Katherine Pecora, Staff Writer
For those unfamiliar with the term, open educational resources (OERs) are freely available and distributable materials for classes. OERs place an emphasis on students having free access to the information needed in their courses. They can encompass all matters of class materials from syllabi to in-class presentations. The main benefits of OERs, and perhaps their biggest draw, are that they are available at no cost to faculty or students. They can be modified by faculty and students, and can be redistributed by faculty who have made changes to the original work. The majority of this can be achieved by obtaining the license that accompanies the materials. For students who might not take notes quick enough in class, OERs can help to supplement classroom learning.
In the traditional setting, faculty members are given a list of classes to teach. Many of these classes have a textbook attached to the course. At Saint Martin’s, it is often listed as the required reading for the course. Though some professors will list optional supplemental reading or materials, this is not always the case. This text might include handouts or copies of the slides for an in-class discussion. The professor may modify these materials for their own class, but they cannot legally share these changed materials.
For many students, purchasing textbooks can put quite a dent in one’s wallet. Often, a single textbook can start at $200. For students taking five classes, that is a minimum of $1,000 per semester alone. At Saint Martin’s, when a professor writes their own material, it can be even more expensive, and will also be required reading.
OERs present an alternative to costlier and more labor-intensive solutions. Faculty are able to choose from pre-existing materials that they tailor towards the class. When the class is complete, the professor can make the material available so that others can do the same thing with the information. For students, this means less money spent on required materials. Rather than just reading a textbook for a semester, OERs can help to challenge students on more than just their retention skills.
Saint Martin’s University has many educational resources open to its students. One of these is the ability to meet with librarians on campus. Kael Moffat, information literacy librarian at O’Grady Library, is a large proponent of OERs. “With the rising cost of education, OERs create a more democratic possibility for education, when some students are faced with the decision of food or textbooks. It is important to think about it in this philosophical way.” According to a recent article by the Economist, “The nominal price of textbooks has risen more than fifteenfold since 1970, three times the rate of inflation.” As costs hit astronomical highs, students are often put in a tough place: try and struggle through a class without the textbook or purchase the textbook instead of other necessary purchases. This could harm low-income students. By taking advantage of OERs, colleges could better format their material to the classes being taught as well as prevent students from shying away from their area of interest, simply because of the looming cost of a textbook.