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Open Educational Resources (OER): Tools for Affordable Learning

This guide describes high-quality educational resources that can be used to decrease material costs for courses at WSU and in higher education more broadly.

Potential Benefits of OER

Free or low-cost: OER programs report saving students millions on the cost of education. Low costs mean that students can access course materials from the start of class and, therefore, have every opportunity to succeed.

Customization: Faculty members can customize their class instruction for their students using. David Wiley, adjunct faculty at BYU, argues compellingly in "iterating toward openness" that OER can facilitate more meaningful, more inclusive pedagogical practices.

Increasing support for "plug and play" resources: For instructors who have little time to adapt resources, OER projects like OpenStax and the Open Learning Initiative (Carnegie Mellon) are increasingly making "packaged" resources available. Packaged resources include textbooks with accompanying ancillary resources (slides, clicker exercises, learning materials) and entire courses and course modules.

Student-driven, multimodal learning: OER are one way of engaging students more deeply in the educational process, moving beyond lecture and text. Open education gives instructors the tools to involve students in the creation of learning materials.

Lifelong learning: Because OER are open, they allow students to return to course content again and again--before and after courses.

Potential Challenges for OER

Permanence: Digital information--including OER--can disappear if it's not archived and backed up in a trusted repository.

Potential corporatization: Corporatization is one reason for the sharp rise in cost of educational materials. There is concern that, as companies like Amazon take on OER, they will also monopolize or otherwise limit the openness of the OER.

Complex IP issues: Although OER use open licenses in part to reduce complexity around intellectual property, issues do arise. Open licensing in itself can be a challenge to navigate; in addition, third-party materials like media and images may introduce complexity into any OER project.

Missing ancillary resources: Although some OER projects like OpenStax are working to incorporate more resources for instructors and students, other open resources lack instructor copies, outlines, quizzes/tests, clicker exercises, and materials that can make publisher offerings attractive.

Quality issues: OER may be produced with little added support for copy-editing and design. In addition, some may not be updated as frequently as the education community might like.

Time: Creating and/or locating existing OER can be extremely time-consuming. For this reason, libraries, administrators, and instructional designers at various institutions are increasingly providing support for faculty members who wish to use OER in their courses.

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