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Newsletter: Community Unites to Break Down Textbook "Bear"-iers

Community Unites to Break Down Textbook "Bear"-iers

by Jen Mayer, Head of Scholarly Communication

Prior to this year’s Bears Give Back textbook affordability initiative, Jen Mayer, Associate Professor and Head of Scholarly Communication at University Libraries, completed a fall 2021 sabbatical titled Open Educational Resources (OER): Student and Faculty Impacts. Her research focused on the impacts and perceptions of open educational resources on teaching and learning.

Jen used institutional data and student and faculty interviews to answer the overarching question, To what extent has OER contributed to student success? Jen compared UNC course sections between Fall 2019 and Summer 2021 that used OER to those that did not, and found that students who took an OER course had both higher passing rates and higher course completion rates than those who took non-OER course sections.

In interviews, students indicated higher engagement with the OER materials, since they were available the first day of class and had no financial cost, gave them a wider variety of course materials and author perspectives than a commercial textbook, and were conducive to class discussions. Faculty interviewees indicated they liked the flexibility of OER, and the ability to choose materials that mapped more closely to their course outcomes. They also acknowledged saving students money was important.

Jen also surveyed students regarding the cost of textbooks and course materials, and the impact of these costs. She reused a survey originally done in 2018, to find out what, if anything, has changed in the last three years.

As in 2018, students’ 2021 responses indicated that textbook costs remain a significant financial barrier to their education. Some of these implications can be seen in the infographic and student quotations below.   

Infographic excerpt with pie chart showing impact of high textbook costs

The implications of the cost of textbooks include taking fewer courses, not registering for a course, dropping or withdrawing from a course, and getting a poor grade or failing a course.

Mayer, J., Brookshire, W.(2022). Textbook and Course Materials Costs and Impacts on UNC Students: Fall 2021 [Infographic]. University of Northern Colorado.


In this survey, students were also invited to share their thoughts anonymously. Student responses included:

“It can be frustrating when I purchase a textbook at the professor's direction, and then we use only one or two chapters."
"Buying textbooks in the triple-digit range as a freshmen taking 100 level courses that didn’t apply to my major still frustrates me to this day. My recommendation would be not to require textbooks in that price range if it does not directly apply to that student’s major. Thank you."
- UNC Student Survey Respondents

Jen firmly believes that open and affordable resources have a role in providing access to higher education, more innovative teaching, and helping to reverse the trend of higher education as a place of debt and inequality, rather than a place of equity and enhanced learning. She hopes that her research helps add to the understanding of the role of open educational resources regarding teaching, learning, and student success. If you have any questions about OER, please get in touch with Jen Mayer ( or Stephanie Wiegand, Textbook Affordability Librarian (   

Bears Give Back 2022

by Jenn Beck, Human Resources and Communications Specialist

University Libraries was excited to participate in Bears Give Back, the second annual day of giving for the University of Northern Colorado this past April.  For 24 hours, the Bears community came together to invest in UNC by making generous gifts to the programs and areas of campus they’re most passionate about.  

The day of giving is not only about fundraising, but also an opportunity to build a culture of philanthropy with our students.  An on-campus scavenger hunt for plush Klawz bears got our students involved in the spirit of the day.  Clues were posted on social media, and once found, students were able to allocate $100 to the Bears Give Back project of their choice.   

Once again, University Libraries was blown away by the support we received for this year’s initiative, Textbook Affordability, raising more than $3000.