The shift to remote teaching and learning has required major adjustments from faculty and students alike, and more may be required given that instruction will be online through summer and the fall is uncertain. Still, this is a great time to consider Open Educational Resources (OER). Why consider extra work to redesign your course around new materials when so much work is already going in to teaching remotely? Because the equity concerns around course materials will be even more significant during the pandemic and accompanying economic downturn. More students will face barriers to access, threatening their grades, time to degree, and even retention. OER can help to address this.
OER are free to students. The majority of our students face financial challenges in paying for education even in good economic times. Many will face lost or reduced income, costs for course materials will be a greater struggle than usual. Textbook publishers are offering free access to many textbooks through the spring 2020 semester, but we don't know how long this will last. OER help to free up students' limited funds for tuition, internet and device access, and life's necessities.
OER are digital. Stay-at-home orders mean that online materials are the easiest to access. Some strategies that students use to get access to print materials, such as relying on library reserve copies or sharing textbooks with other students, are unavailable or more difficult due to social distancing requirements.
OER offer permanent access. Students can get access to OER at any time, regardless of course registration or financial aid status, and can keep them after the course ends. OER can generally be downloaded to a local device, rather than needing to be read online, so students that lack stable Internet connections still have access to the material. Students who may have to drop classes due to illness, caregiving responsibilities, or financial issues won't lose any investment in course materials, and won't have to worry about repurchasing textbooks or new editions when they are able to re-enroll.
OER are Open. The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for students and educators, and there's considerable uncertainty about how long the crisis will last. Open licensing means minimal barriers and resilient access to course materials, regardless of how long remote teaching continues.
If you are interested in exploring OER for any of your courses, please contact:
OER Faculty Fellow
Scholarly Communications Librarian
There are many definitions, for example:
Common to these definitions is the idea that OER are not only available at no cost, but that they can be modified, reused, and shared. David Wiley has described the permissions that define an open resource with the "5 Rs:"
Note that OER are not limited to textbooks. They can include any kind of teaching and learning materials from problem sets to complete course designs.
The most common reason driving interest in OER is to reduce the cost of course materials.
But the 5 Rs create many other advantages for OER: