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Open Course Library Sees Little Use in Washington’s Community Colleges

Washington State’s ambitious effort to make free or low-cost course materials available for 42 popular classes at its 34 community colleges isn’t making much progress because only a small fraction of the courses used the materials, according to a report released on Thursday by an arm of the National Association of College Stores.

The report is based on a survey of community-college stores that drew responses from 25 of the campuses. Only nine said that any materials from the state’s Open Course Library had been used on their campuses, in a total of only 17 of the 42 courses.

“Of the 98,130 students enrolled in these 42 courses on the 25 campuses, only 2,386 were in sections that used the recommended OCL materials,” the report says, adding that just 75 of the 2,722 course sections that could have used the materials did so.

In 16 of the 75 sections, students paid nothing for the course materials. The average cost for the materials in the other 59 sections was $25.

“Given the possibility of such substantial savings, the question remains as to why so few of the sections for these 42 OCL courses actually used any of the free or lower-priced materials,” says the report. “Additional study would be needed to address this issue.”

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