Thoughts on some OER FAQs

In advocating for OER on my campus, I’ve run into many misconceptions. I’ve also found a few people who are helping to spread some of these misconceptions. This FAQ is a useful document for addressing some of them.

OER help “to ensure that resources are up-to-date

How up-to-date are commercial textbooks? There is an investment of time and money that goes into revisions and printing new editions, so publishers don’t want to do that any more than necessary. They also have a vested interest in eliminating the market for used books, so there is a financial benefit to updating editions frequently. Faculty can OER whenever they please, due to the Creative Commons permissions. Some may see this as a drawback, if they would rather have someone else be responsible for keeping materials current. I can see benefits to building the updating process into a course though. Students could look to current research, events and issues to see how they intersect with course subject matter, and be charged with proposing revisions. This type of an assignment would have them actively thinking about the relevance of what they’re learning, how they are learning it, and how to get ideas and concepts across to others. Students would gain experience in managing their own learning processes at the some time as they learn the course content.

Can OER be high quality if it is free?

Are commercial textbooks high quality because they’re expensive? What kind of review process do they actually go through? How do we rate quality anyway? What factors are considered important? What matters is student learning and student success. Writing, editing and design will have an impact on that. So will accessibility and cost. I imagine it is relatively easy to compare textbook A to textbook B and decide which is better based on content and presentation. It would be more difficult to determine if textbook A is $100 better than textbook B, or if students would derive $100 more of value from it. Due to CC permissions, OER can be modified to fit the needs of an institution, a department, an instructor, and a group of students. They can be continually modified to improve student success.

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