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OER Student Advocacy: What is OER?

This guide provides information on Open Educational Resources (OER): what OER is, how it helps students, and why use OER.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are educational materials that are available either for free or at a low cost to educators, students, and self-learners to use, adapt, and/or share. Examples include: textbooks, streaming videos, course materials, exams and other tools. 

You may be familiar with Open Access (OA) materials. OA are research articles that have been published utilizing an open license that permits free access and use. This does not mean OA articles can be copied or adapted without the author's permission (from A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources, 2015). 

OER Matters to Students 

As you know, college textbooks are expensive! The College Board estimates that on average, students attending in four-year, in state, public universities and colleges spend about $1298 per year on textbooks. That's money that can be used for rent, groceries and other vital expenses. 

When faculty utilize OER in their classes, they help students save money. 

Textbooks aren't always fun to read. They can be dry and irrelevant to students and their lives. 

When faculty opt for OER, they can select materials that better represent their students and provide relevant examples that enable students to become more engaged in learning. 

OER are easier to locate. Currently, you visit the campus bookstore, either in person or online. If books are beyond your means, you start researching alternatives. You check the library for copies. You ask about renting text books. You search Amazon and other online booksellers for used copies. 

With OER items, class materials are either free or low cost. There is no running around trying to find an affordable alternative. 

   For more information, see the Open Textbook Alliance's Report. 

     What can you do? 

  • Post your textbook stories to Twitter or Instagram! Use the hashtags #Textbook Tales #OpenEdISU.

  • Let your professors know you appreciate their efforts to keep textbook costs down. Know a professor who uses an open resource? Give them a shoutout with the hashtags #Textbook Heroes #OpenEdISU.

  • Retweet or share your friends' textbook stories or post one the ISU Textbook Tales videos for your followers to check out!

  • Submit your stories to the ISU University Libraries to be shared! Want to stay anonymous? The Textbook Tales page has a form where you can submit your story. 

  • Talk to your friends and classmates. Chances are, you're not the only one who cant afford their textbooks. Encourage them to share their stories on social media!

  • Support initiatives like Open Education Week across all ISU campuses through ISU Student Government. For more information about joining student government see ASISU's contact page, or follow ASISU on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

OER Project Examples

OER doesn't just mean using a free textbook. When materials are openly licensed, more learning activities become possible. For example:

Wikipedia Editing Projects: Students conduct research on a topic or person and either create a new Wikipedia article, add to an existing article or add references to pre-existing articles. 

Masjid Al-Jamia  discusses the founding of a Sunni mosque, Masjid Al-Jamia, in West Philadelphia.

Wikipedia edit-a-thon for Women's History Month worked on articles focusing on women linked to the Penn Museum.

Revising Existing OERs: Students take an existing OER and contribute new information that enhances the subject matter. 

University of Edinburgh  expanded existing medical curriculum to cover LGBT health issues.

OER in the News

Project Z-Degree Will Make College More Affordable 

Idaho Governor Brad Little and the Idaho Legislature allocated $1 million in Project Z-degree. Initiatives such as Project Z-degree are intended to reduce textbook costs to nothing or zero. This million dollars will be used to aid community college faculty working to move their classes to zero-cost or inexpensive instructional materials like OER. 


University of South Florida St. Petersburg Textbook Affordability Initiative Saves Student Body Over $1 million (03/23/2021)

The Nelson Poynter Library at University of South Florida St. Petersburg adopted the Textbook Affordability Project in 2016, saving USF students a total of $1 million and helping library staff move toward their goal of making textbooks entirely open university-wide.

Students Favored OERs and Would Enroll in OER Courses Again (02/08/2021)

A survey conducted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County found that most students who completed courses utilizing OER would recommend an OER course to their friends.

ASISU Speaks -- Pamela Pascali

University Libraries' OER Committee Student Representative and College of Arts & Letters Senator Pamela Pascali talks with ASISU Speaks host, Nyele Alvarez about Open Education Week, planned for the week of February 22-26, 2021. 



This guide was created by Allison Badger at ISU University Libraries and is licensed under a CC-BY 2.0 creative commons license.
"OERs" by AJC1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
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