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Sticker-Shock Sparks Faculty-Librarian Collaboration with OER

By Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarianpicture1

Typically, it goes a little something like this:  A student arrives on campus, prints his course schedule and then takes a walk to the bookstore to see what reading materials his professors may have assigned for his courses.  The panic that often ensues from the sticker-shock is very real and far too common.  For students studying in the United States during 2015-16, the average cost of textbooks for just one year at a private four-year university like Roger Williams University was $1,249 (source).  With exorbitant prices like this tacked onto already high tuition costs, it’s no wonder that librarians across the nation are investigating whether or not OER (Open Educational Resources) could be the answer.

So what are OER, and why is the library getting involved?  OER can be identified as teaching, learning and research materials in analog, digital, and interactive mediums that are free of any copyright or license restrictions.  OER are meant to not only alleviate the financial burden of student learning but also to enrich and revolutionize it.  Faculty utilizing OER now have far more flexibility in selecting whole or individual chapters of open textbooks (free) in addition to searching through online shared banks of interactive lesson plans, media, journal articles and more to create custom and engaging learning environments that encourage students to be active learners both inside and outside of the classroom.  It isn’t always easy to locate and evaluate quality OER that fits within the confinements of one’s syllabus, and this is where the RWU librarians have stepped up to collaborate with the Center for Teaching & Learning, Instructional Design, and 7 faculty members in all different disciplines wanting to make a difference in their students’ lives.

Stay-tuned for an inside look into all 7 of our faculty fellows’ experiences working with the library and OER.  We’ll showcase how each individual chose to incorporate OER into his/her fall semester courses and how they plan on assessing the benefits of access and student learning throughout.  The emergence of OER in higher education is creating exciting opportunities for faculty to reassess their pedagogical practices and engage students in deeper intellectual explorations of subject content.  Follow along and get inspired!