Boosting Equity in Information Systems Courses by Eradicating the Textbook Cost Barrier
Mary Lebens Metropolitan State University Minnesota
Abstract Low-income and students of color struggle with the high cost of textbooks, often delaying buying their books or foregoing them all together (Sharp, 2021; Spica & Biddix, 2021). Replacing traditional, expensive textbooks with Open Educational Resources (OER) improves equity by providing students with free access to course materials (Beile et al., 2020; DeRosa, 2020). OER adoption boosts course grades and reduces failing grades and withdrawals for all students, and by an even greater amount for students who are part-time, receiving Pell grants, or who belong to a population historically underserved by higher education (Colvard et al., 2018; DeRosa, 2020). Although OER materials are free, students and faculty across a broad swath of disciplines such as psychology, history, and criminal justice perceive no difference in quality between OER and traditional textbooks (Beile et al., 2020; Bliss et al., 2013; Clinton, 2019; Cuttler, 2019; Vollman, 2021; Winitzky-Stephens & Pickavance, 2017). This study examines students’ perceptions of how textbook costs impact their success at a federally designated minority-serving institution where 57.6% of students are low-income (Wolfston, 2020). Since there is little research on OER usage in MIS programs, the study aims to determine if the traditional textbooks used in Management Information Systems (MIS) courses should be replaced with OER to promote equity by eliminating the textbook cost barrier for students. A quantitative approach was used to gather the data by anonymously surveying MIS students over two semesters at a mid-size, urban, public university in the United States, where the majority of students are people of color and 75% are Pell-grant eligible (Whelan, 2019; Wolfston, 2020). The survey evaluated MIS students’ perceptions of textbook costs and how the costs impact student success. The results showed the vast majority of students perceive textbook costs as a barrier to their success. 65% of students said they did not purchase a required textbook because of cost and 77% delayed buying their textbooks due to cost. A majority of students, 55%, felt not being able to buy a textbook hurt their grade in a course. A whopping 93% of students felt they would be more successful in a course that used a free textbook. The cost of textbooks clearly presents a barrier for low-income and students of color in MIS. Consequently, replacing conventional textbooks with freely available OER materials will boost student success and increase equity, based on the research showing students from underserved groups are disproportionately harmed by the high cost of textbooks (Colvard et al., 2018). The larger impact and contribution of this research is that it will encourage MIS faculty to break down textbook cost barriers for students to improve equity and student success by adopting freely available OER materials.