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CPS Guide to Open Education (UNH Manchester Library)

Understanding the why behind adopting OER

Before we discuss the benefits of OER in detail, please take a few minutes to watch this video from Abbey Elder, Open Access & Scholarly Communications Librarian at Iowa State University. The video reviews the definition of OER but also provides a broad overview of why OER is an effective solution in addressing student barriers to high-quality learning materials. The video also provides examples of how faculty can use OER to enhance their teaching and improve student learning.



Why use OER?

OER supports a future where students and instructors have free access to a wide variety of high-quality educational resources that have been collaboratively developed, reviewed, revised, and shared across institutions. A future where educational resources can be easily adapted to fit within the context of specific courses, and to meet the needs of specific students. A future where the cost of creation, use, and maintenance is much lower than the current rising costs of textbooks and other classroom resources.

  • Textbook costs should not be a barrier to education
  • Students learn more when they have access to quality materials
  • Technology holds boundless potential to improve teaching and learning
  • Better education means a better future

Using OER can both provide tremendous cost savings for students and impact student success and completion rates. The cost of textbooks can be a huge financial burden on students, which not only affects student success, but could also delay graduation for students who are taking fewer classes per term because of that cost, further increasing financial costs for students over time. OER provide students with day-one access to free course materials, and research reviewed by the Open Education Group shows that most students perform as well or better using OER course materials compared with students using traditional textbooks.

When faculty use OER, we aren’t just saving students money on textbooks: we are directly impacting that students’ ability to enroll in, persist through, and successfully complete a course.
~ Jhangiani & DeRosa, 2017

The Florida Virtual Campus’ 2016 and 2018 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey demonstrates that the cost of commercial textbooks continues to negatively impact student access, success, and completion.

Four targets showing  different impacts of textbooks costs on students. 64% Don't buy textbooks. 43% take fewer classes. 41% Don't register for a course. 23% drop a course.

"Infographic: Impact of Student Textbook Costs on Student Progress” by Florida Virtual Campus Office of Distance Learning & Student Services, 2018 is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Student engagement and advocacy are another key benefit to OER. Including your students’ voices in the conversation surrounding affordability and inclusive course materials is critical. Consider reaching out to your Student Government Association and other student groups to get them involved. National groups like Student PIRG have an active campaign on textbook affordability with resources and strategies for students to use. Faculty and administrators can also invite students to serve on planning committees related to OER and textbook affordability. Other ideas for student engagement and advocacy can be found in these resources:

Benefits for Faculty

Imagine being able to edit, modify, update, and improve your course materials so the learning outcomes are met and the course material’s content is “exactly the way you want it.” OER allows for this!

The faculty member in this video shares his experience with learning material he’s curated over the years and why he chose to adopt OER. Can you relate? {view snippet 0:00 - 1:40}

Faculty using OER enjoy great freedom in selecting course materials that they customize to fit the specific needs of their students and the goals of their classes. Since most OER permit adaptation, educators are free to edit, reorder, delete from, or remix OER materials. OER provide clearly defined rights to users, so educators are not faced with interpreting Fair Use and TEACH Act guidelines.

Open educational resources also provide increased opportunities for faculty to engage in open pedagogical practices with their students. As mentioned above, students play a vital role in OER. Student involvement also creates effective and successful open education programs at your institution. Open pedagogy focuses on instructional approaches which allow students to use, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute open content. In other words, students move from knowledge consumers to knowledge creators. The ability for students to engage more actively with the OER is a key pedagogical benefit for faculty and students - one that commercially published copyrighted course materials do not provide. To explore the power of open pedagogy further, take a look at the recent publication Open Pedagogy Approaches: Faculty, Library, and Student Collaborations. This comprehensive collection is full of practical tips, ideas, and inspiring stories for faculty.

Other key benefits to faculty include:

Use, Improve, and Share

  • Save time and energy by adapting or revising resources that have already been created
  • Tailor resources to fit specific context within your courses and research
  • Expand interdisciplinary teaching by integrating resources from multiple disciplines

Network and Collaborate with Peers (professional development considerations)

  • Access educational resources that have been peer-reviewed by other experts in your field
  • Explore reviews and annotations that provide more in-depth knowledge of the resource
  • Collaborate on creating new resources that can be used within or across disciplines

Lower Costs and Improve Access to Information

  • Reduce the cost of course materials
  • Enable all students to have equal access to course materials
  • Provide students with the opportunity to explore course content fully before enrolling

OER: Equity & Openness

When discussing open educational resources and exploring their use and benefits, remember that access and equity are not the same. If students don’t have equitable access to technologies and resources, OER are not equally accessible to all. Additionally, there are other challenges related to equity in open educational resources. While open educational resources and open practices present opportunities to create and share diverse and inclusive resources, inequities in OER exist. For example, the open community is lacking in diverse voices who author OER. There also are known difficulties finding openly licensed content that is culturally relevant and inclusive. Representation matters and there is work to do in this area!

The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) has collected resources and articles exploring OER through the lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion. These resources are included (and continue to expand) on their Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion blog.

As you learn more about OER, consider how open education practices and the use of OER can enhance your own teaching practices and learning materials to become more equitable, diverse, and inclusive. The DOERS3 Collaborative, a group of public higher education systems and organizations promoting OER creation, created the Equity Through OER Rubric, a comprehensive tool for assessing and improving an institution’s use of OER to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion. As an OER champion, work consciously to resolve the known inequities that exist in open educational resources. Make them truly culturally relevant, inclusive, and representative.

...OER provide a unique opportunity for educators to access learning materials, and then tailor them to the specific needs of their classroom. This is particularly important for teaching diverse groups of students. Where culturally-responsive curriculum redesign must include funding to print textbooks that often fail to reflect student diversity and quickly become outdated, OER could instead be used to give students access to high-quality learning materials that educators could then continue to adapt as understandings of student needs and identities change.
~ Prescott, S., Muñiz, J. & Ishmael, K., 2018


GSC Open Ed Guide is largely derived from Texas Learn OER by Carrie Gits for DigiTex is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. 2020