Recognizing the Value of OER

Listen to Ann Inoshita, Instructor of English at Leeward Community College, Hawaii, describe the value of OER as reads she her poem “Our Future is Open Access,” which poignantly synthesizes the importance and impact of OER.

You already recognize the value of OER. It not only makes college more affordable (with the reduction of costs connected to the purchase of books and other learning materials), but it also brings to faculty agency that allows us to rethink our pedagogies in ways that center on access.

As faculty who use OER, we don’t just save students money on textbooks: we directly influence students’ ability to enroll in, persist through, and successfully complete a course. In other words, we directly affect their ability to attend, succeed in, and graduate from college.

What is the analogous additional potential of open educational resources, compared to commercial textbooks and other commercial resources? OER are:

  • Free to access
  • Free to reuse
  • Free to revise
  • Free to remix
  • Free to redistribute

The Babson Survey Research Group conducts regular surveys of higher education faculty across the United States regarding their awareness and use of OER. Over several survey iterations, this group has found slow but growing faculty awareness of what OER is and how it might be put to use in their own classrooms. The survey’s insights into how faculty view textbooks overall can provide valuable insight into the potential appeal of OER, in particular. In its most recent report, “Freeing the Textbook: Open Education Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2018,” a section addressed how faculty of traditional publisher textbooks typically utilize them.

Do faculty members “teach from the book,” using the textbook to define the scope, order, and presentation of the material in their course, or do they use the textbook as a launching point and present the material in a different way, with the textbook used to support their approach? When it comes to the inclusion and order of material in the course, the vast majority of faculty say that they do not follow the textbook. Faculty often skip material in the textbook (68% of all faculty, and 72% of those teaching introductory level courses), and teach it in a different order than the textbook (70% of all faculty, and 65% of those teaching introductory level courses). A sizable fraction of faculty report that they replace material in the text with other material — either their own, or from other sources.

Bar graph Use of Textbooks. Most faculty "skipped sections of the textbook" - 68% of all faculty, 72% intro course faculty

Advocates for OER have often cited the 5Rs as a major benefit of adopting open resources. The open licensing of OER means that faculty are free to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute their course materials. Faculty are clearly already making extensive use of Revise and Remix, even with the current copyrighted textbooks. The OER 5R approach appears to be a good match to how faculty are already using their textbooks.

Access and Equity

When we talk about OER, we bring two things into focus: that access is critically important to conversations about academic success, and that faculty and other instructional staff can play a critical role in the process of making learning accessible.

Consider this access as an extension of the social justice agenda of community college and public education: these invite learners across socio-economic levels to participate — equitably — in the educational system.  OER is, in essence, an extension of this educational opportunity, one that promotes greater and more equitable access to learning.

OER have broad benefit, reach, and impact. Sharing them is promoting their value.  In this regard, they:

  • Provide ready access to a myriad of learning materials
  • Can transform the way students engage in their learning
  • Lessen financial burdens for students
  • Drive changes in the way we teach

Photo of Kelsie AguieleraRead Rachael Inake’s Learning with Technology blog post “Kelsie’s OER Journey Continues” to learn about how Kelsie Aguilera, instructor of anthropology at Leeward Community College, Hawaii, promotes OER because of her successful experience using them with her students.

Write on this Course: Articulating the Value of OER

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As a budding advocate of OER, you have learned about the affordances that open licenses bring. Share your thoughts on the value of OER by responding to these questions:

  • How has OER opened opportunities for learners across socio‐economic levels to participate — equitably — at your institution?
  • How are you using OER on your campus to transform the way students engage in their learning?
  • How have OER changed the way faculty are teaching at your institution?

You can use Hypothesis to add your answers as public annotations to this page. Comments are welcome anywhere on the page. Please use the tag #SUNYOERChat in your posts.

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The content in this course is adapted from the following works: