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What Does OER Mean? What Does It Have to Do with Textbooks?

what does oer mean

After getting your financial aid package and college loans for tuition, you still have to pay for textbooks and digital materials. These additional costs can be a challenge for most students. In fact, textbook costs are a barrier to student success and even increase dropout rates. 

Did you know that open educational resources can lighten your financial burden with textbook expenses? You’re not alone if you’re struggling. In the last 10 years, the cost of college textbooks grew by 73 percent.  

You might be thinking, “What does OER mean?” If you want to find out how it can help you reach your educational goals, this guide can answer all your questions. 

What Does OER Mean?

OER is the acronym for Open Educational Resources. Imagine a world where textbooks are free. It can become a reality with OER. If you’re thinking of applying for private financial aid for college textbooks, this could be a better solution.

OER textbooks are a collection of materials that fall under Creative Commons licensing. These materials are free for teachers and students. You can download the high-quality books and digital materials, edit them and share them. 

Open Educational Resources provides financial relief to financially disadvantaged students. For example, the teachers for the online MBA program at Rivier University use this, which saves students $1500 during the program. 

Also, research conducted at Virginia State University found that when OER was offered to students in their business department, they got better grades and decreased withdrawals from courses. 

OER and Creative Commons Open License

Creative Commons licensing allows you to use materials any way you wish. The author doesn’t have to sell to a publisher and no one makes any profits from the books. These books are public domain, which means they’re released under the open license. You can find materials in the OER Commons library.

Benefits of Open Educational Resources

In addition to saving money, you can experience the following benefits if your teachers and college offer OER courses:

Environmentally Friendly

Reading these books reduces the impact on the environment. You can have multiple books from electronic sources without exposing the environment to printing chemicals and cutting down trees. 

More Access to Courses

With OER, you can access digital textbooks no matter where you live. Plus, you can reference them over and over again so you can register for additional classes.

Enhance Traditional Course Materials

Even if you’re taking a class that requires you to buy a textbook, EOR materials, such as videos and other multimedia can accompany the textbook. This makes it easier to learn the course material.

Available Immediately

With this option, you don’t have to wait for your textbook to come into the bookstore. You receive the information immediately. For example, published journals, studies, reports and other relevant content.

Highlight Teachers’ Talent

When your teachers use these books, they can share, edit and write the materials they want you to learn. They can also research and write their own material for you to download, which highlights their expertise.

Always Improving

Unlike textbooks, these books never go out of date. They’re improved upon with updates from authors, college faculty and students. This makes them great for teachers who want to adapt the information for particular classes.

Supports “Plug and Play”

Many materials are available in packages that include “plug and play” resources. For example, slides, exercises and extended course modules.

Engages Students

OER engages you in a way that lectures and textbooks can’t. It gives your teachers the tools they need to get you excited about new learning materials.

Lifetime Learning Experience

Since OER is open, it lets you refer back to your course content even after you graduate from college. It also gives you the opportunity to learn new subjects throughout your life. 

Challenges to Open Educational Resources

Open Education Resources aren’t without challenges. Some teachers still resist using OER because they don’t know much about it, or they don’t know where to find electronic textbooks

Here are a few other challenges for OER growth in colleges:

  • Digital materials can disappear if they’re not backed up properly.
  • Potential for large companies to monopolize OER materials.
  • Without editors, educators might not see OER as a trusted material.
  • Finding and assessing materials can be time-consuming.

Textbooks and OER Today

Today, many colleges and universities use a blend of educational materials for their curriculum. These include printed textbooks and OER. 

Most likely, you’ll have to purchase textbooks at some point in your college career. But, don’t let that discourage you. You can have academic success with a combination of inexpensive print textbooks and OER.

If your college professor isn’t onboard with OER yet, you can buy or rent cheap textbooks. You don’t have to go to your college bookstore and buy the latest edition available. You can find what you need at online bookstores for a fraction of the cost of new. 

Where to Find Open Educational Resources

If you’re wondering where to find OER textbooks, explore several of the OER databases. These are all non-profit Open Educational Resources where you can search for the textbooks and digital materials you need for your higher education classes. 

These OER databases offer you collections of high-quality, free courses and materials you can download. Whether you’re an educator or a student, you’ll find easy access to the curriculum materials you need for academic success.

Ask Your College About OER Curriculum

Since OER materials are free, easy to customize, eco-friendly and convenient, they’re a great choice for colleges, students and instructors. As more instructors join the OER movement, your access to OER will grow.

Now that you know the answer to “What does OER mean?”, you can research colleges that offer zero-cost, open resource courses or ask your college about availability. 

Check out our blog for information on finding the cheapest textbooks available so you don’t have to spend time searching.

About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.