4 Why OER?

There are a number of reasons that OER are worth considering:
  • Textbook costs continue to increase.  According to one source, there was an 88% increase in prices between 2006-2016 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016).  At TRU, the adaption and creation of OER by TRU faculty (of those developing or adapting OER) will impact numerous students with potential savings of over $500,000 per year. (as per recent data compiled regarding OER developed with the OER Development Project Grants).  That figure does not include those who use or have developed OER beyond grant holders
  • Much of the commercially available content is focused on the U.S. market and lacks Canadian or local context, etc.
  • Adapting or developing resources not only contributes to one’s field, it offers other rich opportunities such as:
    • Developing material that is customized to one’s local context
    • Opportunity to contribute to one’s field (increasingly these are recognized in things such as APARs and for Tenure & Promotion at some many institutions)
    • Opportunity to collaborate with others and publish work that may not otherwise be possible for many through traditional publishers
    • Access – digital OERs can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere one has internet access.
    • Accessibility features can also ensure access for all (e.g., consideration on things such as color contrast, images, organization, font size, and more features to ensure accessibility for those with diverse abilities).
    • Grades may improve: e.g., Feldstein et al (2012)  found that those in courses that used OER had both lower failure rates and better grades than counterparts in courses that did not.
    • Cost – in one study (Redden, 2011), 7 in 10 didn’t get a text due to the high cost.
    • Enhanced media, interactivity, etc. – multimedia (video, audio, interactivities such as with H5P) are embedded in OERs often.
    • Up-to-date – can be adopted and thus updated/contextualized (as opposed to the more static nature of traditional print materials and can be continually improved and revised)
    • Showcase! – faculty can have students access materials they have developed themselves.
    • Sustainability – if accessed only online, there is a sustainability benefit in that no print material is used.
    • Exercises often at end of chapters to help reinforce learning/encourage learners to engage with material – for example this also can include what some are terming “Open Homework Systems”.  These “Open Homework Systems” can be viewed as an exciting alternative to access to publishers’ digital platforms – for which BC Students paid about $3.7 million in fall 2018. (Caldwell, 2019).
  • There are also some possible drawbacks or concerns in regard to OER including:
    • Quality and/or reliability concerns – care needs to be taken in selecting material that has gone through a peer-review process and is accurate, etc.
    • Copyright/Licensing limitations – Look at the licenses carefully for what is adopted/adapted and how they can be used.
    • Technology and accessibility – some can have difficulty accessing online resources for reasons such as connection speed, older devices (or those that lack things such as audio or some software) so may not be appropriate in some instances.
    • Some prefer print materials (some students choose to print entire OER texts)
    • Environmental impact – there are hidden environmental effects of the digital world (e.g., the production of electricity, mining of rare minerals used in devices/batteries)


Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016. College tuition and fees increase 63 percent since January 2006.  Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2016/college-tuition-and-fees-increase-63-percent-since-january-2006.htm

Caldwell, J. (2019). Early thoughts on the BCcampus open homework systems project.  BC Campus.  Retrieved from https://bccampus.ca/2019/10/08/early-thoughts-on-the-bccampus-open-homework-systems-project/

Feldstein, A., Martin, M., Hudson, A., Warren, K., Hilton, J., & Wiley, D. (2012). Open textbooks and increased student access and outcomes. European Journal of Open, Distance and E–Learning.

Redden, M. (2011). 7 in 10 Students Have Skipped Buying a Textbook Because of Its Cost, Survey Finds.  Chronicle of Higher Education.  Retrieved from:  https://www.chronicle.com/article/7-in-10-Students-Have-Skipped/128785/

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