March 2 through March 6 is Open Education Week and the UVA Library is promoting Open Educational Resources (OER) as one way of holding down the cost of higher education to students.
What are Open Educational Resources? They’re teaching, learning, and research materials — digital or otherwise — released under a license that allows access, use, adaptation, and redistribution with few or no restrictions, at no cost.
Textbook prices are currently outstripping the means of many students to pay, forcing many to make tough decisions about whether to skimp on groceries or forgo taking courses that require expensive texts, in some cases only temporary use of a digital text. Costs are eating into parents’ budgets and into students’ time as they shop around online for less expensive copies.
Advantages of OER to students
- Cost savings — Obviously, removing the roadblock of high textbook prices means students from all income groups get access to the courses they want. A 2018 Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey shows that most UVA students have concerns about the cost of their education, leading some to wait well into the semester before purchasing materials or choosing not to purchase them at all. One student who took part in the Cost of Course Materials Student Survey only chooses “classes with cheap textbooks or classes with free downloads.”
- Access to education — Studies show that students perform as well or better with OER across many different fields. Wide accessibility also benefits aging learners and students in the Global South.
Advantages of OER to instructors
- Academic freedom — Open licenses make it far easier to adapt, update, revise, and tailor existing OER to fit specific course content quickly and with the full protection of the law — something NOT possible with textbooks.
- Better learning outcomes — Research shows that students achieve the same or better learning outcomes … while saving [lots of] money.”
- Improved access — Students are better able to engage with course content before, during, and after the course, regardless of college affiliation.
Passage last year of House Bill 2380 in the Virginia General Assembly, requiring institutions to highlight catalog course offerings that utilize no-cost and low-cost materials, was an effort to encourage schools to “minimize the cost of textbooks for students while maintaining the quality of education and academic freedom.”
Any UVA faculty who are considering including open educational materials among course requirements should contact their subject liaison at the Library for support.