Open Educational Resources for Cost-Effective Learning

open educational resources

Textbook prices have long been an obstacle to learning; by choosing open educational resources (OER), we remove this barrier at no additional cost to students.

Cliche aside, high quality educational materials require hundreds to thousands of hours for creation – this makes OER an appealing solution that saves costs while offering multiple other advantages.

1. Accessibility

Open educational resources

Open educational resources (OERs), also known as OER, are free teaching and learning materials available for anyone to access, use and modify for learning purposes. OER are often seen as a potential tool to democratize education by creating equal opportunities for all learners worldwide – but like any tool they come with costs related to supporting diverse students with access to these materials.

OER are becoming more widely adopted among higher education institutions, evidenced by an uptick in online searches for OER. Unfortunately, most schools and universities lack policies in place to address accessibility; many instructors continue purchasing commercially available resources that have not been thoroughly checked for accessibility.

Accessibility in OER refers to making content available to students with physical, sensory, cognitive and learning disabilities. Furthermore, accessibility ensures students can interact with media through assistive technologies that interoperate with resources; accessibility may also be enabled through following universal design practices and accessibility guidelines.

Accessibility is a vital concern for educators and students alike, as it has an enormous effect on academic performance. A recent study discovered that students using OER had better grades and lower failure rates than their counterparts in traditional courses.

As the number of students with disabilities continues to increase, OER must become increasingly relevant within classrooms. Without accessing course materials, students with disabilities can have difficulty in their educational process and could eventually feel alienated from it altogether.

There are various tools available for finding and selecting OER that is accessible to all learners, such as Merlot’s search engine that provides a curated collection of OER for college- and graduate-level classes that is organized to be relevant for specific academic disciplines. Openly licensed textbooks can also easily be searched for by restricting audience or material type to “textbook.” When searching for OER it is essential to take all audiences into consideration and ensure that its content fulfills them all accordingly.

2. Flexibility

a stack of traditional textbooks represents the challenges of high costs

Textbook and course material costs can be an enormous impediment to learning for many students from low-income families, especially those from urban schools. Rising textbook and course material costs have driven educators to create open educational resources as an attempt to reduce costs without compromising academic quality. These free materials may act as replacements for costly traditional textbooks while providing students with academic quality content at no additional cost.

Open educational resources (OERs) are freely accessible materials licensed for reuse, remixing and adaptation that offer new possibilities in teaching and learning. Such materials can be tailored to better reflect students’ cultural context, modified for more personalized instruction or supplemented with multimedia content that enhances learning.

Flexibility allows educators to tailor their teaching according to individual classroom goals rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach. They can also reduce costs and make materials more accessible by curating digital collections and online textbooks by discipline, subject, instructor etc. Some institutions are even exploring “zero textbook cost degrees”, offering degrees with no required textbook costs for their students.

These initiatives were launched as a response to research revealing that community college students often drop out due to cost issues for textbooks and course materials. One recent study found that OER provided by community colleges performed as well or better than traditional textbooks for their classes.

3. Reusability

an open book symbolizes the concept of Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open educational resources (OER) are free teaching and learning materials available to educators that they can access, modify and use in their teaching/learning materials. OER includes textbooks, lesson plans, quizzes, videos and any other resource that supports learning. They have quickly become a trend among higher education institutions since OER can save students money while meeting individual learning needs better; but successfully incorporating OER requires careful planning, identification of resources for customization, as well as setting guidelines.

OERs offer faculty an innovative alternative to costly textbooks that often need updates and additional materials; OER can be tailored specifically for each course, giving them more control to create course packets or textbooks tailored exactly to the needs of their students while meeting changing student demands and ultimately increasing outcomes.

OERs offer several cost-saving advantages over traditional textbooks, being accessible online and downloadable free of charge. This helps students lower tuition fees while affording other necessities like food and housing more easily.

OERs can also be combined with digital resources to create a blended learning experience that increases accessibility for those struggling to use traditional materials, and enhances engagement by making learning more personalized and interactive.

Not all OER are created equal, so it is crucial that high-quality resources are chosen carefully and considered costs associated with their incorporation, such as IT support fees, licensing fees, staff time commitment and any additional IT requirements. A plan must also be developed for maintaining and updating OER, which may prove challenging in organizations with multiple teams working on different projects.

4. Equity

an open book with the OER symbol represents freely accessible teaching

Open educational resources (OERs) are freely accessible teaching, learning, and research materials that can be utilized by anyone without restriction or copyright issues. As opposed to copyrighted traditional textbooks, OER are created and shared through an open licensing model and may include anything from textbooks to e-books, course content, classroom resources, lesson plans, videos, tests software pedagogical tools. They have quickly become an essential element of digital learning revolution being adopted at all levels of education worldwide.

OER provides cost-effective yet high-quality learning materials that support student access to an optimal educational experience, especially those who cannot afford traditional textbooks’ steep prices. A recent study by SRI Education and rpk Group demonstrated this saving: $65 on average for each course taken using OER; even greater savings were realized among those receiving financial aid. Furthermore, availability of OER reduced barriers to participation while increasing engagement particularly among Pell Grant recipients and underrepresented students.

OER allows schools to implement digital learning in ways best tailored for their students’ abilities and preferences, with multiple models such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), one-to-one instruction and flip instruction being available as options. Furthermore, these materials can easily be adapted so as to be culturally inclusive and ensure students prepare for norm-referenced standardized assessments.

OERs offer learners access to a vast selection of educational materials that have been reviewed, modified and improved collaboratively by instructors and scholars. By remixing and adapting OER, learners will have more personalized educational experiences that better match individual student needs and interests.

5. Collaboration

a school building represents the obstacle of affordability in education

Affordability is one of the leading obstacles to education (UNESCO, 2018), keeping many children away from attending school and hindering them in reaching minimum proficiency levels needed to become successful adults. To combat this issue, educators and institutions may utilize OER as cost-cutting alternatives to traditional materials.

These resources typically exist digitally and come under a permissive license such as Creative Commons that allows free access, use, adaptation, redistribution and rediscovery without restrictions or licensing agreements. Examples include textbooks, course syllabi videos and assessment tools. Some schools and districts, like Houston public schools are curating this open educational content into one digital library in order to reduce teacher workload by centralizing all materials under review or cataloguing into a central repository.

Instructors can collaborate to produce their own materials from openly licensed content, helping reduce faculty preparation time and give students greater control of tailoring their learning experience to specific needs. Furthermore, educators can use existing OER to adapt a syllabus according to individual students’ goals and learning styles.

OERs offer many advantages to teaching and learning; cost savings aside, their greatest asset lies in their transformative power to transform teaching and learning. By increasing access to high-quality learning materials – such as OER – OER fosters student equity while creating more collaborative, flexible, and innovative classroom experiences than ever before. To discover OER further, check out the #GoOpen campaign, featuring school districts who have committed to adopting or creating OER; it can serve as an inspiration source and be an invaluable source for ideas for going open at your institution!

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