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For Faculty: Open Educational Resources

Questions and answers about Open Educational Resources (OER)

What are Open Educational Resources?

Open Educational Resources are learning resources, including but not limited to textbooks, created and shared with no charge and few restrictions on use.

One of the many organizations supporting OER is UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO explains OER this way: "Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. OER form part of ‘Open Solutions’, alongside Free and Open Source software (FOSS), Open Access (OA), Open Data (OD) and crowdsourcing platforms."

Style note: The style convention used by UNESCO, Creative Commons, and others is that OER is both the singular and plural ("I am assigning three OER this semester.") Sometimes, though, you will see OERs used as the plural ("I am assigning three OERs this semester.")

What are some pros and cons of using OER?

The OER movement has been embraced by many educators and lawmakers because of its potential to reduce the cost of textbooks to students.

  • The cost of textbooks can be a barrier to student learning, since some students never purchase the textbook or wait until after several weeks into the semester. 
  • OER increase access to learning around the globe.
  • Because most OER are born-digital, they can be used with screenreaders and other accessibility tools. 
  • OER can be revised and remixed by professors to fit their needs. 

Many professors have good reasons for assigning textbooks that cost money, and sometimes the material in a particular commercial textbook isn't currently provided in any open resource. This article discusses the problems with faculty creating OER that later generate profit for corporations. Even this skeptical article, however, acknowledges: "The good news is that the use of OER need not be an either-or proposition. Such initiatives can only be successful if the decision on whether and how to implement OER is made by individual professors at the class level. Good educators have always known how to utilize effective resources to meet the needs of their own students, needs that they understand better than career administrators, publishers or Silicon Valley disrupters."

Our students may be encountering OER more and more in K-12 education and any community colleges or state universities where they might have taken classes. Texas has passed several state laws related to textbook affordability. 

For more OER pros and cons, visit this page from Trinity University's Coates Library.

Do OER need to be read online, or can they be printed out? 

Most OER can be printed using a print-on-demand vendor. The TLU Bookstore can help you with this. Students can also print out OER from any printer on campus and put them into three-ring binders - be aware that those printing costs are being carried by TLU. Some OER contain links and embedded videos, which the reader would need to access separately from the physical version of the textbook. For the OER published by OpenStax and printed by XanEdu via Amazon, printing costs range from $18 for black-and-white paperback books to $60 for full-color hardcover books. 

Logo with hands up

OER Global Logo by Jonathas Mello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0).

 

How are OER quality-controlled?

As with any resources, faculty must evaluate the materials they assign. Faculty can read reviews on websites like Open Textbook Library. Some OER publishers use peer-review. For example, OpenStax, affiliated with Rice University, produces peer-reviewed open textbooks for the highest-enrollment college courses.

How can I find OER?

Remember, OER are licensed in ways that allows you to remix or adapt them to suit your needs.

Textbooks are not the only type of OER. Syllabi, lecture notes, case studies, and data sets can also be found in OER repositories. 

Visit this page from UT-Austin Libraries for a helpful guide to various repositories where you can search for OER. Some repositories include:

Working with the bookstore

Looking into the bookstore

The TLU Bookstore

Can the bookstore help me get OER for my students?

If you adopt an OER and you want to order print copies for your students, the TLU Bookstore (textbooks@tlu.edu) can work with a third-party company to produce quality bound books at a reasonable price. For many TLU students, print is still a preferred format over digital. The cost of the OER print copies at the bookstore would be roughly equal to the printing cost, since there are no copyright royalties to pay. 

What if I want to use a course packet with materials that are not OER?

If you would like to use a course packet of compiled materials that are not OER, the TLU Bookstore (textbooks@tlu.edu) can work with a third-party company to review the content for intellectual property, satisfy copyright requirements, and print the course packet. The cost of the course packet would include copyright royalties in addition to the printing cost. 

What if I want to assign traditional textbooks?

Place your order with the bookstore and they will source used and new books for students to buy or rent.

What is Inclusive Access and how does it differ from OER?

The TLU Bookstore offers Inclusive Access, which is a way for students to license course materials. It is important to note that Inclusive Access differs from OER. They are similar because they both offer the student day-one access to course content. While OER are copyright-free, Inclusive Access materials are copyrighted and the student is charged at the beginning of the semester for access to digital materials from the publisher. 

We want to hear from you!

TLU professors, do you use OER or other textbook alternatives in your class? Or are you curious about writing your own OER? We want to hear from you! Contact Amelia Koford or Dan Flores

Amelia Koford, Outreach and Information Literacy Librarian

Dan

Dan Flores, University Librarian

Grants

A variety of internal and external grants are available for faculty who want to work with OER.

If you want to redesign a course to incorporate OER, you could apply for the TLU Innovative Course Release or the CTL Pedagogy Application Grant. Contact the VPAA's office (dmcaskill@tlu.edu) and the Center for Teaching and Learning (ctl@tlu.edu) or more information about these opportunities.

Rodrick

Rodrick Shao from the Center for Teaching and Learning

 

To look for external grants that might compensate you for the work of authoring OER, contact the TLU Grants Team (grants@tlu.edu).

Theresa

Theresa Spiess from the TLU Grants Team 

Self-publishing OER

TLU professors have a long history of writing textbooks for their students. In their teaching, they see a need for a certain kind of book, so they write it. Sometimes they work with commercial publishers, and sometimes they self-publish. For example, the The TLU Reader, The Zombie Guide to Public Speaking, and Ethnographic Choices: A Primer on Doing Complex Social Research were self-published on the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. What are the differences between this kind of self-publishing and self-publishing an OER?

  • In most self-publishing, the author retains copyright. In OER self-publishing, the author applies an open copyright license, usually stating that anyone can use or revise the work as many times as they like, with the only condition being that the user must attribute credit to the author.
  • In traditional self-publishing, the author can profit from book sales. In OER self-publishing, the author does not profit. However, there are grants, awards, and opportunities that can come from participating in the open education movement. 
  • Some authors choose OER self-publishing in order to reach a wider audience, collaborate with others, and remove barriers between learners and information. 

Some OER about OER

Book cover