As the demand for college affordability increases so does the need for low-cost course materials. Open Educational Resources (OER) have been around for decades but have been slow to gain widespread usage on college campuses. However, recent campus, state and federal OER initiatives have doubled the number of instructors who report using OER in at least one course.
According to the Freeing the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2018, survey published by Babson Survey Research Group:
- 46 percent of faculty are now aware of OER
- 13 percent of instructors required OER in at least one course (up from 6 percent in 2017)
What does this mean for college bookstores?
As free or low-cost course materials, OER can save students a significant amount money. Nearly 90% of department chairs surveyed by Babson agreed that the cost of course materials was a serious problem. Why hasn’t the format gained momentum before now?
OER has many benefits, but it is not a perfect solution. It can be hard for faculty to find superior quality materials that are the right fit for their courses. However, faculty can see the importance of increasing affordability and have become more willing to explore this option. Barnes & Noble College Insights found that 69% of faculty expect their use of OER materials in the classroom to increase.
As OER and affordability initiatives gain momentum on your campus, you can use your textbook expertise to help alleviate some of the issues that prevent faculty from adopting these low-cost materials. If your campus’ library helps oversee OER, use this opportunity to partner with the library and combine your resources to further the initiatives on your campus and overcome some of the biggest hurdles.
Problem: Lack of quality control
Solution: High-quality, vetted OER sources. Faculty may not be aware of how to find high-quality, vetted OER that fit their courses and are customizable. A frequent student complaint is that they never used their textbook or only a small part of the textbook was used. OER could be a great solution to this issue. Rice University’s Openstax, for example, offers free or low-cost digital and print peer-reviewed textbooks, making it easier to find the quality materials teachers need. Companies like LoudCloud take this fantastic service to the next level with videos, activities, lecture slides, auto-graded practice quizzes and assessments. Faculty can personalize the courseware by adding, adapting or deleting the content as necessary to best fit their specific course.
Problem: Finding the right materials
Solution: Services that help faculty find and narrow down their options. There are services specifically designed to help faculty find the right OER materials for their classes. Course materials are a vital part of learning, and it’s important to find the materials that best fit. Because of this, switching to OER can be a daunting and time-consuming task for faculty members. However, many companies have solutions to help make it easier for faculty to find quality OER. The Open Textbooks Library hosted by the University of Minnesota offers a curated list of open textbooks with faculty reviews; MIT OpenCourseWare offers lectures, readings and other course content; Merlot is one of the largest repositories of open content and can be searched by keyword, title or ISBN; Openstax offers curated collections; and LoudCloud has a team of implementation experts that will work with faculty to help create and personalize OER courseware for their courses.
Students need financial relief. Educational costs are high and the student loan default rate is projected to rise to 40 percent by 2023, leaving students rightfully worried about their futures. Finding ways to provide students with low-cost course materials may seem like a small piece of the puzzle, but for many students, saving this money could help them pay their rent, buy groceries and stay in school.