Celebrating OER Week at Durham Tech

March 6-10 is Open Education Week!

Open Educational Resources (OER) are high-quality educational materials that are available for free in the public domain and can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed under Creative Commons licensing. These materials can be textbooks, research documents, or instructional tools, among other things.

Durham Tech has already awarded stipends for OER adoption to almost 20 instructors, and the OER Task Force is pleased to announce Spring 2023 stipends for instructors using open educational resources!

Many faculty members may already be using OER in the classroom without even realizing it, so check out the detailed guide to OER (Durham Tech OER LibGuide).

To be eligible to receive a stipend, you must be a Durham Tech instructor who is 1) already using OER in your classes this semester and 2) who did not receive a stipend for OER in Fall 2022. Only one stipend will be awarded per instructor.

The deadline to apply using the stipend application form is Friday, March 31st by 5pm. Once the deadline has passed, the task force will evaluate the applications using the 5 R’s of OER (Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute – see the link for a detailed guide to OER for more info on these Rs).

Keep reading to learn more about OER and faculty should look for more communication from the OER Taskforce in the coming weeks!

Why does OER matter?

In higher education, the cost of textbooks and course materials can be a serious financial barrier for students, even with rental options. In the past, the College Board has suggested that students budget $1200 annually for textbooks; while that amount has thankfully decreased over the past decade, the cost of college overall has not, including “other materials,” which can included technology necessary for completing coursework.

College Board Annual Survey of Colleges 2022-23 data for Student Budgets: Public Two-Year In-District Commuter data reads for average: $3,860 for tuition and fees; $9,610 for room and board (rent, etc.); $1,460 for books and supplies ($340 for course materials and $1,120 for "other" supplies such as computers); $1,870 for transportation; and $2,430 for other expenses
from the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2022 Report

In addition to saving students an average of $65 per course, initial studies seem to indicate that OER can positively impact student degree progression– students enrolled in OER courses earned more college credits in the same timeframe as those not taking classes offering OER materials, according to a report from Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative.

OER’s obviously pretty great, so what’s the hold-up?

Let’s be honest– one of the major issues is time. Changing instructional materials is a time burden for faculty and often adjuncts need to work with materials already in place. This is one of the reasons Durham Tech has created the OER Task Force; if you’re interested in learning more and finding ways to support OER adoption for your course or department, consider joining (contact chair Maureen Walters — waltersm @durhamtech .edu).

Another common concern is material quality. While all materials may not be created equally, many OER textbooks, such as those on Openstax (used by several SOC 210 instructors and BIO 168/169 faculty at Durham Tech), are created by subject-area experts, including faculty, and can freely be remixed if an instructor prefers a different methodology or approach.

Check out OER Commons to browse some of open access texts and materials and see what’s already available.

You can also explore the OER LibGuide (a detailed guide to OER) for more resources and information.

Durham Tech OER LibGuide featuring an overview, OER at Durham Tech, Finding/Using OER, Inexpensive resources, and OER Communities.

Is OER the only way?

Well, it’s OER Week, so it’s would be nice to say yes, but being considerate of the creeping costs of education doesn’t have to rely only on OER. Choosing no-cost or low-cost materials when available or using library resources, such as chapters from books from ebook databases with unlimited simultaneous users, can go a long way in reducing student costs. When students can access course materials without financial barriers, they’re more likely to use them. Questions about library resources? You know who to ask! (Spoiler: The Durham Tech Library. Email us at library @ durhamtech .edu)

For a deeper dive into OER, including an overview of licensing, check out this TEDxUTA talk from former University of Texas at Arlington student body president Katie Gosa, which also presents a student perspective.