Course Resources and the Cost of Learning

How is it that students can spend less on course resources but learn more? A question by student researchers Erin Campbell and Ewurama Appiagyei-Dankah

Last fall we brought together Ewurama Appiagyei-Dankah and Erin Campbell, two undergraduate students, to collaborate on a research project. Ewurama and Erin wanted to know how

portrait of Ewurama Appiagyei Dankah

Ewurama Appiagyei Dankah, undergraduate researcher

Portrait of Erin Campbell

Erin Campbell, undergraduate researcher

MSU educators make decisions about course materials, and how their fellow students feel about those choices. They started with a series of site-specific surveys to find out how much money students are spending on materials, and later co-chaired a focus group to ask more nuanced questions ranging from resource cost to utility, quality, and innovation.

Through the focus groups they found that students:

  • notice when texts are assigned but not integral to learning;
  • are not necessarily opposed to expensive texts, if those texts are useful;
  • are wary of rental schemes, course codes, and nth edition scams;
  • don’t always prefer digital materials to print, even when they are cheaper;  
  • appreciate professors who find ways to increase learning while decreasing cost.

That last finding begged the question: How is it that students can spend less but learn more?

Ewurama and Erin decided to look deeper. This past summer they framed their findings as a series of questions and put them to five faculty members to find out their thoughts. They wanted to know how these educators choose resources and how they explained those choices to students. They learned how MSU educators are making innovative choices to both bolster learning in their classrooms and reduce costs. Highlights from each conversation will be published here as part of a multi-post series on course resources and the cost of learning, starting today with Erin and Melanie Cooper’s conversation.