources are have no idea what Creative Commons is, which then makes you wonder what their understanding of open educational resources was.
So there's just a lack of awareness that this is even possible. When you as a faculty member, especially if you are teaching a high enrolling course like introduction of psychology-- when the way that your life has worked for the last 10 years is that during textbook adoption season free copies of beautifully produced hardcover books just magically appear on your desk and you choose which one you're going to adopt next year, it never occurs to you to think maybe if I spent some additional effort, maybe there are other options open to my students. So that lack of awareness is the first.
The second issue is just a problem of basic incentive alignment. The people who experience the pain of the price of textbooks are students, but students don't have any say in the adoption process. That's all done by the faculty. And in fact not only do faculty not save money when they adopt OER, but any time you change from one textbook to another set of resources there is some effort and time involved on your part. And so you're asking faculty to go out of their way to spend their own time for what at least at the surface level feels like no benefit to them. It's going to all cost and no gain, and all the gain passes through to the student. And so those incentives aren't correctly aligned.
Now, in K-12, where you see that the school district is typically the entity that pays for the textbook, it's a much easier story and that's actually going I think in many ways more quickly. OER adoption is happening there, because the people who make the adoption choice are the people who pay. So the incentives are correctly aligned. But in higher ed, it just doesn't work that way.
GEORGE SIEMENS: It might be worth emphasizing a little bit or talking about the process of textbook purchasing, because I think a lot of people aren't aware of how this happens. So I'll talk a little bit about just my experience in a few instances. So I teach a course on advanced research methods in the doctoral program at Athabasca University. We have a really nice text for this course. It is not a cheap text, several hundred dollars that students will pay for it. It weighs in at probably about 700-800 pages.
And so when the student gets the text they get this really solid well-produced resource. Everything you would expect from a pricey text. Great use of visuals and so on. The faculty member though gets something that students often aren't aware of. They get access to a suite of PowerPoint slides. They get access to implementation resources. They get access to activities that could be simulations and other tool sets that students never see. So publishers have a very close relationship with faculty members.
Now, a faculty member at most universities has a choice to make. They don't have to use-- if we're teaching let's say at a master's student level a group of different courses that might have overlap and we could buy one textbook for three courses and use that same textbook. Faculty don't necessarily have to talk to one another and that means that even though there's some overlap, you may still be required to buy three books for these three different courses, simply because publishers, the salespeople for publishers target those faculty.
And when you're teaching a course-- so here's an illustration. There's a new book that's out and I want to see what that book is about. I can write the publisher and I can get a desk copy, and it'll come with all the resources and all the tools. In other words, when I first request the copy--
DAVID WILEY: And the desk copy is a free copy.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Sorry, I should clarify. Yeah, so I get a free copy of the book. And then when I submit that request for that free book, I will say what course are you teaching, which university, how many students do you expect to enroll, how soon do you expect to make a decision. So that's a sales pre-qualifier for me. And so then I request the book. The publisher sends out the desk copy. I go through it, it's a good book. I may have like you said, I've got a series of several other books, because there's really only three or four significant publishers in this space that most faculty deal with.
Then if you have say psychology, which has huge numbers, they'll deal directly with a prof there. In many instances you might have a book where you're taking 50 students a year through it. It's not a huge-- I mean but even then, 50 students at $200 is still a decent chunk of change for the publisher. But that's the experience. That's the behind the scenes thing. So publishers connect with faculty. You don't have any cost to get access to the book to see if it's a good book.
Once you've made a decision, because you've looked at a number of different books-- and this is an easy choice for a lot of individuals. You're running grants, you're mentoring doctoral student, you're working with postdocs, you're running your lab. You then come along and somebody says, do you George want to spend your summer pulling together all of these materials, updating your curriculum, year in and year out-- because knowledge fields are not stable anymore and they've really never been, but they're certainly accelerating. Or would you like to just make your students pay X number of dollars for this book and we'll give you all of these resources.
So it's not just strictly a cost decision for a faculty member, it's quite often a convenience and a time decision. Because that almost plug and play view of curriculum is really quite significant. So the text that I use in the advance research methods course, I could pull together and stitch together a research course that includes that from open online resources, but the time commitment is significant in order to make that happen.