Open Educational Resources | Feature

6 Arguments for OER (and 1 Against)

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More pickup of assigned class materials! In the traditional textbook model, some portion of your students couldn't afford the book and went without. With open educational resources, they have no excuse not to obtain the content they need to succeed in your course.

Greater savings! Few things in life are better than free, especially when you're a struggling student who didn't know he or she would be paying out between $655 (according to the National Association of College Stores) and $1200 (according to the College Board) annually on course materials. More specifically, students from a Tacoma Community College public speaking class posted a public thanks to their school for saving them a "collective $833,000" in textbook costs over 18 months.

More students! Whether it was the textbook cost savings or an excuse to turn on their devices in class, when Erik Christensen, chair of the Natural Science Department for South Florida State College, went with OER, his course enrollment nearly doubled.

No more updates! Publishers tend to update their textbooks every two or three years, whether or not — according to some faculty — the coverage of the subject actually requires it. Once you've adopted OER, you can stick with the version you're using for as long as you want.

You can personalize examples! Students relate better to examples that mesh with their own lives or use terms they know. If people are rowing across a lake in the textbook, why not make it the one next door to campus? If a question uses some generic person's name, why not make it your school mascot?

You can integrate disciplines! If your course is tied to another subject your students will be tackling next, you can modify your OER to add examples or explanations that tie to that other subject, making it easier for them to see the connections.

1 Argument Against OER

More work! If you're used to settling for whatever textbook your department chooses and using the resources that go along with that, then yes, OER definitely requires more effort. Any instructor who adopts OER has to identify just the right resources for students to use. That can take time.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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