While open educational resources (OER) are sometimes free to the user, there are always costs involved in the production and delivery of the content. To cover those, many OER providers turn to for-profit companies to keep the content available to students.
That opens the door to criticism that nonprofits are selling out. Advocates counter that the for-profit world has a role in keeping OER in front of students.
“Yes, the corporations earn money,” wrote Barbara Illowsky, professor of mathematics and statistics at Foothill-De Anza Community College, Los Altos Hills, CA, District and co-author of a statistics textbook published by OpenStax College, in a column for eCampus News. “But the big ‘yes’ is that students increase their learning. These innovations offer immediate feedback and formative assessment 24/7, link to similar examples, and offer multiple attempts, which lead to increased student participation and success.”
The bottom line for Illowsky, also director of basic skills and OER for the California Community College Online Education Initiative, is student success and choice.
“Students have lifetime free access to open textbooks. Not just one term, not being a log-in site—OER are always available to everyone,” she wrote. “Students have a choice to use the online text only, to download the PDF, or to read the book on their mobile devices. None of these versions cost money. If students want hard copies, they may print parts or all of the text at home, or may purchase a bound low-cost copy from a for-profit company. The cost of printing the text is the student’s choice.”