With the rapid advancement of digitalization, the future of textbooks is unlikely to be a printed, rigid form. Especially after the havoc Covid-19 created, the world is ready to shift towards an online and digital means of education, and Open Educational Resources are sure to play an important role in this transformation.
UNESCO defines “Open Educational Resources (OER) as 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.”
Simply put, any type of educational material available in the public domain can be considered as OER.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 in 10 students can’t afford a textbook because it is too expensive. The cost of education and living for students is increasing massively, and it is simply not fair to ask students or their families to choose between paying rent or buying textbooks.
Here are a few reasons why OER is extremely relevant in these times
Publishers charge hefty amounts for collections that increase every year, prohibiting access to many students. Even though most teaching has gone online, students still lack the freedom to move away from traditional printed resources because resources are licensed for exclusivity, making them difficult or costly to access. OER removes this expensive burden.
OER initiatives are student-driven, and they provide a multimodal approach towards learning. They are a better option to engage students than textbooks and lectures. OERs make the teaching and studying experience more interactive when compared to traditional techniques, offering a better retention rate of new information for students as it fosters a pedagogically sound learning experience.
3. Swift Circulation
OER lets the information disseminate rapidly and more efficiently when compared to traditional forms that take months to be available. The access to learning is expanded across almost every group of students, making sure a broad participation in educational activities.
4. Ease of Customization
OERs can be customized or modified to the classroom's needs at individual levels taking classroom experience to the next level. OER resources can also be integrated with each other, adding more value to the resource. The quality of OER to be remixed, transformed, and built upon gives it an upper hand over the printed resources.
Regardless of the incentives and benefits that OERs offer, certain barriers still exist, hindering its adoption.
1. Lack of Awareness
Although many academics are willing to share their work, they are often hesitant to do this without losing their rights. Several open content licenses have been developed to solve this problem, like the Creative Commons and the GNU Free Documentation Licence. Open licensing provides a way of controlled sharing with some rights reserved to the author.
2. Perceived lack of quality
There is a popular notion that free open educational resources are of poor quality. Traditional, commercial texts are typically assumed to be high quality because they are published (and marketed by) well-known commercial publishers. To solve this issue, colleges and universities can provide faculty with editors and graphic designers who can assist authors in publishing open resources.
3. Difficulty in accessing
Creating or locating existing OER can be extremely time-consuming. Adopting OER with a shift from traditional sources can require a lot of effort and time at the initial stage. This is the reason why libraries, administrators, and instructional designers at various institutions are increasingly providing support for faculty members who are willing to use OER in their courses. Institutes are focusing on building and managing Institutional Repositories so that OERs can be stored and accessed with ease.
In the long run, OER will enhance the pedagogy and the learning experience. OERs are indeed the future of education. It can overcome the barriers to students' access to educational resources and help in cost-cutting while also allowing the faculty to customize the course according to their requirements.