This upcoming week, I am meeting with my college’s Distance Learning department to develop a revision plan for our composition courses’ Open Educational Resource to fix some technical issues.
Not sure what an Open Educational Resource is? That’s okay. This video explains:
While in theory, the idea of Open Education Resources is beautiful, gorgeous, and equitable, there are concrete obstacles for any instructor who wants to be an OER warrior.
Back to my meeting with Distance Learning, the technical issues we need to fix are rooted in the transient nature of our first OER text. Our composition textbook has been housed on at least three different platforms. Each time it moved, the text had to be proofread and edited. Plus, chunks of our graphics were created on a previous software platform that no longer supports the work. So like dinosaurs, a bunch of the book’s graphics underwent a mass extinction. There’s no way to bring them back to life.
In my experience, one drawback of OER creation is the ongoing work of maintaining and updating the text.
OER Must be Maintained
The Open Education Resource Network in the State of Washington elaborates on this issue as it pertains to initiatives like ours: “Many OER initiatives begun in recent years were dependent on one-time start-up funding….Without maintenance the resources will become obsolete and the quality could be lost” (Open Washington). That’s the obstacle we’re encountering right now. Our content is being compromised by a tech issue.
Sustaining an OER requires time and resources, and it’s never-ending, which is great for the student experience because educators must adapt and evolve their materials for students. who are our most important stakeholders.
Even though sustaining an OER is a lot of work, there are upsides that make exploring and using Open Educational Resources worthwhile.
OERs Are Free
Free at least for the OER-consumer. OERs allow everyone with a tech device and WIFI access to educational materials, which makes access to education more equitable.
When textbooks are open, students can access them. In an article for Inside Higher Ed, Ray Schroeder says, “[M]any students seem to do better in classes where the textbooks are open. It may not be that the OER materials are superior — rather it may be that when the class materials are free, students actually obtain and use them. “
Additionally, students can use their textbook dollars to purchase other necessary items like groceries, gas, Internet access, and school supplies.
OERs Are Adaptable
When creating and developing open source materials, an OER creator can tailor free content to their course and program outcomes. A teacher can cut the fat due to the open license in OERs, and they can focus their teaching materials to meet the needs of their own students and courses.
The course outcomes, curriculum, and pedagogical approaches for English 1110 and 1120 were at the forefront of developing the English Composition OER.
OERs Help Student Success
When I was a Presidential Fellow for OER at CNM, I spoke with Nicole Finkbeiner of Openstax about the benefits of Open Education Initiatives. She said, “Studies have shown that students are less likely to drop their courses and more likely to take more courses while using OER. This means higher rates of student success and more tuition revenue.” While doing research, I came across an article that explains how OER helps students with more than just the cost of books: “This study suggests that OER speaks to all three of the great challenges facing higher education today: affordability, retention and completion, and quality of student learning” (Colvard, Watson, and Park 273). In my experience as an OER creator and advocate, the downsides of OER don’t outweigh the potential good of opening up our curriculum on the web. But academic departments can’t do this alone.
OER Creators Need Institutional Support
At my college, the OER initiative I participated in a while back was put into place with institutional support, and the faculty and creators who developed open works did an amazing job. Here is our repository at CNM: https://mytext.cnm.edu/.
But the work of Open Ed is never done. It requires tech support, content creators, and inspired educators to keep us moving forward.
I am going to keep chugging along, like I am prone to do, because I have a personal, academic long-game: helping students at CNM means I am giving back to my home state. Soy pura Nuevo Méxicana.
I also know my colleagues are in it to win it.
P.S. Sorry our graphics died.
Colvard, Nicholas, C. Edward Watson, and Hyojin Park. “The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 2018, Vol. 30, Iss. 2, pp. 262-276. http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/ ISSN 1812-9129
Open Washington. “Module 10: Why Oer Matters.” Module 10: Why OER Matters, Open Washington: Open Educational Resources Network, 8 Aug. 2017, https://www.openwa.org/module-10/.
Schroeder, Ray. “It’s Time for Open Educational Resources.” Inside Higher Ed, Inside Higher Ed, 21 Apr. 2021, https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/online-trending-now/it%E2%80%99s-time-open-educational-resources.