• Cathryn Mattimore

OER is a Necessary Groundbreaker: A Millennial's Perspective

When I was a college student, nearly a decade ago, I remember dreading the trip to the campus bookstore to buy my books. I was taking a women’s European history class my first year and the syllabus listed 8 books we were required to purchase. One book alone was $100, and I was taking 4 classes that semester. The cost added up quickly but I felt like I had no other options. Textbooks’ high costs were a huge problem and there were times when I elected not to purchase textbooks if the cost was too high. In fact, according to a 2018 Babson study which examines the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement amongst faculty across the country, “almost all department chairpersons (89%) agree that cost of course materials is a serious problem.” What’s the best way to combat this serious problem? Make textbooks free or low cost without sacrificing quality. For me, the answer is OER.

Through my work at O’Donnell Learn, I’ve learned extensively about the OER movement and its potential to transform higher education. My research has led me to believe that OER is the way of the future and is truly groundbreaking because it delivers premium content while cutting costs across the board. I strongly advocate for the adoption of OER materials and the importance to spread awareness to institutions and faculty as a means to make higher education more accessible to all learners.

While OER is transitioning to the mainstream, slightly more than half of faculty remain unaware of the OER alternative. It’s important to continue to spread awareness of OER materials because it will make higher education more accessible for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Students will no longer be barred access to materials due to cost. The Babson study also speaks to this notion, as it found that “the 'open' aspect of OER resonates with faculty; they see it as an excellent match to academic principles.” Clearly, faculty agree that OER will change the way students learn and ensure a better education practice that is founded on equality.

OER has the potential to continue to revolutionize the higher ed world. We need to strive to deliver the best content possible while minimizing cost. Higher education promotes and teaches principles of equality, so why wouldn’t we be sensitive to all students from all socioeconomic backgrounds? While OER didn’t have much traction when I was a student, as a learning experience design professional, I know the importance of spreading OER awareness and encouraging its adoption to create equal access for students across the country.