Why Consider OER?

3 minute read

The meaningful creation and sharing of resources isn’t always easy. Some of the characteristics of this practice that make it the most worthwhile are also the parts that are tedious, time consuming, and maybe even a little scary. We will take the scary out of them in the ‘How to OER’ chapter, but really getting in touch with why you are considering OER might help you keep at it when you hit a wall and want to just go back to the old textbook.

Oklahoma State University promotes learning, advances knowledge, enriches lives, and stimulates economic development through teaching, research, extension, outreach and creative activities.

If you have heard much about OER before, it has likely been in the context of student savings. Let me start by sharing that educational technology research shows that students do not mind purchasing textbooks which are purposefully and intentionally woven into the research and learning experience. There are instances, however, when students feel like they have had to purchase a textbook just to do a couple of homework assignments, or that they have purchased a textbook that the instructor really never even references. Additionally, and this is for real, students may be auto-charged through their bursar accounts for textbooks by default if the instructor has not been intentional about communicating textbook use to the bookstore. It shows up on their bursar as TXTBK $$$$$. They don’t necessarily even know which course it was for.

Jenkins et al. (2020) found that because of textbook costs over 60% of students do not purchase the required text, over 40% of students take fewer courses each semester, and about 40% of students report not taking specific courses. The ‘Wheel Decide’ below is populated according to these findings. Give it a spin. It does make a clicky sound, so hit mute if you won’t like that.



I don’t feel like that matches our institutional mission statement. It certainly doesn’t match my personal mission statement, which on my worst days is at least ‘try not to make things harder for other people’. Definitely, as an instructor, it is frustrating to look at a group of students knowing that many of them have not purchased the book. That isn’t necessarily on the instructor, true, I know I left a lot of textbooks unread in my undergrad days, and that was my loss. But if your experience is that your students don’t purchase the book, or you know you don’t really refer to it all that much, considering use of OER at least eliminates the cost barrier.

Some of our faculty adopt an OER as their official course textbook or use their own created materials, but let students know if there a book available for purchase that might strengthen their learning experience. Not requiring its purchase, but saying hey, if you read this book you’ll probably ending up knowing and understanding more than if you don’t.

Examples of OER Stakeholder Involvement

As you learned from the video and from the definitions above, OER can encompass a variety of teaching and learning materials. Types of OER include (but are not limited to) syllabi, lesson plans, learning modules, lab experiments, simulations, course videos, discussion prompts, assignments, assessments, library guides, and course design templates.

Listed below are a few examples of the ways in which faculty, students, librarians, and instructional designers may use or support the adoption of open educational resources.


Many faculty already use OER in their classes — for example, showing an openly licensed course video or using worksheets created and shared by other faculty. Faculty can create and share syllabi, lesson plans, and even entire textbooks for their courses. They can collaborate with faculty at their own institutions, or other institutions around the world. They can access and remix existing OER and re-publish them to share with others.


Students can play a significant role in creating and improving OER ─ from simple assignments to full textbooks. One example from Plymouth State University includes students working together to find public-domain materials, write topic introductions, craft discussion forum prompts, and create assignments to go along with the materials to create a full OER textbook. The result became The Open Anthology of Early American Literature.


Librarians play a key role in OER initiatives by advocating for, developing, exploring, and managing OER. Along with helping you find OER, librarians can help you better understand copyright and licensing concepts, and guide you through your Creative Commons licensing options if you choose to create materials yourself. You will explore this further in Chapter Four, Finding OER.

Instructional Designers

Instructional Designers can work with faculty and students to integrate OER into teaching and learning and also share and publish their course design templates as OER. Many instructional designers and technologists work with librarians and IT services to help integrate OER into learning management systems such as Blackboard, Canvas, and Brightspace.



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Exploring Open Copyright © 2020 by Kathy Essmiller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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