Open education is an attitude, a practice, and a method of teaching that inspires inquiry, equal access to course materials, and sharing lessons and materials with the wider community. At the center of open education is the belief that education is strengthened when shared openly. Open education relies on open educational resources (OER) and open licensing.
OER refers to educational materials that include permission for anyone to use, modify and share at no cost. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provides the following definition of OER: “Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”
The 5R Activities of OER
An open license permits users of a resource to participate in the 5R activities of OER:
- Retain: Make, own, and control your own copy of the content
- Reuse: Use the content as-is
- Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content
- Remix: Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new
- Redistribute: Share your copies of the original content, revisions or remixes with others
5R Definition adapted from David Wiley under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Read more about defining “open” in open educational resources.
Benefits for Students
Using OER can provide tremendous cost savings for students as well as impact student success and completion rates.
The cost of textbooks can be a financial burden on students, which not only affects student success but could also delay graduation for students who are taking fewer classes per term because of that cost, further increasing financial costs for students over time. OER provide students with day one access to free course materials, and research reviewed by the Open Education Group shows that most students perform as well or better using OER course materials compared with students using traditional textbooks.
OER allow students to have learning materials right from the start of their courses. This is not a negligible point, as the results of the Florida Virtual Campus’ 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey show: 66.6 percent of surveyed students did not purchase a required textbook because of the cost, which these students felt resulted in them earning a poor grade (37.6 percent) or earning a failing grade (19.8 percent). 47.6 percent of students surveyed also indicated that they have taken fewer courses occasionally or frequently, 45.5 percent did not register for a course, 26.1 percent dropped a course, and 20.7 percent withdrew from a course because of the cost of required textbooks.
Benefits for Educators
Faculty enjoy more freedom in selecting course materials and can customize these materials to fit the specific needs of their students and goals of their classes. Since OER permit adaptation, educators are free to edit, reorder, delete from, or remix OER materials. OER provide clearly defined rights to users, so educators are not faced with interpreting Fair Use and TEACH Act guidelines.
Chart: 2016 Florida Virtual Campus Student Textbook & Course Materials Survey Chart 1: Impact of Textbook Costs on Students by Florida Virtual Campus is licensed under CC BY 4.0