A couple of stats that may startle some faculty members: seven out of 10 students do not purchase a required textbook at some point during their academic career because of cost. And 60% of students have delayed purchasing textbooks until they’ve received their financial aid, putting them behind in that class from the start.
UNLV Libraries and other departments across campus have recently formed the Open Educational Resources Task Force, led by Amy Tureen, head of the Library Liaison Program, to address these issues. The task force’s first webinar, titled "Why Didn’t My Students Buy the Textbook? How Some UNLV Faculty Members are Using Open Educational Resources," recently tackled the relationship between students, textbooks, and learning. Melissa Bowles-Terry of the Faculty Center led the event sponsored by OIT, Office of Online Education, Faculty Center, University Libraries, UNLV Bookstore.
Open Educational Resources (OERs) include learning materials, such as textbooks, syllabi, lectures, assignments, projects, and papers, that are available to all for higher education. OERs are both easily accessible and serve as a collection of knowledge across multiple sources.
The webinar explored how to make college more accessible to students through OERs.
Three professors across the English and Engineering departments shared their experience with these open resources. “OERs help students begin to understand the ways that knowledge grows and develops over time,” stated English professor Edwin Nagelhout.
English professor Philip Rusche attributes the problem with regular textbooks to their price, limiting nature, and overall structure. He shared what an open textbook would look like: “Our textbook will have a modular design. Instead of one chapter covering a topic, we have numerous webpages, links to other sites, videos, graphics.”
Through OER materials, he said, students can learn at their own pace and to their own needs. “What this means is that either the student or teacher can follow their own interests. We believe that students should have agency with their own reasons for why they’re in the course.”
Professor Ed Jorgensen of the Computer Science department also spoke about the sense of community involved with OERs. “In our area, we have gotten intellect from other people across the country,” he said. “Now more people are using it, so it’s not just a local thing. That helps build a wider community for what we’re doing. There’s a lot of value to that.”
There are a number of Open Educational Resources available at institutions all over the world, and they are more than simple textbooks. OERs not only serve as an opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge but also increase access to education as a whole. Here at UNLV, Melissa Bowles-Terry hinted at the near future of OERs, citing that some faculty will be adopting and creating Open Educational Resources for their courses.
More information can be found on the University Libraries OER website.