CNI Publishes New Strategies for Acquiring Learning Materials

An interesting report came to light for many on June 10 when this tweet emerged from CNI:

Video #cni20s Clifford Lynch 6/9/20 webinar discusses recently released Executive Roundtable report, “New Strategies for Acquiring Learning Materials” #OER #inclusiveaccess #teachingandlearning #highered #covidlibrary #libraries @ARLnews @educause

— CNI (@cni_org) June 10, 2020

The video (available through the embedded link above) features Cliff Lynch, Executive Director of CNI, discussing the Executive Roundtable Report which focused on the following questions:

  • Has your institution formulated new systematic approaches for acquiring and/or managing learning materials? What are these, and how are they organized? How are they delivered?
  • Are you working with institutional partners to implement programs for acquiring and adopting digital learning materials on your campus? Which ones? Who is leading these efforts?
  • What does your institution view as the right mix of OER and negotiated commercial agreements? What are the priorities for each?
  • Has your institution negotiated institution-level contracts with learning materials providers?
  • How has the sudden shift to the need to support remote instruction (often midsemester or mid-quarter) altered the institutional strategy and tactics?
  • What are the implications of these choices going forward? How has this changed institutional and faculty assumptions? How will strategies for acquiring or selecting instructional resources change in the coming years?

In light of the global pandemic, removing barriers to student access to support materials for classroom instruction has become a priority. Students want to be able to access textbooks at the point of need and licensed access to digital versions of textbooks via the library environment is limited. Transitioning from an older model where students are responsible for the financial costs of acquiring textbooks (regardless of format) to one where libraries are able to provide them with licensed versions of textbooks has not been easy.

Spotlighting this concern, the library at the University of Guelph recently published a statement regarding publishers' licensing models which preclude institutional libraries from being able to offer the needed access to digital textbooks, noting: 

Approximately 85% of existing course textbooks are simply unavailable to libraries in any other format than print. Textbook publishers have built their profit models around selling e-textbooks directly to students. Despite this, we also know that the cost of textbooks and other course materials represent a major financial hurdle for students at the University of Guelph.

A similar statement subsequently emerged from Michigan's Grand Valley State University. To be fair, libraries have historically chosen not to spend acquisition dollars on textbooks, a point which the CNI report notes. When the abrupt shift to remote access was driven by campus closures, however, libraries saw it as part of their mission to meet the needs of students. The Executive Roundtable report puts it this way:

...many libraries began to sidestep traditional textbook procurement policies, driven by the mandate to make available needed materials in digital form immediately, and given the library's expertise in licensing and digital acquisitions. There is a sense now that many college and university libraries are irrevocably embedded in the process of procuring and delivering teaching and learning materials in a way that they had not necessarily been in the past, and that these materials have an increased claim on the acquisitions budget.

That's a significant change in a period when many institutional libraries face significant budget cuts.

The report's concluding paragraph included one additional point of which content providers will want to be aware: One participant made the astute observation that OER are accessible and equitable on many different levels and in ways that publisher content often is not...

The full text of CNI's report, New Strategies for Acquiring Learning Material, is available in PDF file format. While brief, the nine-page report is thought provoking and could fuel interesting discussions at an upcoming NISO webinar on OER, currently scheduled for Wednesday, August 12.