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Jessie Ball duPont Library

Open Educational Resources and Affordable Textbook Alternatives

Why use Open Educational Resources?

  • Textbook prices have risen significantly over the past 20 years--over 80% since the mid 2000s! (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report). Although the increase in textbook prices has slowed more recently, textbook costs remain a significant burden to students.
  • Cost is a primary factor in student decision-making. Studies continue to report that over half of students have skipped buying required textbooks for financial reasons, and are worried it could hurt their academic performance.
  • Affordability works! There is a growing body of research on the efficacy of use of OER. The positive effects of adopting low-cost resources were more pronounced for at-risk and historically underserved groups.
  • Affordable Course Materials are a national priority. The SPARC State Policy Tracker reports on the myriad measures that states have considered or adopted related to OER legislation in recent years. The reasons for these initiatives vary, but some major factors are:
    • Saving students money.
    • Improving educational outcomes.
    • Raising awareness of and supporting open access publishing within academia.

The open licensing on OER means that students are free to use the materials as they see fit (and as licensing allows), allowing them to keep, print, and share OER with friends, or even remix and share study materials of their own.

OER are open and online, meaning they will be available to students on the first day of class and can be kept after class ends. No more waiting for books or access, as every student can have immediate and unlimited access to their course materials they need.

OER also increase academic freedom for professors. With Creative Commons licenses, instructors are allowed to adapt learning materials to their specific teaching style and the learning needs of students.

  • OER can be remixed and adapted for specific use, making it an innovative, customizable option for your course.
  • OER are revised with new versions and content, ensuring you're teaching the most up-to-date material.

It's important to consider the arguments for and against using OER in deciding whether they are appropriate for your course.

Pros

  • Affordability - students appreciate the potentially significant cost savings associated with using OER materials in place of traditional textbooks.
  • Diversity - students can gain better perspective on a topic by using multiple sources rather than one text.
  • Flexibility - OER can be revised and remixed to meet specific course goals.
  • Academic performance - several case studies have shown no significant difference in student performance when using OER instead of traditional textbooks. Usually the results are favorable to OER.
  • Usability - students can choose to access OER materials on a variety of devices and locations.
  • Up-to-date content - OER can be edited and updated more quickly than traditional textbooks.
  • Ownership - students retain access to textbooks and course materials after the course has ended.

Cons

  • Quality control - quality of available resources may be inconsistent, and it's important to verify relevancy and accuracy of materials.
  • Fatigue - students may experience eyestrain or fatigue from reading long passages on screens.
  • Technical considerations - materials may require different technical requirements to access, and students may encounter technological issues while using OER.
  • Copyright concerns - although OER are intended to be shared openly, it's still important to verify the license and ensure that no copyrights or intellectual property rights are being violated.

"How Open Textbooks Compare" by Open Textbook Alliance is licensed under CC BY 4.0.