Student views on costs of and access to textbooks (part 1)

Stein, S.J., Hart, S., Keaney, P., and White, R.

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In 2015 we undertook a University of Otago-based study investigating possible effects that the cost of core textbooks may be having on students’ study choices and associated perceptions and behaviours. At the time, US-based reports claimed that the rising cost of textbooks was having a negative impact on students’ learning outcomes. Interactions with staff and students at our University suggested that similar impacts were being felt locally. To explore this possibility, we gathered student views of the costs of, and access to, core textbooks via a questionnaire that we adapted from an earlier (US-based) study. Within the questionnaire, we also explored whether students were perceiving connections among cost, access and study behaviours. Findings provided insights into the spending and access tactics of students. Experiences described by students enabled us to make links with study behaviours in terms of retention, persistence and attainment.

In this presentation, we describe the study, including: its genesis; methodological design including the use of focus groups to refine the questionnaire; results; and our dissemination activities. Implications for practice at a number of levels are presented, as well as reflections on the impact of the study since it was completed.

Speaker profiles

Sarah J. Stein is Director, Distance Learning at the University of Otago. In this mainly strategic role, Sarah works in collaboration with the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Pro-Vice Chancellors, Heads of Departments, programme coordinators, teachers, administrators and others to facilitate change and development in distance education. Sarah researches, supervises and publishes in the areas of teaching, learning and curriculum.

Simon Hart is the Policy, Planning and Evaluation Librarian at the University of Otago. In this role he provides leadership for the Library’s Quality Advancement Framework, and fosters evidenced based decision making and a culture of continuous improvement. He collaborates across the higher education sector to promote these endeavours.

Philippa Keaney is the International Inbound Programmes Coordinator at the University of Otago. She has a keen interest in equitable access to education and in the factors that shape students’ lived experiences of study.

Richard White is the Manager Copyright & Open Access at the University of Otago. He has been an open access advocate since he fell into the copyright space by accident. Current research interests focus on establishing concrete evidence of the citation/reach advantage conferred by making research outputs open. Outside work he is a musician who openly licenses his work at

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Event Timeslots (1)

Track 1 (Room Z114)
Sarah Stein, Simon Hart, Philippa Keaney and Richard White