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Enhancing the Classroom with Open Educational Resources

“College is so EXPENSIVE.” How many times have we heard this statement, whether from our friends, our children, and especially ourselves? To say that a university degree costs a lot of money is an accepted fact in the United States; it’s akin to asserting that being a baseball fan in Boston will involve a great deal of cheering for scarlet footwear. Yet, in spite of the ever-rising expenses associated with higher education, there are ways an institution can alleviate the financial burden for its students. Here at Evangel University, we are working to cut costs through the use of open educational resources (OER).

“Open educational resources are high-quality academic materials, which either reside in the public domain or have been digitally published with an open license,” said Rumiyana Hristova, catalog and outreach librarian at Evangel’s Kendrick Library.

Special copyright privileges, called Creative Commons licenses, allow free access to OER and permit the retention, reuse, revision, remixing, and redistribution of these materials.

“OER benefit students by reducing significantly or limiting the cost of textbooks – a neglected barrier to getting a college degree. The skyrocketing cost of textbooks is second only to healthcare,” said Hristova.

On average, an Evangel student pays between $200 and $300 each semester for textbooks. According to Hristova, through OER, Evangel has saved students a collective total of $307,000. Dr. Kevin King, professor of exercise science in EU’s Kinesiology Department, accounts for $177,360 of this total.

“I knew that making the resources available to my classes would decrease the burden on our student body,” said King. “In addition, I was confident we could offer the students an equally high-quality course with publications considered public works.”

“To place Dr. King’s savings into a larger context, some colleges report similar figures as their entire savings total,” said Hristova.

Lifting the financial burden is not OER’s only benefit; the resources also provide pedagogical advantages.

“One of the advantages of engaging an OER versus building your own content from scratch is that the OER has had time for use and therefore refinement,” said King. “Access to high-quality products give a well-developed experience for the student that has been refined for years to better achieve learning goals and outcomes.”

“Faculty are trapped by the commercial textbook publishers’ system designed to continually increase the corporate revenue,” said Hristova. “By contrast, OER provides them with a sense of ownership of their curriculum, gives them the flexibility to customize their materials and a true academic freedom. Instead of making their course content rigidly ‘fit’ an established textbook, they are free to teach with passion and relevancy the current issues of the day.”

King warns that while there are myriad advantages to using OER, they should not be viewed as a “silver bullet” suitable for every educational situation.

“Choosing whether to use OER is not a simple choice that can be made easily,” said King. “I teach several courses in which OER do not address the topics I want or need and don’t offer enough quality/quantity of information. However, if OER meets course requirements, I would encourage faculty to use OER as often as they can.”

OER creation and adoption at Evangel are in the beginning stages. Still, faculty members, mindful of high textbook costs and the benefits of using proven research, are making the effort to improve their classes. As OER become more widely embraced across EU’s campus, we believe it will significantly elevate the university experience and lift some of the financial burden associated with obtaining a degree.

To view or begin using Evangel’s OER library, please visit our curated “Find OER” page.