5 Other Stakeholders

This chapter describes stakeholders who play a vital role in course marking initiatives, with each stakeholder’s context simplified to be most relevant to their general concerns and attitudes about open and affordable course markings. Stakeholders are covered in the following sections, organized alphabetically: Administration, Advisers, Campus Stores, Information Technology, Institutional Research Department, Instructional Designers, Instructors, Librarians, Marketing and Communication, Recruitment and Advancement, and the Registrar. It would benefit the team leading the course marking initiative to have a comprehensive understanding of the strategic goals of each stakeholder group. However, some stakeholders may fall into multiple categories and therefore may be key to call upon. Additionally, some stakeholder groups will form natural partnerships. Leveraging these synergies can help course marking initiatives to be more successful.


Context Administrators are tasked with overseeing holistic institutional goals. The group is responsible for complying with course marking mandates and is essential for resolving cross-departmental course marking concerns.
Opportunities Can facilitate buy-in across departments and units, either through incentives or compliance measures. Course marking initiatives can inspire them to learn about and invest in open and affordable course materials generally.
Challenges Limited time. Often works as a generalist and may not have in-depth knowledge about open or affordable course content or course marking. May be wary of the institutional cost of course marking and see it as a burden. May require discussions on Return on Investment for open strategies. May be concerned about potential political challenges from faculty.
Noteworthy Must engage with this group (or empower others to engage with them) to be successful, as they control resources and strategic direction.
Potential Partners All stakeholders.

As the leader and visionary of their institutions, college and university presidents play a key role in leading course marking initiatives. Generally, they report to the institution’s board of trustees, providing them with background on key initiatives and working to decide on strategy and direction. Administrative vice presidents, provosts, deans, and coordinators work in a concerted effort toward the institution’s mission, vision, and strategic plan. Administrators can facilitate buy-in across departments by creating incentives for faculty to mark courses or require specific units to oversee the implementation of course marking endeavors. Effective administration depends on several variables, including the strength of the institution’s leadership and the sense of purpose imbued within the college’s goals (Cohen, Brawer, and Kisker 2014; Eckel and Kezar 2016).

Open and affordable course marking endeavors are cross-departmental, often spanning several academic and student success units. They often require administrative support and effort in order to coordinate work towards a common goal. For example, key stakeholders such as advising teams, instructors, registrar, instructional designers, and librarians are in a variety of units. Recently, the establishment of departments of academic excellence have begun overseeing interdepartment student success initiatives, which can be closely tied to open educational resources (OER) (Cromwell 2017). These departments support student success through a variety of services, such as academic tutoring or advising. Gaining administrator buy-in early is essential to motivating collaboration between these groups, troubleshooting barriers, and operationalizing course marking successfully.

Administration commonly oversees the implementation of any course marking mandate when one exists. As a result, administrators often communicate expectations for broad campus initiatives across departments to meet compliance standards. This often involves recognizing that statewide mandates can fold into institutional strategic goals.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge related to getting buy-in from administrators is the issue of cost. The institutional cost of adding open and affordable course materials markings is not well understood, and the calculation of such costs is complicated by a scarcity of models and the great variation from institution to institution of how initiatives are implemented. As discussed in several of the examples in Part VII (Case Studies), the responsibility for course marking is often added to existing positions, often not requiring additional funding for staff but putting additional workload on existing staff, possibly leading to burnout or turnover. It is still unclear how much funding is needed to implement and sustain course markings and which program(s) those new to markings should emulate. Preparation for discussing course marking with administrators should include estimating the general cost of the initiative as discussed in Chapter 7 (Preparing for Implementation) and curating concise and powerful talking points about transparency and affordability.


Context Entity that support students in registering for courses and completing requirements. May be faculty advisers or staff in an advising department.
Opportunities Familiar with courses offered and degree requirements. Their close relationship with students means that they are knowledgeable of course sequencing and students’ processes for selecting courses, aiding in identifying challenges related to course marking.
Challenges The constant changes in course offerings may be an extra burden for advisers to monitor. Also can be difficult since marking takes place on the section rather than course level. If they are not involved in the marking process, they may unintentionally circulate outdated information.
Noteworthy Strong advocates of students’ needs and generally have a good understanding of student registration behaviors. May have familiarity with courses using OER or affordable course materials.
Potential Partners Students, registrar, marking and communications, instructors, and information technology.

Institutions can differ in their advising practices. In some cases, advisers are exclusively faculty and in other cases, this role is filled by staff trained in advising. Regardless of the scenario, the reach of a successful open and affordable course marking initiative requires that advisers are aware of the marking and informed about the meaning of different designations. Thus, involving advisers in course marking planning and including them in decisions about how to designate open and affordable courses is paramount. Ideally, advisers would be part of a feedback loop, periodically providing the course marking initiative with information about what does or does not make sense to students. Advisers might also help extend a course marking endeavor into a larger initiative to create degrees or curriculum pathways that utilize only open or affordable course materials, as advisers are already knowledgeable about curriculum choices students make and which courses use open and affordable materials.

Each new semester can pose new challenges for helping advisers engage with course markings. Challenges can arise from turnover and a lack of updated information, including schedules or issues related to software. Lower Columbia College’s case study provides one example of how advisers might circulate outdated information if they are not updated on changes each semester. Keeping advisers in the loop and giving them clear, concise, and timely information is essential as there is potential for them to become champions in sharing information about course markings to faculty.

Campus Stores

Context Supports institution compliance with HEOA. Involved in instructors’ course materials selection process.
Opportunities Vast knowledge of instructors’ textbook choices, including which instructors are using e-versions, older editions, and low-cost materials. May oversee the course material reporting process. Potential new revenue stream with the implementation of a print-on-demand service.
Challenges Issues with instructors not communicating course material choices, especially in a timely manner. May feel pressure to continue to sell commercial textbooks to support revenue, depending on context. May perceive the loss of revenue with OER materials.
Noteworthy May have a running list of instructors’ preferences and open and affordable resource adoptions, which could jumpstart a course marking initiative.
Potential Partners Registrar, instructors, instructional designers, and librarians.

Campus stores, sometimes referred to as college bookstores, are key stakeholders in establishing open and affordable course marking initiatives. The 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) provided specific requirements to bookstores related to transparency of materials costs, including the availability of course materials costs during registration periods (U.S. Department of Education 2008). This forced campus stores to list textbook prices not only on their shelves, but also digitally. With open and affordable course materials being used in the classroom, campus stores are partnering with instructors to purchase print OER materials and adding OER designations on their shelves and online portals. Their work with instructors primes them to be familiar with the type of course materials being used as well as ideal partners in open and affordable course marking initiatives. For example, they may already have a running list of instructors’ preferences and open and affordable resource adoptions, which could jump start a course marking initiative.

To help ensure compliance with the HEOA, campus stores may oversee the course material reporting process by being involved in textbook selections. Full compliance with HEOA may be difficult as instructors may not communicate course material selections in a timely manner which can affect the accuracy of open and affordable course markings. Even if instructors’ compliance is under 100%, store staff are generally knowledgeable about the amount of time it takes instructors to select materials and their process, making them integral partners.

Generally, campus stores have also been concerned with meeting students’ budgetary limits, utilizing used and rental books as a strategy for competing with discount retailers such as Amazon. They are generally open to textbook affordability programs and working with the library and other departments (Bell 2017). These partnerships will likely be aided by identifying shared values or goals, such as a focus on student success (Cummings-Sauls et al. 2018). In the case study of Nicolet College, the campus store manager was the driving force behind their initiative. Convening an advisory committee of faculty, library staff, instructional designers, and student services, the campus store manager was able to pilot and build an effective OER program by working with the registrar on course designations.

Information Technology

Context Information technology is responsible for managing the systems, software, and technology at institutions.
Opportunities Familiarity with the customization capabilities and limitations of systems that may be used in course markings. Potentially able to support programming required for customization. May be able to design a prototype that can be shared with other stakeholders.
Challenges Very limited time. Works across the institution to provide support to all departments. May not have the time to dedicate staff support. Additionally, may not see course marking as a priority over other systems.
Noteworthy Engagement with information technology is key to a successful initiative. Staff in this department may support the technical implementation along with the required maintenance.
Potential Partners Registrar, campus stores, instructors, advisers, instructional designers, librarians, and institutional research department.

Information technology departments are responsible for reviewing, developing and/or implementing, and maintaining various systems across the institution. Their familiarity with current software may help in identifying the connections across systems; for example, they may be able to identify where and how institutional data is stored and how it is used to populate learning management systems or course schedules. The department will likely be responsible for implementing open and affordable course markings in the relevant systems, either customizing in-house or coordinating with external vendors.

The information technology department is in high demand at the university. Overseeing institution software, including learning management systems, and providing troubleshooting support can leave limited time for additional projects. While there may be interest in course marking, the workload and availability of staff time may limit investment in this new project. However, engagement with this stakeholder group is key to the success of course marking initiatives. It may help to offer engagement in stages, starting with providing consultations on the general capability of institutional systems and, later, assisting with customization.

Institutional Research Department

Context Entity that oversees ethical preparation and execution of research on campus. Essential for making data-informed decisions about course marking effectiveness and accessing related data on student registration, GPA, and course load.
Opportunities Familiarity with data collection, storage, and preservation. May assist with navigating data privacy requirements like FERPA. Helpful in performing studies gathered from course marking data (e.g. enrollment impact, grade impact).
Challenges IR departments are often burdened with a high workload. Course marking may not be seen as a priority.
Noteworthy Working with the IR department can leverage research to advance OER generally. Course marking assessment can act as an introduction to more robust assessment projects related to student affordability and transparency.
Potential Partners Information technology, administration, marketing and communications, and recruitment and advancement.

Establishing good communication and collaboration with the institutional research (IR) department is essential to the assessment of open and affordable course markings. The IR department oversees ethical preparation and execution of research on campus. They are often able to help collect data related to student enrollment or course outcomes and, if needed, can also develop new tools or database options to isolate and identify registration data. This data can create compelling pieces of evidence that speak to student academic success, retention, and persistence and influence administrative decisions such as iterating on and improving a course marking initiative, funding for instructors’ OER efforts broadly, and/or the need for additional staff. Partnering with IR early on can be helpful in identifying which data can be collected, ensuring that the data collected is valid and meaningful, and using that data in these communications with stakeholders, especially administrators. However, IR departments have a heavy workload and working with course marking initiatives to collect such data may not be a priority. Collaboration and shared responsibility between other departments or OER committees in collecting course marking data may be helpful for IR departments.

Charged with collecting, maintaining, and disseminating institution-related information and data, the IR department is also well versed in federal, state, and institutional policies related to privacy and data, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. As such, IR is a key partner in developing studies or sharing data collected from open and affordable course markings, which contain information about students.

Working with the IR department can leverage personal and institutional research to advance OER. Data collected from course marking assessment can act as an introduction to more robust assessment projects related to student affordability and transparency. For example, throughout the process of drafting, implementing, and reviewing a survey that attempts to assess OER impact, IR staff can support efforts to make a valid and reliable instrument.

Instructional Designers

Context Provide instructional support for campus by assisting instructors with designing and assessing learning outcomes, developing modules and assignments, creating the foundation for entire courses, and/or troubleshooting issues with learning software.
Opportunities Work closely with instructors on course design and can leverage these opportunities to communicate course marking policies and procedures to increase timely and accurate reporting of course resources. Often familiar with instruction across disciplines and have a macro-level of teaching practices. Instructional designers can connect faculty interested in open practices to those that already use them in their curriculum. Due to extensive connections with faculty, they may facilitate feedback or testimonials from faculty using OER or incorporating open practices.
Challenges Offices housing instructional designers are often understaffed, which can exasperate feeling overburdened and fatigued by the need to stay current on new software or teaching practices they are required to support; OER initiatives may contribute to this burden.
Noteworthy Comprehensive integration of open practices into campus culture requires buy-in and support from instructional designers.
Potential Partners instructors, librarians, students, information technology, institutional research department, campus stores, and advisers.

Instructional designers support the creation of courses by designing and assessing learning outcomes, developing modules and learning materials, and troubleshooting issues with learning software. They are often involved with the development of online courses but can also be involved in the creation of in-person or hybrid classes. While the breadth and depth of their involvement in courses will vary by campus, instructional designers are typically knowledgeable about the courses offered at an institution, are aware of the resources individual instructors have adopted in their courses, and sometimes have significant expertise in usability and accessibility of online tools.

Because of their unique involvement with course creation across an institution, instructional designers can advocate for the use of open and affordable resources in the classroom, especially at the start of a course redesign process when instructors may be more receptive to replacing course materials. Correspondingly, they can encourage faculty to report such resource use when it occurs. Instructional designers may also be familiar with external forces that influence course creation or changes. This awareness gives instructional designers a unique advantage to connect open practices to new or revised course goals. Recognizing instructional design interventions as a communication opportunity for course marking initiatives can widen the reach of marketing campaigns and increase compliance with reporting requirements.

In some cases, OER initiatives originate from within teaching and learning centers or instructional design units. In these situations, designers may find themselves leading course marking efforts or supplying data about which courses use materials that qualify for a marking. Units housing instructional designers may be overburdened with a high volume of support, and open and affordable course marking initiatives may add an additional challenge. It is important to encourage the support of instructional designers so that they can communicate reporting needs to the instructors they assist without overwhelming them. Instructional designers may also collaborate with faculty to collect data on student use and impact and translate these results to reporting of student outcomes.


Context Most instructors are responsible for selecting course materials (exceptions include materials selected by curriculum teams). Thus, they control the usage of open and affordable course content in the classroom and communicating such usage for marking in the schedule, whether directly or indirectly through their departments or the registrar.
Opportunities Instructors already report their course materials choices, so ensuring that the new process is easy for them could increase support for course markings. Additionally, instructors generally empathize with the need to decrease student costs and transparency for students. Possibility for increased enrollment in sections that indicate no or low course materials costs. Potential for instructors to incorporate open practices in future courses.
Challenges Instructors may fear that students will avoid classes without the open or affordable course marking, which they may feel threatens their academic freedom. Course markings can also be perceived as a workload burden by some instructors.
Noteworthy Not only must instructors buy-in to the new course marking process, but they must also buy-in to the use of open and affordable course materials. Support for the latter will lay a promising foundation for the former.
Potential Partners Students, advisers, instructional designers, librarians, and campus stores.

Instructors include lecturers, faculty members, adjunct instructors, teaching graduate students, or anyone else involved in teaching and selecting materials for a particular course. Many instructors empathize with the need to decrease student costs and increase transparency for students. Since they are responsible for selecting materials and designating open and affordable materials correctly, their support is essential in any course markings initiative.

Instructors may have several concerns related to either open and affordable course materials or the process of marking courses. One common concern is that if they do not currently use open or affordable course materials, students may not select their course or section. With often dwindling enrollments and fewer full-time faculty appointments, competition for course enrollments and positive course evaluations from students can be perceived as influencing a faculty member’s status or advancement in the tenure process. To address this concern, it may be helpful to present data or show examples from other institutions about how students select courses when these markings are present. Related to this, some instructors may feel that there are no low- or no-cost materials available in their discipline or niche (Gallant and Lasseter 2018). This is particularly relevant in contexts where a low-cost threshold (e.g., $40) has been designated campus-wide but the discipline the instructor is working in has an average course material cost of $200+ and/or a lack of relevant OER options. Working with instructors to understand common disciplinary costs and presenting a spectrum of solutions, which might include library-licensed content and e-texts in addition to OER, is paramount. Finally, these concerns may lead to larger concerns about academic freedom of faculty. Emphasizing the motivations of student agency and informed decision making, while reinforcing that faculty can still make choices about materials is important. No faculty is being forced to use open and affordable course content; all still have the autonomy to select which resources are best for their courses.

Apart from faculty concerns about the content itself, course marking can be perceived as a workload burden by some instructors. With growing course loads and service commitments, instructors may feel overwhelmed by another administrative duty. Course marking advocates can utilize a few strategies to assuage these fears. First and foremost, instructors should be represented in the group that plans and executes the course marking initiative so that they can identify parts of the process that may be infeasible. Involving instructors in beta testing the course marking system is another useful strategy. Academic staff should have buy-in on new education initiatives because they are responsible for implementing the changes in the curriculum and conducting course assessments. Mt. Hood Community College used this approach when establishing OER markings in their schedule of classes. Preparing informational materials or holding general discussions on the topic may also help with gaining buy-in and addressing instructors’ concerns.

Ultimately, instructors must support the course markings and open and affordable course materials in order for the course markings initiative to be successful. Any course marking initiative should prioritize making the process for using and reporting open and affordable course materials easy and streamlined to assist this stakeholder group.


Context Providers of teaching and learning resources, including books, ebooks, databases, and textbook reserves. Often knowledgeable of OER, copyright, and resource acquisition. May be involved in course design and embedded teaching.
Opportunities Already do cross-departmental outreach as part of their work. May be leading a broader OER initiative or know of OER adoption strategies.
Challenges Reduction of budgets and reduced staff capacity. Instructors’ perception of librarians as only content acquisition and not instructional partners.
Noteworthy May already know of open and affordable adoptions, including the use of library resources. Can help with broader OER outreach.
Potential Partners Instructors, librarians, students, information technology, institutional research department, campus stores, and advisers.

Uniquely situated in their institutions, librarians cultivate connections with multiple instructional departments by providing textbook reserves, multi-user ebooks used as textbooks, interlibrary loans, online databases, and/or course packets. In addition, librarians are increasingly seen as early advocates, adopters, and coordinators of course materials affordability initiatives owing to their roles in subject content curation, faculty outreach, open access education and promotion, and scholarship sharing and preservation. At the same time, librarians may experience challenges related to instructors’ perceptions of librarians as content managers and not instructional partners. Additional challenges include staffing and budget concerns, which may inhibit the extent of support that can be offered. However, librarians often have firsthand knowledge of what resources instructors require for courses, enabling them to help jump start any course marking initiative.

The library is often a useful partner for reinforcing the educational value of open and affordable resource use and supporting instructors interested in the course marking initiative but unsure of how to adopt open and affordable course content. Librarians also often act as generalists, closely collaborating with a variety of groups—including students—making them key partners in course marking endeavors.

Marketing and Communications

Context Responsible for promoting course markings through uniform, easy-to-understand branding and marketing techniques.
Opportunities Fundamental partner for systematic implementation. Can help with incorporating course marking into recruitment, registration, and advertising initiatives. Increases college branding through icon recognition.
Challenges Course marking icon has to be incorporated everywhere students access course or course material information. Communication and implementation have to be clear and compelling. May be in high demand or have a high workload and may not be able to prioritize course marking initiative.
Noteworthy Systematic course marking icons can be an effective tool for building awareness of open and affordable courses more broadly.
Potential Partners Instructors, students, campus stores, recruitment and advancement, advisers, instructional designers, and librarians.

Good communication and marketing are key to any course marking initiative. Students, advisers, and others using the information for registration will need to understand what the markings are, how to use them, and what they mean, while instructors and other reporters will need to clearly understand what needs to be marked and how to do so. Thus, clear communication and a good marketing plan will lay the groundwork for a successful initiative.

The marketing and communications department can aid in creating an awareness campaign for course markings, clearly communicating all needed information to relevant stakeholders. This relationship will be an evolving process. It is important to note that marketing and communications departments serve the entire university and thus can have many demands on their time. When collaborating with this stakeholder, make requests early to help ensure that your requirements can be accommodated in relation to the department’s workload.

Early in the initiative, marketing may begin to advertise to faculty that this change is forthcoming and to solicit feedback. They may also help develop a course marking symbol or icon that is easily understood and instantly identifiable to students and instructors. The marketing and communications department can craft compelling and easy-to-understand marketing materials about the changes, which can be shared with students and other shareholders across the institution. Ideally, the materials should be customized for each stakeholder group. These materials should be varied and include items like brochures, posters, and online postings. The materials may also include information to help dispel common OER myths or concerns. See Part IV (Branding and Communication) for more comprehensive discussion.

While current stakeholders on campus are the primary audience for the marketing materials, the marketing and communication department can also develop recruitment materials to inform prospective students of the institution’s usage of open and affordable materials. A systematic plan of branding and marketing will help simplify recruitment through increasing brand recognition.

Recruitment and Advancement

Context Responsible for promoting the campus and encouraging potential students to apply and enroll. They might also communicate new initiatives to instructors and staff candidates and potential donors.
Opportunities Sharing the opportunity of a lowered cost of attendance is significant. May be able to use course markings in recruitment material.
Challenges May not know that open and affordable resources use and/or course marking are assets for their recruitment efforts. May need help answering specific questions about the initiative to be most effective.
Noteworthy Including this group early can translate to long-term institutional support and buy-in as it directly impacts enrollment and recruitment.
Potential Partners Marking and communications, institutional research department, advisers, and administration.

Open and affordable course markings can serve recruitment and advancement efforts well. In budget-constrained times, any mechanism for increasing affordability and transparency and communicating those benefits to potential students is an asset. For example, some institutions, like Kwantlen Polytechnic University, have strategically branded their course material marking initiatives to be more comprehensible by calling them zero textbook cost (ZTC) initiatives signaling that students have the option of a zero-cost degree, or Z-Degree, path when considering course materials. Clear branding, training on messaging, and punchy data points can help empower recruitment and advancement staff to entice potential students, instructors, and donors.

This group may use open and affordable course designations as a talking point with students specifically, especially if the course schedule and/or catalog is accessible to potential students. Maricopa Community Colleges’ Maricopa Millions is a helpful example of using open and affordable course designations in recruitment material. The Maricopa Millions webpage takes potential students through the process of searching for classes that have been marked as open. This includes filtering to campuses and subjects. The recruitment material also provides additional information and context around the OER programs at the colleges (Maricopa Community Colleges, 2020). University of Maryland University College has also expanded their OER outreach in their recruitment material. While not specifically focused on course designations, University of Maryland University College uses textbook affordability in airport recruitment advertisements (Cangialosi 2018). Early outreach communicates the initiative’s value to potential students, and discussion with recruiters may inform marketing materials. Recruiters have a unique perspective on the interests and needs of prospective students that may be missed by other stakeholders.

Engaging this stakeholder early in the course marking process is important as it can translate to long-term institutional support and buy-in as it relates to enrollment and recruitment. This group will need clear marketing materials and support for answering questions related to open and affordable course materials and course markings.


Context Oversees course scheduling system on campus, collaborating with instructors to provide information on course sequencing and offerings.
Opportunities As the administrator of the course schedule, this group is a key stakeholder. They are able to discuss how instructors/ department heads provide information about courses and may even provide information on how students use the Student Information Systems (SIS).
Challenges Course markings may add extra work and additional costs for coding and staff time to registrar units, ultimately translating to a burden or new responsibility for this group.
Noteworthy Providing examples and workflows from other campuses may be helpful for an initial meeting with this group. Present course material markings as a simple addition to the suite of course marking the institution already has.
Potential Partners Information technology, campus stores, instructors, advisers, and administration.

The registrar is a key stakeholder for adding open and affordable course markings to the course schedule, as their unit often controls the success (or failure) of a course marking initiative. This is particularly true since most workflow for marking will require adding additional work from the registrar’s office. If possible, research the institution’s student information system (SIS) and course schedule software prior to engaging with the registrar. Providing examples of course markings from other campuses using the same system can help with any initial conversations with this group. Framing the conversation as an extension of the course marking work the institution already does—for service learning and honors courses, for example—may make the new initiative a less daunting prospect for registrars.

The registrar’s office may be able to share valuable information on an institution’s SIS, especially if local systems are customized or developed in house. They also likely have insight and an important role in local processes for course schedule creation and course materials reporting. Registrars should be consulted early in open and affordable course marking efforts and included in discussions around implementation.



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Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies Copyright © 2020 by Breeman Ainsworth; Nicole Allen; Jessica Dai; Abbey Elder; Nicole Finkbeiner; Amie Freeman; Sarah Hare; Kris Helge; Nicole Helregel; Jeanne Hoover; Jessica Kirschner; Joy Perrin; Jacquelyn Ray; Jennifer Raye; Michelle Reed; John Schoppert; and Liz Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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