A Librarian’s Advice on Making the Most of Open Educational Resources

Libraries and Open Access Dec 7, 2016

Due to the advent of the World Wide Web, there has been a paradigm shift in educational systems, in terms of its aspirations and its systems and sources. Classrooms are changing; in virtual classes, courses are conducted through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), lectures are presented in online/audio-video form. Technology is offering us better-designed, higher quality products to access comprehensive pedagogy.

In our present scenario, the world is facing a tremendous inflation rate of educational materials, among which textbooks become un-affordable due to their rising costs.

As the data of NBC’s review of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals, textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, at a 1,041 percent increase. (College Textbook Prices Have Risen 1,041 Percent Since 1977 by Ben Popken) whereas between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose 82%, nearly three times the rate of inflation, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office. Even the consumer advocacy group U.S. PIRG found that 65% of about 2,000 students say they have opted out of buying (or renting) a required textbook because of the price.

In such a way, the rising cost of textbooks is seriously affecting learners’ academic choices as well as their grades. The 2016 report “Covering The Cost” demonstrates that in the broader context of increasing debt, high textbook prices have enough impact to merit urgent, demonstrative action from policymakers on all levels to support alternatives to the traditional system of publishing. Presenting publishing systems with high inflation rates of text books is not an appropriate situation for achieving high quality education.

So therefore we need a better system in order to promote equitable and sustainable learning opportunities which fit with the local contextual and cultural needs. Using Open Educational Resources is a better solution for ‘covering the cost’.  Learners  might be able to create their own text book/materials by using these resources with proper licenses.


Student Textbook & Course Materials Survey, Retrieved from: Florida Virtual Campus. (2016). 2016 Florida Student Textbook & Course Materials Survey. Tallahassee, FL.

The idea behind Open Educational Resources is powerful in this ‘open’ world. Open in terms of freely accessible/available resources without any kind of legal, economic, technical or social barrier. Particularly, Open Educational Resources (OERs) are digital educational resources which are openly licensed for Reuse, Revise, Remix, Retain and Redistribute (5Rs). There are no expenditures such as royalties or license fees but OERs are not always non-commercial. OERs can includes full course, lab notes, study materials, images, illustrations, maps, charts, case studies, lessons formatted for a learning management system, interactive exercises, practice problem sets, recorded lectures/events, assessment tools, multimedia/interactive tutorials, software to support educational systems as well.

Proper use of such OER materials might extend its support in improving  the quality, sustainability, granularity and diversity of educational opportunities by creating one’s own learning material(s). Here authors can retain their rights without having to assign it to a third party (publishers). Therefore, plagiarism becomes less of an issue when learners are going to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute it. Learners can save their time whereas they don’t have to seek any permission from respective author(s).

Learners can retrieve their required OER materials in different forms from various OER repositories to make their own study materials. In this way, they could combat with the high rising cost of textbooks and it will reflect their skill and knowledge in a better way in terms of their grade.

Still there’s the question of quality assurance of OERs.  In that case we could follow reputed and highly appreciated sources like MERLOT, Khan Academy, OpenDOAR: Directory of Open Access Repositories that has been around for almost more than 15 years.

Try to set your own objectives rather than being restricted by institutions.

Good Luck!

Barnali Roy Choudhury

Barnali Roy Choudhury worked as librarian of a government college for a year before becoming an Assistant Professor of Library & Information Science at Netaji Subhas Open University