11 Reasons to Consider OER for Your Fall Courses

Open educational resources, or OER, are excellent materials to use for in-person, online, and hybrid classes. As you plan your courses for the fall semester, here are 11 reasons to consider OER.

neon sign that says open
CC-BY: Bill Smith

#1: OER are available on day one 

OER can be ready for students on the first day of a course, or even before. You no longer need to wait for students to acquire a textbook to get started with the material.

#2: OER are free forever 

Rather than renting a print copy of a book that needs to be returned or paying for an access code that will expire at the end of the semester, students can use an OER material for free forever. This is particularly helpful for academic programs that build on standard foundational courses; as students move to more advanced levels, they can continue to use their earlier texts for reference.

calculator with college spelled out
CC-BY: GotCredit

#3: OER can be accessed anywhere, anytime 

All students need to read an OER is a device that can connect to the internet. They can access OER materials on their phone, a tablet, or a computer, or they can print out sections or the whole text. Most OER can also be downloaded for offline access.

#4: OER can be adapted to fit your course 

If you are asking students to purchase an expensive textbook, you might be tempted to “teach to the textbook” so that students get their money’s worth. With an OER, you can teach what you want and craft your textbook to match your needs.

#5: OER can be adjusted to match a changing semester  

Whether the semester goes as planned or becomes shorter than you had planned for, OER can fit your timeline. You can adjust a textbook in the middle of the semester to remove units you will not be able to cover or to add in extra material if your class needs additional support on a topic.

smiling square with icons representing documents
Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

#6: OER go beyond textbooks 

Textbooks might be the most common form of OER, but they are not the only OER. There are free, open versions of test banks, lecture slides, and even whole Canvas course templates you can import. If you can imagine a course material, it is likely that there is an OER version of it.

#7: OER support student success and retention 

Colvard, Watson, and Park (2018) found that “students tend to perform better in course settings when OER textbooks were used in place of expensive, commercial textbooks.” And librarians at Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland, found that when they made the switch to online emergency teaching this semester, the retention rate for OER courses was 85%, higher than the retention rate for the college as a whole. This is consistent with retention rates for OER across the semesters there. Not only are OER contributing to keeping students in class, they are contributing to higher grades, too.

#8: OER can be made accessible for all learners

Accessible design is a central tenet of the open community, so finding or creating materials that can be used by students with different learning needs is easily done. Some OER platforms offer audio versions of the text, accessible formats that can be read by screen-readers, and fonts that can be changed to be easier to read. These aspects of good OER design benefit all users, not just those with disabilities.

#9: OER are an opportunity to publish 

Publishing an OER material can be a great way to add to your CV. For many departments, an OER project can count towards promotion, based on research, writing, or service done to contribute to your professional community.

lego figurines
CC-BY: Giulia Forsythe

#10: OER can lead to deeper learning 

Students and faculty can collaborate to publish OER, deepening the opportunity to learn. This is part of the idea behind open pedagogy, which “is the use of open educational resources (OER) to support learning, or the open sharing of teaching practices with a goal of improving education and training at the institutional, professional, and individual level” (BCCampus OpenEd). Students can engage in meaningful creation of educational matters by using OER as a jumping off point.

#11: OER connect us 

OER start a conversation between authors, faculty, students, and community users from around the world. You can use resources from South Africa and contribute materials that might be used in a classroom in Germany. The “open” community is a welcoming space for connection and collaboration.

This post was contributed by Georgia Westbrook, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian

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