Ritter librarians see value in low-cost open source textbooks

With the inflation in textbook prices over the past few decades comes a reasonable need for more affordable learning. Open Educational Resources has created a solution to this inflation.

OERs can be defined as open source textbooks or other educational materials, usually for lower level undergraduate classes, that are low cost or even free to use for educators and their students.

The movement toward a more open source educational system is of high importance to the Ohio Dept. of Higher Ed. and they, along with OhioLINK, Ohio’s Library Consortium, have been very interested in making these resources more available to all educators.

These organizations have “the goal of making education more affordable,” said Charles Vesei, the Asst. Director of Ritter Library. “Textbooks are one of the few things that librarians and faculty can take steps toward actually lowering the cost of.”

Although it is the students who have access to OER’s who will save money, even educators can benefit from applying them. Some organizations like the Ohio Dept. of Higher Ed. and OhioLINK as well as OER publishers will offer grants to educators for using these materials. “Everyone benefits” from a system of open educational material like this, said Laurie Willis, Librarian at Ritter Library. OERs can encourage the sharing of knowledge and offer more substance for those who are able to apply these low-cost textbooks to their classes.

There is opposition to OERs, however. Vesei stated that often people who have not explored all that OERs offer will say, “how can something free be good?” Vesei went on to add that these textbooks however are collaboratively written by experts in their fields and can offer an education comparable to the more expensive textbooks currently in use.

Educators often become hesitant in changing their class to fit an OER as well.

Laurie Willis said, “OER represents change and change is difficult.”

A common problem that educators run into when considering OERs is that they will have to “reformat, re-plan or redevelop” their class to fit the new material, according to Vesei.

Another factor of hesitation is that most of these OERs are written for lower level classes and many educators can’t apply an open source textbook to their course.

“Nobody has written a textbook on the spice trade in the middle ages yet, that would qualify as an open source textbook,” joked Vesei.

There is a beacon of hope however. With every following year, more educators are hearing about these open educational resources. The farther the word spreads about lower cost education, the more collaboration and creation of affordable educational material there will be. Not only does this collaboration lead to more fields and topics being covered in low-cost textbooks, but also more affordable textbooks for everyone, even beyond the walls of a university.

Vesei said, “There’s a social justice aspect to this as well. Inexpensive or free textbooks break down barriers for access to higher education.”

Considering the inflation of prices across all education the support for OERs allow students and teachers alike, even beyond the confines of The United States or other countries, to access and utilize affordable education.