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OER: Benefits and
Columbia Basin College
What is OER?
Open Educational Resources (OER) are materials designed
for teaching and/or learning that are either public domain
or are released under a license that allows them to be
Some of the licensures allow for modifications to the
original work that may better work for an instructor.
Benefit #1 – Saving Students Money
Many students are under great financial
pressure while they are in college (the 2015
National Student Financial Wellness Survey
found 70% of students are stressed about
Cost of textbooks have gone up
From my own experience, students greatly
appreciate having a free textbook (or
resources) and it starts the class off on a
very good note when they find out.
Benefit #2 – Puts Control Back in the
Faculty Member’s Hands
Using OER allows for faculty to truly dictate what they want to teach and how
they want to teach it. Textbook companies are developing more and more
content to where a faculty member can just upload a prepacked cartridge to
the Learning Management System (LMS) and be done. While this sounds
tempting, it gives up some of the autonomy of being a professional and
directing the course the way s/he believes is the best way.
In addition, when students are asked to pay a couple hundred dollars or more
for a textbook, it is hard to justify deviating from it.
Benefit #3 – More Built-In Clarity
Traditional textbooks run into the issue of highlighting some concepts very
well, and skimming other (or potentially not including them at all). To
supplement this, faculty will find additional resources and provide it for
students. With OER, many times the faculty member will be able to just edit
the resource with the additional content and not have students use multiple
resources which can be confusing to some students.
Benefit #4 – Expands Learning
With OER, it makes it easier to share knowledge with everyone.
Anecdotally, I have had many people state they wish they could take a
specific class (Forensic Psychology) but they do not have the credits to take it
(it is just an elective) or they are too busy. I am able to share the resources
that I use in that class with them, so if they want they can learn the material
on their own. I have also had non-students tell me they are interested in
learning more about psychology and I just send them the open textbook that I
use in class.
Benefit #5 – Professional Development
In the OER literature, there are recommendations to have students assist
faculty in the development of OER. This has multiple benefits to both the
faculty member (less time needed, can focus more on areas of expertise,
mentoring students) and the students (build a relationship with a faculty
member for better Letters of Recommendation, improve writing skills, put on
Challenge #1 - Quality
Just like textbooks, OER have great variance with the quality of content and
There typically is not a fully paid staff whose job it is to edit and proofread
OER, so there will probably be some errors and typos.
Due to costs, some images may not be ideal.
Challenge #2 - Sustainability
Textbooks typically come out with new editions every 2 – 5 years. While this
is an annoyance for faculty and students, it does provide for updated
OER does not have the same systematic approach to developing content as
textbook manufacturers. So, that could mean that a resource never gets
updated after the original creation.
Challenge #3 – Buy In from Students
While many students like the cost of OER, some will want a physical book
instead of online materials. There are some companies that allow students to
purchase a physical copy of the book, but others that do not offer this
For students who have a specific study process that requires a physical book,
this could be problematic.
In addition, anecdotally some students will forget that the textbook exists or
never use it because they did not have to buy it.
Challenge #4 - Accessibility
Not all OER is accessible, which means that adopting faculty member may be
responsible for making the resource accessible. This can be a time-consuming
endeavor that the faculty member is not prepared for.
Challenge #5 – Time
Collecting and/or creating OER takes a lot of time. Unfortunately, many staff
and faculty in higher education do not have sufficient time to do the work
necessary to find or create quality resources for students.