Open Educational Resources (OER) save college students money

Open Educational Resources (OER) are a trend in distance learning with a cost savings benefit for students. Kimberly Barss, Interim Lead Instructional Designer at Excelsior College’s Center for Online Education, Learning & Academic Services explains.

Excelsior Life: Can you help define Open Educational Resources (OER)?

Barss: Open Educational Resources are materials available for free on the web, often created by leaders in their respective educational fields, for the purpose of saving students money and advancing the knowledge of a given subject area.  Many OER projects are funded by large grant-making organizations such as the Hewlett Foundation, the Gates Foundation, or large universities.  Open Educational Resources (OER) come in many shapes and sizes and include things such as videos, podcasts, virtual laboratories, simulations, textbooks, and more. 

Excelsior Life: How does OER work at Excelsior College?

Barss: OER is integrated at the course level.  A subject matter expert, when developing the course, carefully selects all learning materials to promote learner engagement and achievement of the module, course, and program level objectives.  Instead of selecting a publisher textbook that costs the student $250 and will need to be replaced within the course when a new edition is published, he or she can integrate OER.

For example, History 101 and 102 both adopted an OER textbook that is highly regarded in the field called The American Yawp.  This textbook is free and available online from anywhere in the world with an internet connect, including on a student’s smart phone or tablet.  This digital textbook is also available to students on the first day of class, reducing anxiety about paying and waiting for a book to ship before the first assignment is due.  There are many benefits. 

Excelsior Life: Can you explain the difference between MOOC and OER?

Barss: A MOOC, or a Massive Open Online Course, is a course offered by an institution for no charge, with no cap on the number of registrants.  Some MOOCs are credit-bearing, and others are for information only.  MOOCs use OER materials to support the learning objectives, in place of paid-for materials.

At Excelsior, we do not offer MOOCs, but instead offer courses that fit within our degree programs and satisfy our requirements for earning credit or can result in a certification, such as with the Center for Professional Development’s OER-supported programs.

Excelsior Life: Excelsior College provides OER to serve students education at low cost. For example, research shows 74 courses at Excelsior College have a component of OER. The School of Business and Technology offers 28 courses and have saved $217 per student. What are some of the other benefits of OER for students?

Barss: Not all students are able to or will purchase the required textbooks for their courses.  Some who are unable to afford their books may drop out of their courses for fear that they may fail the course without the textbook.  Some students who may have registered late will experience anxiety or even drop their classes if they are unable to find the textbook or it doesn’t arrive in time.  Eliminating these barriers to student success benefit everyone in the end.  It is our mission to serve students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education, and adopting OER is directly in line with this mission by reducing costs and improving the student experience.