Editorial: OER are a service to students

The University of Connecticut is promoting the usage of open educational resources (OER), such as textbooks and videos in the public domain, with various campaigns and by encouraging professors to implement them in their curriculum to lower course material costs for students.(Danny Nicholson/Flickr Creative Commons)

Over the past two years, UConn has begun to take steps toward using open educational resources as a substitution for purchased course materials. These textbooks and videos that are part of the public domain and can be obtained free of charge by students which could help save them thousands of dollars that would otherwise be spent on course materials. Especially with rising tuition costs, this move is imperative in making college more affordable for students.

Recently, the university received a grant for around $100,000 from the David Educational Foundation for the purpose of increasing the availability of open educational resources. In addition to this, both UConnPIRG and USG are holding campaigns to encourage the use of free resources. According to the coordinator of the campaign, Kharl Reynado, the objective is to have free resources for all introductory level courses, and USG President Irma Valverde adds that the goal is set around introductory classes that have over 150 people.

As long as the textbooks are of the same quality, there is no justifiable reason for professors not to switch to open source resources. Students are already weighed down by the cost of tuition and room and board, as well as other university fees and expenses. If the university can save students several thousand dollars by merely switching textbooks, it should do so. With so many options for free materials that can teach the course content well, it is nonsensical for professors to require that students purchase a book simply so that they can answer certain problems at the end of the chapter. This issue could easily be avoided by photocopying desirable problems or uploading them to a website such as HuskyCT.

It is understandable that there are some upper-level courses that may be too specific or unique to have open source materials available for the content that is taught. However, introductory courses such as general chemistry and macroeconomics should not have this issue, especially since these courses are taken by many students who might not even be part of the major they are studying. A purchased textbook will not be too valuable for them after they complete the course. Instead of struggling to sell textbooks back for a small fraction of the price, it would be ideal if these students did not have to worry about making extra purchases for these courses from day one.