1 Why OER?

Since the 1970s, textbook costs have risen more than three times the rate of inflation (PIRG Open Letter). These rising costs have priced students out of their education. In 2020, 65% of students in a national survey reported that they skipped purchasing a textbook due to its high cost and 21% skipped buying an access code (PIRG Report 2021). For students with basic needs insecurity, the costs of textbooks present a critical barrier. More than 80% of students with food insecurity reported not purchasing a textbook (PIRG Report 2021). Within the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), approximately 40% of program students are living at or below the federal poverty line (2020 Client Reporting Data), highlighting the dire need to remove textbook costs as a barrier to student access and success.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning resources (e.g., textbooks, PowerPoint slides, activities, assessments, etc.) that are openly licensed and free to use. These resources can be adopted and used in the classroom as is or modified as needed to best fit the learning outcomes of a course. Open resources, and in particular open textbooks, remove financial barriers and help close student equity gaps in the classroom. Students who enroll in courses that have OER textbooks have higher course grades on average compared with students in courses that have traditional textbooks, and these increases in student performance are more pronounced for Pell recipients, minority students, and part-time students (Colvard, Watson & Park 2018).

These positive impacts of OER stem not only from the cost savings for students, but also from the powerful ways in which open resources can be remixed and created. With OER, instructors have complete control over the course content and can adapt the material to best fit course competencies, provide real world examples in the program area, incorporate context that is relevant to the local community and workforce, and best fit the needs of students. Students are more motivated in their courses when the content is contextualized and relevant to the career they are pursuing and their community. Often, traditional textbooks and course resources provide standard examples and problems, and outdated examples that do not resonate with students or provide information that translates well to the occupation. Open textbooks can be continuously changed to better contextualize the content and keep the information up to date. In addition, instructors can modify the content to add more diverse representation. Representation is vital. If students cannot see themselves in the course materials, then that sends the signal that they may not belong in that course and program. Providing diverse and inclusive examples and viewpoints within course materials helps students succeed in their career pathway.

Another exciting element of OER is that with the open licensing and collaborative focus of the OER movement, this allows for more meaningful ways to engage students in their learning and in the creation process itself for open education. This is typically referred to as Open Pedagogy, which invites students to take part in the creation process of open content to enhance their learning and develop employability skills. Within this teaching practice, students create open resources (such as question banks, study guides) that future students in the course can use to improve their learning.


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WTCS OER Field Guide for Sustainability Planning Copyright © by WTCS OER Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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