To enhance the affordability of higher education and to create a student-centered learning environment, some educators have created, adopted, or adapted peer-reviewed instructional materials that are freely available online for reuse and modification. Because of their flexibility and ready availability, such alternative textbooks are grouped under the umbrella term "open educational resources" (OER) or "affordable course content."
According to SPARC's Open Education initiative, OER are "teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use." They facilitate access to knowledge and exist in different formats, including but not limited to full courses, course materials, openly licensed textbooks, learning objects, and software.
OER democratize teaching and learning with the aid of the Internet and open licensing. They lower the costs of education and conform to the 5R framework that enables users to:
University of Kentucky faculty members who have questions about alternative textbooks or would like to create alternative textbooks are welcome to contact UK Libraries.
Open Oregon has created an informative video to introduce educators to open educational resources.
In the video below, faculty members at Tompkins Cortland Community College talk about improved student success outcomes, retention, teaching methods, and significant savings for students using open educational resources.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the costs of traditional college textbooks have skyrocketed over the years:
OER has emerged as a solution to the runaway problem of textbook costs. In fact, SPARC and the Open Education Consortium have pointed out that OER benefit not only higher education but also society as a whole because: