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Open Education Resources

Why OER?

SPARC OER charts


  • The College Board estimates that students should budget about $1200 for books and supplies for an academic year.

  • Around two-thirds of students report not buying a textbook due to the cost.

  • Almost 50% of students register for fewer courses or don't register for specific courses due to the cost of materials.

  • Over 20% of students drop or withdraw from a course due to textbook costs.

  • 38% of students believed they earned a poor grade due to not being able to afford the textbook. 20% of students believed they failed a course because they couldn't afford the textbook.

(Data from: 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey by Florida Virtual Campus).

Advantages of Open Education Resources

Cost Converting course materials from expensive textbooks to freely accessible OER alternatives can dramatically reduce student costs.
Access OERs expand access to learning and help democratize education. Students around the world can access OERs at any time and they can access it repeatedly. By providing continued free and open access, OERs can also support life-long learning.

(Read about a Tibetan yak herder learning poetry from a Yale professor.)

Student Success Many academic studies have found that OER support positive student outcomes. Students using OER were on par with, or outperforming, their peers in terms of grades, course completion and retention.
Continual Improvement of Resources OER quality improves over time by enabling continuous adaptation and updating of learning resources. While traditional textbooks can take years to update between editions, the continuous updates to OERs can help make the information in them more timely and relevant for students.
Adaptability OERs offer a powerful opportunity for teachers to use, develop or adapt resources to suit their particular local contexts or meet specific student needs.
Collaboration The ease of creating or modifying OER encourages collaboration with other educators around the world. OERs encourage instant feedback and reviews from educators that can be used to improve the resource.

(Check out American Yawp, a massive collaboration between over 300 academics and educators to create an open U.S. history textbook).

Promotes Innovation By providing educators with access to new educational material and methods OERs offer the potential to spur new alternatives for effective teaching and encourage pedagogical innovation.
Enhances Reputation OER offer a simple way to showcase research and teaching to a wider audience and can help enhance the reputation of both teacher and institution.


Challenges for Open Education Resources

Permanence If they are not archived or backed up in a digital repository, there is no guarantee that OER will continue to be available online.
Assessing Quality Although there are many high-quality OER available, some repositories allow any user to submit resources. It can be a challenging and time consuming process to search for resources and assess their quality and relevance.
Language Barriers Although some OERs are available in multiple languages, many are only available in English.
Technological Issues As digital objects, OER may be harder to access for students without internet access or access to any software that may be required to use them.