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Open Educational Resources (OER): Freeing Yourself from Textbook Tyranny

By Libby Levi for, CC-BY-SABy now, most faculty have heard of Open Educational Resources (OER). Some faculty have tried using OER in their classes. Some faculty have even created OER. Maybe you looked into OER a few years ago and you weren’t impressed by what was available in your discipline. It might be time to look again. There are a lot more OER available than there used to be, with plenty of peer-reviewed resources available. Many OER textbooks now have ancillary materials such as quizzes, homework assignments and slides available. University systems such as SUNY and our very own USM have supported OER efforts, helping to promote the production of high-quality items.

So why use OER? There are two big reasons that come to mind:

  1. Textbook costs: This was one of the big motivators for the OER movement. Textbook costs have soared over the past couple of decades, reaching ridiculous levels in some cases. We didn’t check textbook costs for every course or section for fall 2021 at SU, but of the courses we checked, the single highest textbook price was $264.75 and the highest overall cost of books/materials for a course was $387. Studies show that these high costs keep some students from buying the books, hampering their ability to succeed in the course; in some cases, high textbook costs end up contributing to students dropping out.
  2. OER LogoStudent engagement: Using OER allows you to change the material to suit you and your students, creating better student engagement. You can create examples or add illustrations that are based on the Eastern Shore. You can change language to be non-sexist or antiracist to create a more inclusive pedagogy. You can have your students build on the OER to create their own OER course materials. You can eliminate or adapt materials or approaches with which you disagree or that don’t fit the way you teach.

SU Libraries Support for OER:

  • We anticipate having a Faculty Learning Community in 2022-2023 devoted to OER in which the Libraries will be heavily involved.
  • We continue to support OER use through our OER LibGuide. This will answer a lot of your questions about OER and provides links to all sorts of OER sites and information.
  • The liaison librarians are ready to help you find good OER for your courses.
  • We subscribe to an easy-to-use search tool from EBSCO called Faculty Select to help you find e-textbooks and other course e-books that will not cost your students a penny to use, whether these are OER textbooks, Open Access e-books or books from EBSCO’s extensive e-book collection that can be used by an unlimited number of users at the same time. Please bookmark this link to access Faculty Select ; we are only sharing this link with faculty, not publicly, as it is not for student use. You can find more information about how to use Faculty Select in this short tutorial video.