As a student attending university, textbooks are one of the most expensive materials to purchase for a class. Textbooks are troublesome things. It can be difficult for students to afford the high price tags and even though some schools offer a buyback program, many feel educational resources should be free and available to all.
According to a 2014 study, students save about $900 per year when professors opt to use open educational resources instead of traditional textbooks. In the same study 60% of students have said that they have not purchased some textbooks because of the price. The inaccessibility of traditional textbooks can create a learning gap for students who cannot access such textbooks.
OER Week or Open Educational Resources Week, is a five-day event in March where discussions about open resources are highlighted.
At Susquehanna University, spring courses such as Dr. Jennifer Carter’s Physics 100, and Chemistry 104, taught by Dr. Swarna and Basu’s Dr. Patel-Desai, all utilize open resources in place of traditional textbooks.
So what are these resources and why are they becoming so important? Here are some basics to help understand OER and the benefits of classes who use them.
Open educational resources (OER) are resources available for research, learning, and teaching for little to no cost. The content is released under a creative commons license or a similar license that allows the resource to be used openly used. Usually OERs are in the form of textbooks but it can also be in the forms of other multimedia such as videos, course readings, quizzes, simulations, and games. Sometimes OERs are created commercially through a publisher and other times it originates from libraries, universities, and colleges.
In 2002, MIT launched the OpenCourseWare project which contains over 2,000 materials used in MIT courses. This has become a model for other universities and colleges to create a place where education materials are easily assessable. Even though the material is assessable to anyone, it is not meant to replace taking actual classes, but it instead helps students facilitate their own learning and research. Other OER projects include Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative and Rice University’s OpenStax, and at Susquehanna, we have the Open Textbook Initiative, spearheaded by the library, that works to engage with faculty on ways to incorporate open content into existing courses.
OERs are democratizing learning in a way that allows students to access and learn like never before. They are reusable, affordable, and promote new ways of engaging students like never before. We hope to see more of these resources at Susquehanna very soon.
Tyla Parks, SU ’22