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Open Educational Resources (OER): OER Benefits/Challenges

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.

Benefits of Using OER

OER provides benefits for students and faculty alike.

  1. Reduce student costs: "According to a June 2013 Government Accountability Office report, textbook prices rose 82 percent between 2002 and 2012, at three times the rate of inflation." (Inside Higher Ed report) Many students opt out of buying textbooks and other course materials due to cost. Reducing or eliminating the costs of course materials is one of the most compelling reasons to use OERs.
  2. Support student success and retention: OERs can help guarantee that every student in a course has access to course material at the same time and at the optimal time. Several studies indicate that access to course material helps students succeed in a course and in their advancement towards graduation.
  3. Innovate your teaching practices: Adapting, adopting, or creating OERs gives faculty the opportunity to tailor course content in new ways, allowing them to maximize the use of content to provide innovative and/or optimized learning experiences and environments for students. OER supports open pedagogy and open education. Learn more about open pedagogy and find examples.
  4. Exercise your academic freedom: You can control the content. Edit, revise, modify it as you like. True OER (see the 5 R's of Openness) permits all of these adaptations.
  5. Enrich scholarship: If faculty share that great lesson, simulation, tutorial, textbook, etc., it gives fellow instructors more options for their own teaching and learning. The more pedagogical strategies available for teaching a topic, the stronger the teaching and learning can be.
  6. Enjoy administrative support: The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) in Montana recognizes the importance of OER for student success. OER directly supports UM's priority to place students at the center of all we do as well as MUS's strategic commitment to access and affordability. Grants and other OER-related opportunities for faculty are available at both the local and state levels. 

And a Few Challenges

  1. Understanding licensing: Not all OER are created equal, although most are associated with one of several Creative Commons Licenses. Make sure to check the license. The most usable OER include a CC-BY license, which simply requires that you attribute the creator(s) of the content.
  2. Quality: If it's free, how good can it be? Most OER repositories include peer reviews and/or rating systems that can help you determine the quality of an open educational resources. And keep in mind that most OER are created by faculty who have been incentivized in some way, often financially, to do so.
  3. Time: Adopting or adapting OER will take time. You will need time to review the content and to then either adapt your course to it or to adapt the OER to your course. If you are replacing a commercial textbook with OER, there will be a "switching cost" in terms of your time. The cost savings for students, the fact that all students will be able to access course materials on the first day of class, and/or the ways in which you may be able to re-think your course or your teaching practice due to OER may help ease the burden of that cost.
  4. Lack of ancillary content: It may be difficult to give up the commercial textbook, which is often accompanied by test banks, slide decks, and other supplemental materials, for OER that doesn't include that ancillary content. OER advocates and users are now creating this kind of content more frequently. You may choose to join the fray and create this kind of OER content yourself.
  5. Accessibility: You'll want to make sure that whatever OER you choose to use (or create) is accessible according to accessibility standards. UM Assistive Technology Services (ATS) can assist you.

Why Open Education Matters

Produced by Creative Commons. This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

OER Mythbusting