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Open Educational Resources (OER)

A guide for faculty to find OER & no-cost materials


What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

“Open educational resources” means high-quality teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released pursuant to an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others, and may include other resources that are legally available and free of cost to students.  Open educational resources include, but are not limited to, full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, faculty-created content, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. --California Education Code, Section 78052 (b) (4)

Equity and OER

female college graduate with confetti#Equity  is about lifting people up, #Open  is about bringing barriers down. Both are about allowing everyone to participate.

-Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC

  • Textbook costs should not be a barrier to education. The price of college textbooks increased 88%  from January 2006 to July 2016. If we take a longer look back, the increase is even more startling. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a 1,041% percent increase from January 1977 to June 2015, which is over three times the rate of inflation. College students face steep price tags that can make the cost of learning higher than the cost of attending a college or university. Using OER solves this problem because the material is free online, affordable in print, and can be saved forever. 
  • Students learn more when they have access to quality materials. The rapidly rising cost of textbooks in higher education has left many students without access to the materials they need to succeed. Studies show  that 93% of students who use OER do as well or better than those using traditional materials, since they have easy access to the content starting day one of the course.
  • Openly licensed materials increase currency and relevancy. Imagine a science textbook that incorporates the latest results from a laboratory, or a math tutorial that incorporates local landmarks into word problems. This and more is possible when instructional materials are created to be shared and improved digitally and legally.
  • OER reduces equity gaps.

The Research and OER

A Look at the Research

  • The Florida Virtual Campus has conducted four surveys  of students in Florida public colleges and universities (2010, 2012, 2016, 2018), finding that the high cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access, success, and completion in a variety of ways.

  • In 2017, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) and the Washington Community & Technical Colleges Student Association (WACTCSA) partnered to conduct a survey of over 10,000 Washington state community and technical college students. One goal of this survey was to explore the influence of course materials costs on student enrollment decisions.

  • CSU Channel Islands’ openCI initiative recently completed a campus-wide study of over 700 undergraduate students. This is a unique study because it focuses on exploring the impact of textbook costs specifically on historically underserved populations. Statistical analysis revealed textbook prices to be a significant educational barrier for all CSUCI students, with a disproportionately negative effect among racial/ethnic minorities, low-income students, and first-generation college students.

  • The University of Georgia Study

In July 2018, a large-scale study  was published that examined the impact of OER on student success metrics. The study evaluated the academic performance of 22,137 students in nine different courses at the University of Georgia. Each of these courses was taught by a professor who switched from a commercial textbook costing $100 or more to a free, open textbook from OpenStax.

  • Key Findings- the results demonstrate that OER adoption does much more than save students money. OER also impact student learning, completion, and attainment gaps by improving end-of-course grades and decreasing DFW (D, F, and Withdrawal letter grades) rates. More specifically:
    • OER improve end-of-course grades for all students
    • OER improve course grades at greater rates for non-white and Pell-eligible students, part-time students, and populations historically underserved by higher education
    • OER decrease DFW rates for all students
    • OER decrease DFW rates at greater rates for non-white and Pell-eligible students, part-time students, and populations historically underserved by higher education

Why use OER?