Open Education Resources

Open Education Resource - Tri-Fold

What is an OER?

“Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation.” – UNESCO Communication and Information

“For students, OERs offer free access to some of the world’s best courses and even degree programs. They can also offer huge cost savings as alternatives to expensive textbooks.” – UNESCO Communication and Information.

The Badger Opinion

The Advocacy team hit the halls to talk to students about Open Education Resources. The team explained to students what OER’s are, their history, as well as how we can make this happen. Students were asked to fill out a survey at the table, and online regarding their history of textbook shopping. The results of the survey (with a calculated average from 53 respondents) are as followed:

Average Total Cost of Books Average Number of Textbooks Fair Amount to Spend on Books Most Expensive Book Cost  Cheapest Book Cost
  $811.70  7.4528  $251.23 $208.64 $42.27


History of OERs

The lead up to OER creation was a long time coming beginning with academic discourse on ‘open content’ in 1998. The next major breakthrough occured in 2001 with the creation of the Creative Commons license that allowed MIT to launch its OpenCourseWare initiative. MIT was the first institution to publicly offer almost every course online, free of charge. From there, institutions and governments across the country began jumping on the OER bandwagon. For example:

  • Over 150 universities in China participate in the China Open Resources for Education initiative, with over 450 courses online;
  • 11 universities in France have formed the ParisTech OCW project, which currently offers over 130 courses;
  • 7 universities in Japan have formed the Japanese OCW Alliance that offers over 140 courses;
  • 7 universities in the United States with OER projects (MIT, Rice, Johns Hopkins, Tufts, Carnegie Mellon, and Utah State University) offer over 1400 courses.

“Altogether there are over 2000 freely available university courses currently online. And more OER projects are emerging at universities in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, the UK, the US, and Vietnam.” – OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

OERs in Canada

In 2002 BCCampus was created by the BC provincial government “to provide British Columbia learners, educators and administrators with a web-based portal to online learning programs and services across the BC post-secondary system” (BCCampus FAQ). The program is so wide-ranging it is estimated around 200 000 of BC’s 266,745 students have access to OERs. In fact, BCCampus was such a successful program the government is looking at renewing the project agreement and even expanding it with more funding.

The governments of BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan even signed a tri-partite agreement earlier this year for the 3 provinces to share resources and best practices when it comes to OERs. The movement is gaining momentum across Canada, and now we need to bring it to Ontario!

Total expected financial impact on the province? OUSA estimates that “[t]he total cost to government for a program such as this amounts to between $600,000 to $1 million per year.” That’s LESS than the previous Ontario Textbook and Technology Grant!

Benefits of OERs

  • Significant savings for students – think HUNDREDS of dollars;
  • Professors can have creative control over content in the textbook;
  • New, innovative ways for textbooks to supplement in-class teaching;
  • Easy-to-update-text means textbooks won’t become outdated;
  • OERs make it easy for everyone to learn – you don’t have to be a student to have access
  • Educators can adapt the texts to suit local culture, languages, or history;
  • Ability to enhance personal knowledge in almost any field;
  • Low-cost, yet effective solution to reducing PSE costs for students;
  • More online content means less environmental degradation for paper copies; and