OER stands for Open Education Resources. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation offers the following definition for open education resources:
Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 2013)
In order for a resource to be considered OER, it must allow for users to own, distribute, and edit the content freely. Creativecommons.org lists five rights users should have with OER materials, known as the 5R activities:
• Elimination of expensive textbook costs for students while maintaining learning
• Positive changes in instruction (wider range of teaching material, collaboration between instructors)
• Ability to customize and continually innovate textbook material
• Better prepared students
• Increased accessibility to education and better distance learning
(Jung, Bauer, & Heaps, 2017; Hilton, 2019; Ozdemir & Hendricks, 2017; Alberta OER, n.d.)
Since early 2020, the staff of the RGO Library & Learning Commons have been identifying and locating open access textbooks that can potentially replace the paid textbooks that are currently assigned to students. The following table is a list of textbooks and their OER equivalents:
|Current Textbook||OER Textbook|
|Basic Statistics for Business & Economics||Introductory Business Statistics|
|Calculus: A First Course||Calculus Volume 1|
|Fundamentals of Management||Principles of Management|
|Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making||Financial Accounting (OpenStax)|
|Understanding Human Resources Management||Human Resource Management|
|Macroeconomics||Principles of Macroeconomics 2e (OpenStax)|
|Microeconomics||Principles of Microeconomics 2e (OpenStax)|
|Mathematics of Business and Finance||Business Math: A Step-by-Step Handbook|
|Canadian Organizational Behaviour||Organizational Behaviour (OpenStax)|
Textbook cost is an important issue to Bow Valley College students. In 2018, Stacie Baker, Manager Learner Financial Empowerment conducted a survey about financial wellness within our student population. 45% of those surveyed listed “books/materials/supplies” as the top expense they had difficulty paying for. When asked what BVC could do to help, top of the list was “lowering book costs”, “discounts on books” and “free online books."
In a 2017 survey conducted by the Students' Association, 92% of respondents supported the use of open educational resources to replace their textbooks. The library has offered a lending program for many years to help make textbooks more accessible to students. In the 19/20 school year, prior to the closing of the campus, the library made 8761 textbook loans to learners. Since the campus closure, library staff have been researching options for open access textbooks for the most heavily circulated items.
Zero-cost textbook credentials are defined by BC Campus as a way to reduce the financial burden on students that come from textbook costs. They also increase equitable access to education, faculty choice and flexibility, and can increase enrolments. The Community College Consortium for OER lists many case studies of institutions that have implemented zero-cost textbook programs successfully. Some examples of these case studies include:
• MiraCosta College offers a zero-cost textbook pathway for its Social Work and Human Services Certificate (COA) and Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT).
• Moorpark College offers a zero-cost textbook pathway for its Business/Accounting, Child Development, Hospitality Management, and Journalism/Public Relations courses.
• Lake Tahoe College offers a zero-cost textbook degree for many of its math programs.
• Pasadena City College offers a zero-cost textbook Social and Behavioural Sciences degree.