The Big Deal About Open Educational Resources

Several years ago I attended a conference and learned about the "flipped classroom." The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model that reverses the typical lecture in class and homework at home standard most of us experienced throughout our education. All of the conference attendees sat with pens in hand, desperate to learn more about this new teaching/learning model and its potential success. Now I find myself in the clutches of Open Educational Resources, or OER for short. As with the flipped classroom, I initially found myself wondering if this was a trend or a legitimate new way to approach education. So let me break it down for you… this is the big deal about Open Educational Resources.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation defines OER as:

"... teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re- purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge."

The key word is "open," meaning access for all who seek it; unlike traditional textbooks and ebooks, which must be bought or borrowed.

The big deal about OER is the sky's the limit! There is so much information to be found on microbiology, mass communications, Western philosophy, and so on. With resources from other universities, Wikipedia and news outlets readily available to college students who are interested or seeking more information on a topic, educators are becoming hard pressed to make an argument for the purchase of a $200 textbook (that will only sell for $40 since the new version is coming out next year). In addition, college and universities across the country are under pressure to reduce the overall cost of the education they offer, making it more accessible to qualifying students. Certainly the cost of textbooks is one of the fees a university can begin to control in an effort to lower overall costs.

There are also major advantages to OER, such as the availability of additional resources to students. Remember when there was only one place to find additional resources – the library? Times have changed. And while students still utilize texts and other media available on campus libraries to gain a better understanding of a topic or an idea, it's oftentimes easier (and faster) to use the Internet from the comfort of their dorm room or apartment to get the facts they need.

Thanks to OER, a college student in Indiana can listen to a lecture from a professor at Stanford, check out from the library the recommended reading from the syllabus of a professor at Princeton, read faculty published articles found through a Google search, and review practice problems from noted faculty across the country. Not to mention, college students today are able to interact with other students around the world studying the same topics via online forums and social media.

OER begs the question, "Why should students be expected to spend over $1,200 per year on textbooks when everything they need (and more) to learn course materials is readily available at a lower cost?"

Skyepack agrees. That's why we work with instructors, departments and universities to create a sustainable, low-cost course materials solution. By utilizing OER, content generated by professors, licensed copyrighted content, or a mixture of everything, Skyepack delivers affordable and custom designed course material through a single platform available on devices students already own.

Learn more about Skyepack's instructional design approach.

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About the author

Brady Kalb April 5th, 2016

Brady Kalb is the CEO of Skyepack. Brady’s passion for education stems from his desire to "always be learning" and find innovative solutions to difficult problems, and experiences teaching various business and entrepreneurship classes at universities.