OERs are openly licensed textbooks written by qualified faculty and subject-area experts at academic institutions. They address a range of student-learning needs in an evolving educational landscape. OERs present information in interactive ways, incorporate fresh perspectives and methodologies to teaching and learning, and are fully customizable to the specific needs of a given course or program.
Much like many other aspects of academic work, OER adoption takes patience, commitment, and energy. We have already talked about the benefits of OERs to faculty and students, so now we highlight the process of making the switch from a traditional ‘pay-for’ textbook to an Open Educational Resource, a move that enhances students’ experiences both within and beyond the classroom.
Starting the Adoption Process
Our OpenEd site is a great resource for information about our partnership with BCcampus, all steps in the OER process (reviewing, adopting, adapting), and our online repository. The site provides answers to many questions you may have about OERs, and through it, you will find materials that might make great substitutions for your original texts or supplements to your course activities. If you aren’t ready to make the full switch, use an OER to enhance the book(s) you already use. As a result of providing more comprehensive learning materials, you are enriching the course experience for your students by enhancing their knowledge foundation.
Finding the Right Material
Our Open Textbook Collection is comprised of OERs currently in the Manitoba repository, and you can filter by a wide range of subject areas to access appropriate material. Once you select an OER that is of interest to you, you can see a description of the text, access it digitally, and read any reviews provided by faculty at other institutions.
We also offer access to other open catalogues around the web to further your possibilities. New texts are added to repositories frequently, so it is beneficial to check in as often as you are able for new additions in your subject area.
Some contributors, like OpenStax, focus on providing OERs that present foundational information common to many first-year, survey-style courses. Other OERs deal with more advanced knowledge and skills. With an ever-growing body of works accessible through our site, it is likely you will find OERs that fit your needs.
Assessing OER Suitability
First, take some time to peruse the text you have selected, to determine if it meets your teaching and learning needs. OERs look and feel the same as traditional textbooks, so your evaluation criteria need not stray too far from how you would normally find and assess a resource. Some things to consider are:
- content: does the information fit the learning outcomes of your course/can it enhance interactivity in your class?
- presentation: is the text visually appealing and accessible?
- online accessibility: is the text available in digital format?
- production options: are there widespread options for printing (colour, black/white, etc.)?
- platform compatibility: can the text be distributed to computers, mobile devices, eReaders, etc.?
- available ancillary material: are there course packs/supplements available, or is there potential to make some through collaboration?
You can also apply to formally review one of the textbooks, and receive an honorarium of $250. While this can be time-consuming–we allow three months for reviews, start to finish–reviews are important, as they ensure OER quality to prospective users, enhance communication between subject area experts about how OERs can be improved, and assist faculty in finding appropriate open course materials to meet students’ learning needs.
Whether you choose to review or not, sharing the OER(s) you have selected to use in your course(s) is a smooth and simple undertaking.
Distributing to Your Students
Once you have picked an OER that meets your needs, the next step is to get it to your students.
One option is to provide the textbook link to your students directly. They will have the option to download a digital copy, or if they prefer a hard-copy, to print through an outside provider (such as Staples) or at home.
You can also store downloaded copies of the OER to your institution’s Learning Management System (Moodle, Desire2Learn, etc.) or on a cloud-based storage platform (Google Docs, Dropbox).
If you have a faculty website, put copies of the files there and instruct students to download and/or print their copies.
Lastly, you could approach your institutional bookstore or print shop to see if they can make printed copies of the books available for all of your students. Many can, at a very low cost. While bookstores and print shops can charge a marginal cost-recovery fee (for ink and paper), this cost pales in comparison to the high costs of many traditional texts.
Regardless of how you make the material available to your students, they have it on the first day of class. No more waiting in line at the bookstore, dealing with backed-up or short-changed orders, or waiting on student loans to come through in order to afford books. As the instructor, you can launch right into your course activities to start the semester on the right foot.
Reporting OER Usage
Reporting OER adoption allows us to track the breadth of impact that OERs have on student learning: particularly, total savings compared to costs of traditional textbooks, and the momentum of Open Education at our partner institutions. When you report, you share the title of the OER(s) you picked, the number of students you teach, and the traditional cost of the textbook you have replaced, if that is the case. With this information, we can include your totals in our cumulative savings for students. To date, our savings are over $1 million.
Tracking this information allows us to keep pace in a landscape of Open activists that is growing on a national scale. With concentrated efforts in British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, hundreds of thousands of students are now directly seeing the benefits of OERs. We believe that engagement with Open Education will only become more widespread as the post-secondary educational landscape continues to evolve. Students need high-quality, digitally-accessible learning materials. Further, institutions need to be equipped with innovative tools to rise to the challenge of providing lifelong access to education for learners of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and preferences.
The internet is a great tool for all things OER. You can explore the white-capped ocean of Google search results, or if you like a more pointed approach, explore the topic in an online course. In early 2015, BCcampus facilitated an in-depth, four-week online course. BCcampus has also published an Adoption Guide to further assist you with the process.
We are also happy to provide you with additional information, through our regularly-published content, or through direct support. Contact us if you would like additional information on all things Open. We are happy to direct you to many resources and experts, and guide you through all aspects of the OER process.