Some colleges and universities believe their efforts to switch from commercially published textbooks to open educational resources (OER) are paying off for students as well as faculty.
Higher education institutions are approaching OER in different ways, as a University Business article highlighting five schools shows. Some, like Wiley College in Texas, are moving all courses over to OER while others, such as the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, are offering competitive grants to encourage professors to adopt OER for individual courses. Schools are tapping a mix of resources that include faculty-written materials, readings available online or from the campus library, and materials acquired from organizations such as MERLOT and Lumen Learning.
In every case, though, helping students save significant money was the impetus for OER, not dissatisfaction with the quality of the traditional textbooks available for purchase. However, schools are also seeing a pedagogical bonus as faculty are able to tailor course materials more closely to their instruction.
“The notion that there will no longer be textbooks is implausible,” said Edna Baehre-Kolovani, president of Tidewater Community College in Virginia. “But the reasons OER is growing are student demand and faculty interest.”
On the down side, institutions are aware that creation of OER isn’t a one-and-done deal and they will have to factor in a process for ongoing updates.
“OER is like a free puppy,” said MJ Bishop, director of the University System of Maryland’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation. “There are still costs of maintaining them and keeping them current.”