OER refers to what is known as Open Educational Resources. These resources include textbooks and other learning materials that are openly licensed for use. These resources are accessible to Tarleton faculty for use in their courses, and can be distributed to students without them having to purchase a textbook.
“It is similar to when a faculty selects a commercial textbook, one where [students] go to the bookstore and buy it, they can go [onto the OER database] and can select different OER’s that they want to use in the classroom,” Tarleton Libraries’ Scholarly Communication & OER Librarian Katie Pierce Farrier said. “And then, once they have selected that OER, as long as a student has the link and an internet connection, they can access that OER, and they will never lose access to that OER.”
Farrier mentioned how Tarleton professor Dr. Jennifer Edwards from the communication studies department utilizes a lot of the resources from the OER database and makes them accessible for her students on the course syllabus. Dr. Edward’s hasn’t been the only professor utilizing OER, as Farrier reports an estimated 40 professors using OER’s in their classes.
“A lot of faculty have said that they get a lot of great student feedback from it. They like that students have access to the material that first day of class,” Farrier said.
With the materials easily accessible on the first day, students have the benefit of not having to rush to gather materials on their own and risk not being prepared for the class.
“Several of the faculty members said they liked using it, but a lot of them identified small areas they wanted to tweak or modify or maybe add in more resources. They like having that freedom to modify it,” Farrier said.
This freedom to modify resources has allowed Tarleton professors, and professors at any school, to add information regarding current world events into their coursework that expanded and connected to what was being taught in the class.
The OER database has allowed for Tarleton professors to utilize course materials that are free and easily accessible to students, as well as materials that professors can freely adjust and modify to best fit their courses. The one downside to OER’s is that there are some course subjects that cannot be found under OER.
“For example, the public health and nursing fields do not have a lot of OER’s just yet. There are initiatives underway to try to create some of those materials. There’s not a lot of materials for business, not a lot for math,” Farrier said, “It’s so much easier to find core classroom materials because so many people have already had these lecture notes and slides. It’s a little bit easier to build on what’s already there. Some of these niche classes that only a few people are already working in and is a really tight subject area it’s a little bit harder to get everybody on board to create those materials.”
As several students begin or even continue their college career and find themselves struggling, Farrier and her colleagues hope to be able to further promote OER’s and encourage faculty to consider utilizing the materials. Part of their initiative involves working on finding materials in courses that do not have OER’s available.
“Some of the initiatives we have going on this year, we partnered with OpenStaxxs, and they are a provider of open educational resources. They have several textbooks that some of the faculty are already using,” Farrier said.
Farrier added that they are working to host an info session for OER use.
Farrier has compiled a list of all Tarleton courses that offer OER resources that is open to the public to view. If you are interested in learning more about OER, or if you would like to access the list of courses where OER is offered, the list can be found on docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1AkJD8KguFMjgBWkkblxJMYlFldo61YMDic171y3Z-TE/edit#gid=751070892