It’s no secret that a college education does not come cheap. While tuition and living costs are high, for many it’s the price of textbooks and other course materials that can break the bank. To help combat these costs, many institutions are looking into Open Educational Resources (OER) to help reduce costs for students.

In a recent article in No Shelf Required, “Open Educational Resources: The Story of Change and Evolving Perceptions”, Mirela Roncevic breaks down the history of OERs and where these types of resources are headed.

OER History

According to the article, OER resources refer to “digital educational materials that anyone anywhere can use freely and legally, including the user’s right to copy, share, enhance and/or modify them for the purposes of sharing knowledge and enabling education.” While there are plenty of OER resources available on the web, finding credible and reliable resources can be a challenge for the library community.

OERs began popping up in the early 1970s and have since evolved thanks to librarians, catalogers and volunteers who aim to create viable resources including more modern, specialized OERs. According to Roncevic, the College Board reports undergraduates spend an average of $1,200 annually on textbooks, making affordability a huge concern, and the boom in OERs is directly correlated to the increase in college textbook costs.

No other issue involving OERs is more relevant and affecting more users, including faculty, than discoverability.

No other issue involving OERs is more relevant and affecting more users, including faculty, than discoverability.

Advantages and Concerns of OERs

While OERs have many benefits — they’re widely available, provide affordability for students, promote self-learning and allow for the reach of many learners at the same time — there are a few concerns that the article mentions.

The main concerns of OERs include the validity of the resources, the idea of intellectual property, or “fair use,” and the difficulty for users in easily being able to find and utilize the OERs.

Future of OERs

Over the course of nearly 30 years, OERs have evolved into reliable and cost-efficient resources for students and researchers. However, finding ways to make them fully “discoverable,” as well as teaching faculty where and how to get to OERs, is the current challenge at hand.

With this in mind, repositories, portals and platforms have been created to help aggregate materials and allow for user-friendly search. While repositories are meant to catalog materials, portals are aimed at pointing users to available repositories and resources. A platform like EBSCO Faculty Select works to combine both ideas to enable faculty to find and access OER content from one spot. 

OERs and the discoverability of this content continues to evolve as librarians, faculty, students and researchers search for affordable textbook alternatives.

Read more about the history and the future of OERs in No Shelf Required.