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Innovation in the Classroom: Open Educational Resources @ VCSU

You may have heard of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in recent months. The United States Congress is considering a bill encouraging the use and development of OERs, and the North Dakota State Legislature has provided higher education faculty with support to find, create, and adopt OERs.

What are OERs?

According to the Hewlett Foundation, "OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." These resources are free and usually in digital format, but they can be made available in print (for the cost of the printing).

Open Educational Resources had their beginnings in efforts to provide quality books and resources to people around the world who did not have free access to them. The OER development has grown very quickly, and many schools, colleges, and universities are adopting OERs, in part to increase student access to text resources.

Are OERs peer reviewed, quality resources for our students?

Many OERs are peer reviewed and of high quality. As with all products, some are better than others. The faculty member must carefully consider the resource and its content before adopting it for a course.

What is VCSU doing with OERs?

In the Fall 2015 semester one faculty member experimented with a set of OERs in a general education writing course. The course included 23 students who saved (as a class) $2,300 in textbook costs. The students participated in surveys and focus groups to determine their level of satisfaction with the OERs. The highly positive student responses encouraged other faculty members to adopt OERs during the Spring 2016 semester, and these adoptions resulted in over $82,000 in textbook cost savings for VCSU students.

During the Fall 2016 semester more faculty members (39 individual faculty members) are implementing open resources, and the savings in textbook costs amounts to $206, 880. So, in the span of two semesters, VCSU students saved nearly $290,000 in textbook costs. Wow!

Click here to view the cost savings for Spring and Fall 2016.

What do VCSU students think about OERs?

The students at VCSU generally support the use of OERs, as evidenced by their survey responses and the fact that the Student Senate passed a resolution supporting and encouraging the use of Open Educational Resources.

What are the advantages of adopting OERs?

Two important advantages have emerged from our study. First, students are saving a great deal of money – now. Second, faculty members are encouraged to and engaged in seeking a variety of educational resources to support their teaching and enhance student learning.

Open Educational Resources provide advantages for both students and faculty members. The faculty members of VCSU are actively involved in this initiative, and as a result, students are paying less for their education.