Week Nine: Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources metaphorOER, which is an acronym for Open Educational Resources, seems like a no-brainer to me. In my 30+ year career teaching Principles of Economics, I have used a variety of books, including traditional commercial textbooks, books written on economic subjects for lay audiences (in lieu of a standard textbook), and no text book at all. I’ve concluded that most intro books are pretty much the same, and that any experienced instructor can teach effectively using pretty much any intro text. Why then should we ask our students to use commercial textbooks that cost $75, $175 or $375, when there are free or very inexpensive alternatives available? Yes it takes some time and effort to adopt and transition to using a new text. I don’t discount this, but as professionals don’t we have an obligation to do that if we think it would be better for our students?

Over the last few years, I’ve adopted OER for my intro courses. Before we go further, let’s get a few myths out of the way. When I talk about OER this week, I’m not referring to class materials, bits of content, what used to be called learning objects. I mean open source, complete printed or digital texts edited and published by organizations with solid reputations. These are not self-published books.

For faculty who don’t have experience with OER, there are five key questions we will explore this week:

1. What is OER?
2. How good are open source textbooks?
3. What do instructors and students who use OER think of them?
4. How do we find OER in our discipline?
5. What comes after adoption of OER?

Monday: What is OER?

Open educational resources are much more than simply free resources. In addition, OER give students and teachers the following five rights:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

While you may not yet fully understand the “5 Rs,” as David Wiley calls them, but understand this: they dramatically change the role of a textbook in a course (or at least they offer the potential for that).



  • Join in – Open Dialog Session: The Open Textbook Library
    Are you concerned about higher education access and affordability? Open textbooks can help ease the burden of textbook costs for students and provide faculty with high quality, customizable course content. Join us for a discussion of textbook costs and student success.

4pm EDT; Tune in via Zoom & submit questions via Twitter.

Tuesday: How good are open source textbooks?

How can we be sure that the quality is equal to that of traditional commercial textbooks? Are open source textbooks peer reviewed? Do they go through a comparable quality control process?


Wednesday: What do instructors and students who use OER think of them?

  • Join in – Twitter chat 2:00-3:00 pm

Thursday: How do we find OER in our discipline?

  • Interview with Open Textbook author, Caitie Finlayson (recorded video) Twitter
  • Join in: Q & A with Caitie Finlayson, TIME: 11:00am – 12:00noon EDT

Friday: What comes after adoption of OER?

Some have called open source textbooks the gateway drug to something more bigger. As the week comes to an end, we can pursue two possible threads

1. Perhaps the best attribute of OER is not that it’s free, but that it makes instructors think profoundly about how they teach the course.

2. Digital Courseware as a textbook alternative



Join in – Twitter conversation 2pm – 3pm

Page by Steve Greenlaw, edited for Open Learning ’17 hub by hub director Gardner Campbell