Benefits of OER

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) summarizes the why behind using OER with these four points:

  • Textbook costs should not be a barrier to education

  • Students learn more when they have access to quality materials

  • Technology holds boundless potential to improve teaching and learning

  • Better education means a better future

OER supports a future where:

  • Students and instructors have free access to a wide variety of high-quality educational resources that have been collaboratively developed, reviewed, revised, and shared across institutions.

  • Educational resources can be easily adapted to fit within the context of specific courses, and to meet the needs of specific students.

  • The cost of creation, use, and maintenance of curricular materials is much lower than the current costs of traditional textbooks and other classroom resources.

Benefits for Faculty

OER allow faculty the ability to edit, modify, update, and improve course materials so that learning outcomes may be addressed specifically, and course content can reflect individual instructors’ preferences.

Dr. Kevin Meyer from Saginaw Valley State University shares his experience in adopting OER in this video:

Faculty using OER enjoy great freedom in selecting and customizing course materials to fit the specific needs of their students and the goals or Student Learning Outcomes of their courses. Since OER allow adaptation, educators are free to edit, reorder, delete, or remix content. OER contain clearly defined usage permissions, and thus relieve educators from the task of complying with fair use and TEACH Act restrictions.

Key Benefits for Faculty

Use, Improve, and Share

  • Save time and energy by adapting or revising resources that have already been created

  • Tailor resources to fit specific context within your courses and research

  • Expand interdisciplinary teaching by integrating resources from multiple disciplines

  • Update content to address current events and cultural relevance

Network and Collaborate with Peers (professional development considerations)

  • Access educational resources that have been peer-reviewed by other experts in your field

  • Collaborate on creating new resources that can be used within or across disciplines

Improve Access to Information

  • Enable all students to have equal access to course materials

  • Provide students with the opportunity to explore course content fully before enrolling

  • Encourage life-long learning as students will continue to have access to materials after completing the course

Another benefit to OER is that they provide increased opportunities for faculty to engage in open pedagogical practices with their students. As mentioned above, students can play a vital role in OER. Student involvement in creating and revising OER can boost learning and engagement with course material. Open pedagogy focuses on instructional approaches which allow students to use, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute open content. In other words, students move from knowledge consumers to knowledge creators. The ability for students to engage more actively with the OER is a key pedagogical benefit for faculty and students - one that commercially published copyrighted course materials do not provide. To explore the power of open pedagogy further, take a look at the recent publication Open Pedagogy Approaches: Faculty, Library, and Student Collaborations. This comprehensive collection is full of practical tips, ideas, and inspiring stories for faculty.

Benefits to Students

The use of OER can provide tremendous cost savings. The cost of textbooks can be a huge financial burden for many students. This affects student success, degree completion, and college retention rates. Paradoxically, students who take fewer classes per term in order to spend less on textbooks may not only delay their graduation date, but may also spend more on tuition over time. OER provide students with immediate and long term access to free course materials. In addition, research reviewed by the Open Education Group shows that most students perform as well or better using OER course materials compared with students using traditional textbooks.

When faculty use OER, we aren’t just saving a student money on textbooks: we are directly impacting that student’s ability to enroll in, persist through, and successfully complete a course. ~ Jhangiani & DeRosa, 2017

The Florida Virtual Campus’ 2016 and 2018 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey demonstrates that the cost of commercial textbooks continues to negatively impact student access, success, and completion.

Student engagement and advocacy are additional benefits to OER. Students’ voices are critical in the conversation surrounding affordability and inclusive course materials. Consider reaching out to your Student Government Association and/or other student groups on your campus to get them involved. National Student Public Interest Research Groups (StudentPIRGs) provide resources and strategies for students to use to advocate for textbook affordability on campus. Faculty and administrators can also invite students to serve on planning committees related to OER and textbook affordability. Other ideas for student engagement and advocacy can be found in these resources:

Benefits to Institutions

The decision to use OER can occur via a single course or departmental adoption, or it can happen on a college or university-wide scale. Both of these examples require support and investment at an institutional level. This commitment has benefits to institutions as well. For example, OER can increase student retention, progress, and completion by decreasing student costs. Additionally, a recent report from Achieving the Dream, OER at Scale: The Academic and Economic Outcomes of Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative, reveals that when institutions strategically support and provide OER courses for students there is opportunity for financial return on investment for the institution. Students who enrolled in OER courses tended to enroll in more course credits than students who enrolled in non-OER courses, thus generating additional tuition revenue.