Complete Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open educational resources (OER) are freely available learning materials that are becoming more popular as a strategy for providing students with an alternative to costly textbooks. Knowing that their students are already challenged by the cost of higher education, many faculty are looking for ways to help students save money. Adopting openly accessible textbooks and other open learning content is one way to do that. But it also has other advantages, the primary one being that it can enhance student success by making learning materials affordable. Research has shown that many students don’t buy an expensive textbook or they try to share it with other students. That detracts from learning.

How do you get started with OER if you are interested in learning more about the resources and how to integrate them into a learning environment? Campus Technology recently published a good introduction to OER in the August 2014 issue. “Complete Guide to OER” starts with a definition: “Teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain…and includes full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, texts, software, and other materials used to access knowledge.”

It then provides a good overview that includes four myths about OER, six tips for using OER, six arguments for OER, 18 sites for finding OER, ideas for spreading the word about OER on campus, and some information about OER formats.

The other way to learn more about OER and how it’s being used at Temple University is to explore our Alternate Textbook Project website. The Temple University Libraries has offered support for faculty to replace their traditional commercial textbook with other materials, including OER. There are examples of projects and links to additional resources. If you would like to learn more about the Alternate Textbook Project or OER, please contact Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian.

Do You Have My Textbook?

One of the first things students do as the new semester begins is figuring our their textbook strategy. Which ones can they borrow from friends that took the course before. Can it be rented in e-format from B&N, Amazon, Google or Chegg? Does the bookstore have a used copy? For which courses could a textbook purchase be delayed or even ignored? With the high cost of textbooks, figuring out how to get them at the cheapest possible price is high on the students’ beginning of the semester to-do-list.

That’s why one of the most frequently asked questions at the Temple Libraries during the first week or two of the semester is about textbooks. Students want to find out if the Libraries hold a copy of their textbook. Some assume we buy them, but they find out that’s not the case. Sometimes their book is placed on course reserve by the instructor. Sometimes a fairly out-of-date edition, a past reserve item, can be found in the book stacks. Some students will choose to take that outdated edition over the current edition.

Student interest is growing  in having faculty point them to open education resources instead of assigning traditional textbooks. In a research paper titled “Online and Campus College Students Like Using an Open Educational Resource Instead of a Traditional Book“, Brian Lindshield and Koushik Adhikari of Kansas State University, report that data gathered over several semesters using an alternate textbook they called the “flexbook”, that utilized an open-source textbook platform to allow faculty to collaboratively offer freely available learning materials, was preferred by students over the traditional textbook. They conclude  “that students are willing to move beyond traditional print textbooks.” An article in Inside Higher Ed titled “Expense Experiments” identifies how different institutions are experimenting with both e-textbooks and technology for reading them.

Additionally in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Almanac of Higher Education 2013, there is a chart that summarizes student responses to a question asking them what technologies they would like to most see their professors using – and what they’d like to see used less often. Nearly half of the students surveyed indicated that they would like to see more use of freely available course content beyond the student’s own campus. A slightly lesser number of students wanted more use of e-books and e-textbooks.

The Temple University Libraries offers a resource page for faculty seeking more sources for open educational resources – such as the University of Minnesota open textbook catalog that can subject search the holdings of numerous open textbook repositories. The Libraries also owns thousands of e-books that may be used as an alternate to a textbook. Using the SUMMON search (on the Libraries homepage) it is possible to modify a search to locate book chapters in electronic sources:

With the growing number of open educational resources available to faculty, and the increasing student acceptance of e-resources, the possibility of replacing traditional textbooks with open learning materials is greater than ever.