What's Our Impact?
Each semester, my students thank me for these high quality resources that they don't have to pay for.
Calculating the actual impact of a resource like this is difficult, because to be accurate you would have to factor in benefits to students, benefits to instructors, relative advantage of the resources to alternatives, and so forth.
To get a general sense of impacts as perceived value of our content, we rely upon reader feedback [#reader_feedback] on the overall quality of each chapter.
To get a general sense of impacts as cost savings, though, we can also look at two different factors: (1) reported course adoptions [#course_adoptions] (for a low-end estimate) and (2) website activity metrics [#website_activity] (for a high-end estimate). Actual cost savings will likely fall somewhere between the two.
And finally, to get a sense for the impact that these cost savings have on students, we can calculate effects in terms of food, healthcare, and tuition benefits [#student_effects] based on average rates.
Each chapter in our platform has a default end-of-chapter survey to allow readers to provide a quality rating on the chapter. These ratings allow us to see how readers perceive the quality of our content overall.
Reported Course Adoptions
One extremely conservative way to estimate cost savings to students can be done by calculating textbook adoptions by specific courses over time. This represents the bare minimum of cost savings to students, though the actual amount is likely much higher due to adoptions that are not reported.
The following table provides details for courses that have reported their textbook adoptions to us.
|Institution||Course||Annual Savings||Cumulative Savings|
|BYU||IPT 371: Technology Integration||$22,500||$135,000|
|BYU||IPT 373: Online Learning||$15,000||$30,000|
|BYU||IPT 510: Intro to Writing||$720||$3,600|
|BYU||IPT 520: Foundations of Instructional Technology||$2,000||$8,000|
|BYU||IPT 750: Literature Synthesis and Review||$1,200||$2,400|
|SUNY - Cortland||N/A: Tech Integration||$40,000||$80,000|
The limitation of relying solely upon course adoptions is that many courses and informal learners throughout the world may use the resource without reporting their use.
To remedy this, as a simple, broader metric we can count things like PDF downloads and page views and determine the cost savings to learners based upon the current market value of similar commercial products.
To provide a conservative estimate, we will assume the following:
- A PDF download of an entire textbook would be similar to purchasing a similar commercial textbook. Commercial textbooks in this realm range anywhere from $30 to $150, but we will go with a low average estimate of $30 per book download.
- A PDF download of a textbook chapter would be similar to purchasing a single chapter or a portion of a textbook. Commercial research articles generally cost anywhere from $10 to $45 for a PDF download, and books generally have at least 10 chapters. So, we will go with a very low estimate of $3 per chapter download (or 1/10th that of the book).
- However, most of our users do not download PDFs but rather read chapter contents via a web browser. Content-wise, the value of a web view is identical to that of a chapter PDF download. Because we collect analytics data on consenting users, we can track how long users spend on a chapter page that they are viewing. To estimate the number of chapters that are read on the web, we will only count web page views that exceeded 5 minutes in length and will use the same cost estimate as a chapter download, which is $3.
- And finally, many users choose not to allow us to track their viewing activities, but we can still see that the chapter was viewed by someone. We will subtract the number of chapter PDF downloads from this value, because users will generally need to view the page in a browser before they can download it. Also, given that among tracked users about 15% of views are long enough to be considered as "reads," we will assume that this same pattern applies to untracked views and only include 15% of these in our estimate, each with a cost of $3.
Given the historical activity of the site over the past 18 months, here is the estimated cost impact to learners based upon these metrics:
|Metric||Commercial Value||Activity||Cost Savings to Students|
|Book PDF downloads||$30||48,024||$1,440,720|
|Chapter PDF downloads||$3||144,910||$434,730|
|Tracked Web-based Chapter Reads||$3||19,984||$59,952|
|Untracked Web-based Chapter Reads||$3||36,417||$109,251|
And finally, decontextualized numbers mean little as disconnected from day-to-day impacts on students' lives. For this reason, many studies on effects of open textbooks on students consider how cost savings benefit students' lives in terms of health, wellbeing, grades, course completion, and so forth.
Because our site does not track individual users, we cannot predict cost savings for each user, but we can translate overall cost savings in terms of equivalent student benefits on things like food, healthcare, tuition credits, and so forth.
In this way, we can envision the actual impacts of our students' cost savings by realizing that this equals the following: