Trending in Higher Ed: Open Educational Resources

The cost of textbooks has risen at more than four times the rate of inflation in the past decade, and the use of access codes for associated online materials (that then expire at the end of the term) undermine the rental and used-book marketplace.

As the cost of attending college remains a key issue for higher education leaders today, one innovative idea has gained traction: reducing the cost of college textbooks by instead using Open Educational Resources. OER are high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are free for people everywhere to use and repurpose.

A study by the National Association of College Stores shows the beginning of a possible trend toward the decline in the cost of purchase of required class materials, with an increase in the number of students reporting that they downloaded free online materials. Unreported is the number of students who simply skip buying books and other required materials.

Utah Academic Library Consortium’s OER Committee

Utah has worked to increase the use of OER in its higher education institutions by working through the Utah Academic Library Consortium’s OER Committee. This Committee consists of member from ten of Utah’s colleges and universities. The committee is charged with providing guidance about OER to UALC directors and libraries and with coordinating statewide OER initiatives in higher education. The Committee’s work includes:

  • Coordinating OER efforts within the consortium
  • Providing or informing UALC directors about opportunities to use a range of course material solutions at individual schools:
    • Utilizing library-licensed resources to produce course packs (print or electronic) or reserve materials
    • Navigating the U.S. copyright system
    • Incorporating open educational resources into library collections
  • Undertaking research on successful statewide OER initiatives in higher education that can serve as a model for UALC and Utah
  • Coordinating statewide events such as OER week, a Utah OER website, and other relevant activities
  • Advocating OER through statewide efforts, including a willingness to provide workshops or other educational opportunities to librarians, faculty, and students
  • Coordinating training opportunities in conjunction with the Professional Development and Public Relations committees for librarians, faculty, and students at institutions, including an annual summary of the “state of OER” in Utah.

Institution highlight: Salt Lake Community College

Salt Lake Community College is one of the strongest proponents of OER in Utah, with over 109,000 students benefitting from SLCC’s OER initiative, saving students an estimated $9 million since 2014.

These efforts work together to make college more accessible to Utahns, a key priority of the Utah Board of Regents.