Do you remember that feeling you would get on the first day of school? Freshly sharpened pencils and crisp notebooks filled your backpack. You take a seat at your desk just as the bell rings. The excitement you felt for the year to come; making new friends, learning new things, and figuring out the answers to new questions. Although the feeling of excitement is a shared nostalgia, the quality of education is not equal amongst learners, beginning in elementary school and continuing all the way to higher education and beyond.
Parents and students who have the proper means spend thousands and thousands of dollars on tutoring, books, tuition, and various educational resources that they believe will allow them to succeed in their academic endeavors. But what about the parents and students who don’t have the disposable income to spend on education? How could their educational experiences become equitable compared to their socio-economic counterparts? Perhaps the more important question is: how can students from all demographics equip themselves to maximize and take full advantage of their education with the intention of achieving the same success?
The answer is simple: Open Educational Resources (OER).
OER is a solution that combats the inequitable educational hierarchy. By leveling the playing field through accessibility, equity in education is possible. OER is the love of learning.
At ecoText, our team believes that everyone, no matter their identity or background, should have access to every single resource needed to ensure success within our ever-changing society.
OER empowers students, educators, and life-long learners by providing immediate access to high-quality information — all free or at a low cost. ecoText defines OER as teaching, learning, and research materials that are the gateway to democratizing access to high-quality learning materials, enabling day-one utilization, thus promoting educational equity.
What are Open Educational Resources?
- Retain — the right to make, create, own and control copies of the content
- Reuse — the right to use the content in various ways
- Revise — the right to adapt and modify the content itself
- Remix — the right to combine the content with other content to generate new content
- Redistribute — the right to share all forms of the content with others
Gerry Hanley, Ph.D., Executive Director of MERLOT & SkillsCommons, was a pioneer in open access (OA) education. In 1994 at California State University, Long Beach, Gerry and his colleagues began creating interactive modules called Learning Objects, which he now calls the “parents” of OER. As the internet became more widely adopted, Gerry and his colleagues realized that there was room for change for educational tools.
“In 1994 at California State University Long Beach, I started working on the ‘parents’ of OER, which were called Learning Objects. Working with a wonderful team of people, we collectively developed interactive modules to capture challenging concepts with dynamic, multimedia representations. As the internet was becoming an instrument for education, we recognized that free, online educational resources could be distributed and adopted by many faculty and students so they could benefit from using technology without having to program technology.”
— Gerry Hanley, Ph.D., Executive Director at MERLOT & SkillsCommons
Since then, multiple OA and OER providers, platforms, websites, and repositories have been developed, all with the mission not just to give access to educational materials but to provide increased opportunity for those who use them. The 5R’s of OER allow learners not just to explore the content as it is but also to modify and remix the content to their specific needs and understanding. In addition, the affordability of OER lends a helping hand to those in a disadvantaged circumstance. OER is learning without limitations. It is free from the financial and physical restrictions of traditional texts. It is malleable and moldable to each individual. It is what they need, when they need it.
“The 5 Rs of OER are founded on the principle of sharing educational resources — what’s mine is yours. The principle of sharing is founded on the principle of caring for the well-being of others and caring about the well-being of others is necessary now and always. Affordability and empowerment with OER can enable more people to care about others.”
— Gerry Hanley, Ph.D., Executive Director at MERLOT & SkillsCommons
What is the impact of OER?
Open Educational Resources eliminate these inequities by providing significantly more affordable solutions that are available to everyone. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition (SPARC) found that, on average, a course using traditional materials would cost approximately $134.26 while a course using OER would cost roughly $17.32. Courses using OER save students an average of 87%. A typical full-time student is likely enrolled in four courses, each requiring its own set of materials. The average cost of a full course load using traditional materials comes to $537.04, with its OER counterpart summing to just $69.28. Scale these costs to a four-year degree across an entire student body, and the difference in affordability is monumental.
OER gives students, especially those struggling financially, the opportunity to save money and allocate that toward other necessities while still receiving the high-quality education that they deserve. No student should have to decide between buying the books they need for the semester or groceries for the week. With OER, students can confidently engage and participate in classroom discussions and activities and put more effort into homework and other assignments designed to enhance and challenge their experience. OER gives everyone the chance to procure the same knowledge; we all deserve a chance at enlightenment with no strings attached.
Although OA and OER offer a more affordable, high-quality option compared to traditional materials, students and educators as a whole are missing out on maximizing the benefits they provide.
Out of approximately 5,000 accredited colleges and universities that span the US, a mere 129 colleges and universities are reported on the SPARC Connect OER Directory. Therefore, 97% of colleges and universities do not provide their students, faculty, and institution the support to divulge in OA and OER. This reality significantly inhibits the quality of education, ultimately decreasing their chances of achieving success within the classroom.
The widespread adoption of OA and OER will increase the diversity and inclusion of voices within the educational system. One of the 5R’s of OER is revise, meaning that users have the right to adjust, adapt, and modify the content before ultimately sharing their adaptations. This feature allows for robust collaboration and empowerment for those who have struggled to find their voice and be heard within education. OA and OER are essential and necessary. Their importance will only grow as they bring an unmatched inclusivity factor to education that traditional textbook companies have failed to provide for far too long.
The collective database of information and knowledge has never been so abundant. The future of education is up to us to innovate the ways of democratizing and sharing rather than guarding humanity’s knowledge. The love of learning goes beyond wanting to become smarter or advancing your career or formal education. The love of learning encompasses betterment for the world around you, and more importantly, the knowledge of the individuals that surround you. Increased access to information leads to a decline in ignorance yet enables innovation, solutions, and conversations that make our communities abundant with diversity, equity, and genuine compassion.
With over 75,000 OER titles, ecoText is committed to influencing this change in academia and people who love to learn across the globe. Open Educational Resources are the love of learning.