12 Course Marking: A History

What is course marking?

Course Markings, also called attributes, designations, tags, flags, or labels, are specific, searchable features applied to courses. These features allow students to quickly identify important information and aid in their decision making to efficiently plan their academic careers. Course markings may include letters, numbers, graphic symbols, or colors and can designate any information about a course, including service-learning status, additional costs, course sequencing requirements, and whether the course fulfills specific general education requirements.[1]

When did it start?

The history of open and affordable course markings dates back to state and federal legislation in the mid-2000s concerning textbook price disclosure in an institution’s schedule of classes. The issue of textbook affordability first gained national attention in 2004, with an exposé released by Student Public Interest Research Groups, which found textbook prices had risen more than four times the rate of inflation.[2] The findings struck a nerve with students, parents, and politicians alike, and within a few years states began introducing legislation designed to increase textbook price transparency. Between 2015 and 2019, 14% of U.S. states adopted legislation to require open or affordable markings in course schedules or catalogs; it is likely the trend will continue to spread nationwide.

In June of 2021 the Idaho State Board of Education released a memo stating that Idaho institutions would be joining this movement. [3] Later that same year the University of Idaho formed a team and created an institutional plan on how to increase access and affordability of instructional materials for all students.

To accomplish this, U of I is striving to do the following:
  • Grow resources and support to help faculty ensure all instructional materials are relevant and accessible for all students.
  • Create policies and/or strategies that minimize the cost of instructional materials for students while maintaining the quality of education.
  • Encourage professional development opportunities for faculty and staff related to the discovery, adoption, and use of OER and other affordable instructional materials.
  • Develop strategies to support faculty adoption, adaption, and/or use of OER and other affordable instructional materials.  
  • Strengthen programs, incentive structures, or other strategies to encourage and support faculty to publicly share OER developed for their own courses.[4]

Our hope is that when students log in to their online registration portals and look at course offerings for the semester, they will be able to quickly target courses that have zero or low-cost materials. This might make some classes more desirable than others, and/or help student prepare for their financial needs here at U of I. This transparency aids our communication with students and encourages instructors to ensure their course materials are high-quality and low-cost to students.

  1. Content on this page comes from Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies 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.
  2. Student PIRGs. 2004. “New Report Shows College Textbooks Are ‘Ripoff 101’: Publishers Increase Prices through Gimmicks, Faculty Are Concerned.” Press Release. https://studentpirgs.org/2004/01/29/new-report-shows-college-textbooks-are-ripoff-101/
  3. Idaho State Board of Education. (2021, June 21). III.U. - instructional material access and affordability. Idaho State Board of Education. https://boardofed.idaho.gov/board-policies-rules/board-policies/higher-education-affairs-section-iii/iii-u-instructional-materials-access-and-affordability/
  4. Seiferle-Valencia, Marco. Henrich, Kristin. and Ropski, Beth (2023). University of Idaho Institution Plan for Instructional Material Access and Affordability. [Memorandum]


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Open at the University of Idaho Library Copyright © by Tyler Rodrigues and Marco Seiferle-Valencia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.