Open Educational Resources are free teaching materials that are intended to be widely distributed and modified to fit the particular needs of instructors. Some examples of OER include textbooks, websites, presentations, syllabi, and lesson plans. While most OER starts in digital format, files can be converted so faculty and students can print their materials at home or through a printing service.
Benefits of using OER
- Saves students money on course materials and creates more inclusive learning environments
- Open licensing allows instructors to have greater control over course content
- Librarians can help reformat text and add multimedia elements to course materials
- Provides opportunities to explore open pedagogy for scholarly publication and presentation
For a summary of empirical research done on the efficacy and perceptions of OER, visit the Open Education Group review project. To learn more about OER, watch the video below:
Where to find OER
Northwestern University is a member of the Open Textbook Network, based at the University of Minnesota. The network staff manage the Open Textbook Library, an online catalog of college textbooks that are free to download, print, upload to canvas, or revise to work with your courses.
In addition to the Open Textbook Library, there are a variety of consortiums offering collections of open textbooks which can be used. In fact, the Federal Government recently issued a $4.9 million grant to support the expansion of a STEM-focused open textbook project.
Librarians are available to assist faculty in navigating all of the open educational resource options, and to locate materials that may be suitable replacements for existing textbooks. Faculty who are interested in adopting or developing their own OER are eligible to apply for an Open Educational Resources Grant, which will provide money for faculty to redesign their courses using OER.
While most OER begins in a digital format, files can be converted to print at cost, either via a personal or campus printer, or through a third-party printing service, such as Lulu. If you’d like to explore printing options and costs, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OER Support & Use at Northwestern
Chris Diaz and Lauren McKeen are available to assist you with finding quality OER and help you incorporate these materials into your teaching. We also provide consultations on developing your own OER. Email us with questions or a copy of your syllabus for a consultation.
Check out the following links to hear about OER from students and faculty at Northwestern:
Multilevel Co-authoring of OERs: Collaborating with Students for the Creation of Course Materials by McCormick Professor and OER grant recipient Jon Emery (TEACHxperts video recording)
- The Northwestern Digital Learning Podcast: Open Textbooks by Chris Diaz, Digital Publishing Librarian
- Open Textbook Library: Peer-reviewed, openly licensed college textbooks
- OpenStax: faculty-reviewed, openly licensed college textbooks
- How to Adopt an Open Textbook
Research on OER
- 2018 large-scale study from the University of Georgia that found significant improvement in student outcomes when provided with free course materials. Pell eligible, underserved, and part-time students showed the greatest benefit outcome.
- Open Education Group Review Project: comprehensive list of empirical research done on the efficacy and perceptions of OER.
- US PIRG’s 2018 report on the current textbook environment and student success.