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10 OER Myths Exploded

GCC students and textbook costs

Students at GCC share the high cost of their textbooks and what they would prefer to spend their money on.

In the past several years, there has been a significant increase in Open Educational Resources use and awareness among faculty at Glendale Community College. As interest continues to rise, it is time to address concerns that have been put forward by faculty and students.

While some concerns around Open Educational Resources are justified, others are rooted in misinformation. So, in this quick blog post, I want to address the most common misconceptions surrounding Open Educational Resources.

Myth #1: OER is low quality

Fact: OER can be produced to the same quality standards as traditional textbooks. Many open textbooks are created following rigorous editorial and peer-review guidelines and many repositories allow faculty to upload their own reviews as well. In fact, Open Textbook Library requires a textbook to be in use at 2 or more educational institutions in order to be included, and 60% of their books have also been faculty reviewed.

Myth #2: Open just means free

Fact: There are no educational resources that have no cost. There is always the cost of production, distribution, or adoption, as they need financial or human resources to be created or adapted. Open actually means that users have the permission to freely download, edit, and share educational resources to better serve all students. Students can save copies of their assigned resources forever, and educators can tailor and update the content to meet course needs. OER texts are free for the students and for the faculty who use them. Free is nice, but open is much more.

Myth #3: All OER are digital

Fact: Most modern textbooks start out as digital files before being converted into print or audio. The same goes for OER. Most OER starts out as digital but can be used in a wide variety of formats for many different devices. For example, an open textbook can be printed, read on a screen, or heard through text-to-speech technology. The difference between OER and traditional resources is that students and educators do not have to choose between formats, they can choose to have any or all formats. OER can even be uploaded to print-on-demand services to be printed and bound at cost. Some are even available for purchase on Lulu and Amazon.

Myth #4: Open textbooks lack ancillaries

Fact: Some OER publishers offer complementary products to open textbooks. These can include lecture slides, images, videos, and simulations. There are also many repositories that hold openly licensed materials that can serve as ancillaries, including PowerPoint slides, videos, and simulations. You may need to prove you are a faculty member to access those products, but they are there for you to use. In addition, you already have materials that you have developed. You don’t need to throw away all of your own materials just to use OER.

Myth #5: Copyright for OER is complicated

Fact: Open licensing makes it easy to freely and legally use textbooks. The author retains their copyright but gives other people the rights to distribute, copy, and share their work. Certain licenses allow for adapting and altering materials as well as sharing the material. For more information on which rights allow for which uses, you can check my previous post, OER: Understanding Open Licenses, or check with your local librarian.

Myth #6: OER deepens the digital divide

Fact: OER is dedicated to eliminating the educational divide by making high-quality learning materials freely available to educators and learners around the world. As mentioned in Myth #2, OER does not mean digital-only. They can be modified and used as analog (print) resources by anyone. So long as faculty stay focused on the needs of the students, OER implementation lowers access barriers to education.

Myth#7: OER is too hard to find

Fact: Your campus has OER librarians who can help you find just what you need. As OER has become more mainstream, it can be a bit overwhelming to try and find the most relevant and high-quality OER for your needs, but an OER librarian can help. If you are like me and want to explore on your own, check out this list for a starting point. However, don’t think that you have to do it alone.

Myth #8: OER adoption takes too much time

Fact: The process for the preparation and adoption of learning materials is complex and depends on many factors. If you were to sit down and write a textbook, it would indeed take a lot of time. The wonderful truth about OER is that you can update the same text rather than trying to find a completely new textbook when current information needs to be added. In some cases, complete textbooks are already available. Extra work comes into play when one wants to create entirely new works, adapt an open textbook, or build/convert an open course from pulling together multiple OER. However, this work can be done incrementally over time, and extra support staff — like the CTLE staff and librarians here at GCC! — can help mitigate some of the extra work and stress. Stipend programs can also help provide extra funds and/or release time to help instructors adopt OER.

Myth #9: My department is not ready for OER

Fact: Changing department culture to support OER can start small. A single faculty member can exercise their academic freedom by choosing to replace traditional resources with OER—whether it’s a set of supplementary simulations or an entire textbook. In some cases, faculty members may be using OER without even knowing it. For example, many YouTube videos and Flickr images are openly licensed, and textbooks published by projects like OpenStax are used at thousands of institutions. Seek out individuals who have already taken steps in this direction. Connect up with your campus’ OER Committee or taskforce, often made up of librarians, CTLE or learning centers, instructional design staff, student government, and administrators. Working with other people who are organizing for OER, you will find the support you are looking for.

Myth #10: OER restricts academic freedom

Fact: The values of the OER community are deeply linked with academic freedom and the decision of whether to use OER is a choice that each faculty member needs to make. Here at GCC, the Open Education @GCC Committee has shared a statement on their understanding of OER and Academic freedom.

“The Open Education Committee supports academic freedom and faculty choice in educational resources. We encourage and support the use of Open Educational Resources. We believe that our efforts should not abridge the right for faculty to select high-quality, inclusive course materials for the classes they teach, in coordination with their department.”

Open Education @GCC Committee

Bonus Myth: OER is just about saving students money.

Fact: OER does save students money. However, it is not the only reason to adopt openly licensed materials. The open licenses allow faculty to change materials to better fit their learning objectives. It encourages the adoption of high-impact practices. It gives faculty members the freedom to ensure their materials are representative of the diverse student backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. You know your students. Does your textbook reflect the faces you see in the classroom? It allows faculty members to make updates and changes to the textbook as changes are happening in the field. It allows faculty to remove or revise materials in moments. Yes, OER is about saving students money but it is also about giving students access to the best materials and support that we can provide.

Open Education @GCC is ready to help you take that first step. Let us know how we can help.

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