DOKK Library

OER One-Pager for Fact2Fac, Oct 2019

Authors Jonathan A. Poritz

License CC-BY-4.0

                                                     WHAT are OER?
 The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation ( says:
“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.”
 OER include textbooks. But also software, videos, test banks, etc. They are                     free, in that their cost is $0.
 They are also open to re-purposing by others, in that they may be modified,                     customized, excerpted,
 mixed with other works, etc.
                                                      WHY use OER?
 Reason 1: Student Economic Issues. Some graphs:
      Funding Sources For Colorado Higher Ed1                                   Total Student Debt in the U.S.2

 Increase of Textbook Costs and CPI Since 19803                  Relative Costs of Education-related Items, 2006-16

                                                                                                   January 2006 = 100
                                                                                                   Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics3

 This has real consequences for students in         • 45% were food insecure at some time in the past month
 higher education in the US, of whom4:              • 56% were housing insecure at some time in the past year
                                                    • 17% were homeless at some time in the previous year
 Moral: Students today are under enormous economic pressures and a major contributor is textbook cost.
        The best textbook in the world is worthless to students who cannot afford to buy it.
 Reason 2: More Academic Freedom. The freedom to customize, modify, excerpt, remix, and re-
 purpose OER gives faculty enormous control of their pedagogy.         Only an instructor using an OER may
     • reorder sections of their text as they desire,                  • only change the course resources and syllabus when
     • remove pesky typos, examples that confuse more                    and how they want, not at the whim of a publisher
       than illuminate, distracting side panels, etc.,                   releasing a new edition of some textbook,
     • add that perfect example/diagram/story which be-                • share back to the global scholarly commons any
       fore they were only able to share out loud in person,             changes and improvements they may have made to
     • change homework assignments in the text because                   an OER, building their academic reputation,
       the solutions are in wide circulation or they have              • involve students in the creation and/or curation of
       thought of more interesting ones,                                 the resources used in class, and
     • combine large sections of several different works in a          • adapt course materials to a particular place, culture,
       way that fair use might not allow,                                language, or historical moment.
 None of the above are possible with traditional textbooks/educational resources under all-rights-reserved copyrights!
 Moral: Instructors have real academic freedom in the classroom only when using OER.

                  “OER One-Pager for Fact2Fac, Oct 2019,” Jonathan Poritz,], 23 Oct 2019 07:09MDT
                  Released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,
   1State Higher Education Executive Officers Association,
   2U.S. Federal Reserve,
   3U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
   4College and University Basic Needs Insecurity: A National #RealCollege Survey Report,
Reason 3: Increased academic success and equity. A meta-analysis of OER research5 found that
switching to OER usually increases student and faculty satisfaction with their educational resources. More important,
overall student academic success typically increases and DFW rates decrease when OER are used; in fact, the increase
in student success is quite a bit larger among traditionally under-represented groups of students. Another study6 found
that “Students assigned open textbooks were almost twice as likely to report using their textbooks, they used them more
frequently, and for more time per week overall. Students assigned open textbooks also perceived a greater degree of overlap
between the textbook, lecture, and quiz material than did students assigned traditional textbooks.”
Moral: OER are pedagogically effective, and can help reduce the achievement gap for traditionally
          underrepresented groups.
                                            WHERE can you find OER?
There is a robust ecosystem of OER for a wide range of disciplines and pedagogical uses, but it is harder to find de-
sired OER than it is to take a call from a publisher’s rep in the highly concentrated commercial textbook industry. Look in
              • The Open Textbook Library, a curated list of around 650 high
    large       quality texts, many with detailed peer reviews
repositories: • OpenStax, a collection of texts that are so beautiful and similar to the kinds
                of things commercial publishers offer (except they’re OER!) that they’re used on hundreds of campuses
search        • MERLOT ( and OER Commons (
 sites:       • The search consolidator OASIS (
                • Many high quality resources are in small repositories, in discipline-specific collections, and even on
                  personal pages. You can ask for a particular resource on several OER listservs.
                • It pays to ask your librarians: they have amazing search super-powers.

                            WHO is involved in OER work, in Colorado and elsewhere?
The CDHE supports OER-related activities in Colorado including a grant program, an annual OER conference, webinars
by experts on topics of interest to the open education community, a program to train and support Open Education
Ambassadors, etc., under the aegis of a law HB18-1331 CDHE OER
work is advised by a state OER Council with members from a variety of roles – faculty, librarians, administration,
technologists, etc. – in public institutions of higher education around the state as well as representatives from government.
For more info, see .
The OER grant program administered by the CDHE and OER Council disbursed around half a million dollars in its
first year to teams at public institutions of higher education around the state. Already in the report from partway
through this first year of grant-supported activities, awardees reported a total of more than $3.4 million in aggregate
savings to students in Colorado; see the report Transforming Education Practices through Open Educational Resources Report 2019 Final.pdf for details. This is
an already more than six-fold return on investment for dollars invested in OER.
The second year of the grant program will disburse approximately $1 million dollars for similar grants to public institutions
of higher education in the state. Additionally, the CDHE and OER Council are laying the groundwork for a future rich
with OER in Colorado by Building Structure (supporting OER activities), Building Culture (around the use of OER),
and Building Evidence (of the impact of OER and of the best ways to build and deploy OER in Colorado).

                                      HOW can you adopt, adapt, and create OER?

The “re-purposing by others” aspect of OER, described by David Wiley7 as the 5Rs – the abilities to Retain, Reuse,
Revise, Remix, and Redistribute – are guaranteed by Creative Commons Licenses8 (one is at the bottom of the
other page of this document). OER users should look for such statements and apply them to their own works.
OER are often used as ebooks (zero distribution cost!), but can also be purchased in physical form (e.g., OpenStax books
and various OER from print-on-demand services) at minimal cost.
Some OER exist inside open platforms like LibreTexts ( and the publishing platform Press-
Books. It is fairly straightforward to copy existing PressBooks OER (there are many: it is very widely used in the OER
world) to a local instance, where they can be preserved unchanged or easily adapted to a particular instructor’s purposes.
OER software includes physics simulations, programming environments, statistics software, and on-line homework sys-
tems. Some are hosted elsewhere and are free or of very low cost; others, such as the OER WeBWorK online mathematics
homework system, might need to be hosted locally.
   5see Hilton, John. “Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: a synthesis of research published between 2015 and
2018.” Educational Technology Research and Development (2019): 1-24, and
   6Cuttler, Carrie. “Students’ Use and Perceptions of the Relevance and Quality of Open Textbooks Compared to Traditional Text-
books in Online and Traditional Classroom Environments.” Psychology Learning & Teaching, vol. 18, no. 1, Mar. 2019, pp. 6583,
   75Rs of Open,
   8for much more information, see Creative Commons Cheat Sheet for University Faculty,