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OER provides more than…

Besides saving students hundreds of thousands of dollars on textbooks, OER has impacted students with different learning dynamics in Palo Alto College classrooms.
OER - 480x270

OER provides more than free resources

This semester, students at Palo Alto College have the option to enroll in over 225 sections that offer Open Educational Resources (OER) — freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media. When courses are designed around OER, students do not need to purchase textbooks, which has saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past two years since OER was first introduced at the College.

“Initially, that’s what I think they’ll focus on—that they won’t have to buy the book. But maybe education isn’t just about a textbook… It’s taking control of your own education,” said Carolyn De Lecour, chair of the department of Fine & Performing Arts, who helped launch the OER initiative on campus in 2014.

By integrating OER, students are empowered to bring their own research to share with the class. Some students like Ashley Merchant, have already taken OER courses in high school and believe the OER model facilitates more engagement in the classroom.

“If you’re able to create something to help individual learning styles and help students connect to the materials, it means more to them and it’s going to stick with them a lot longer,” said Merchant, who is studying at Palo Alto College to be a teacher.

What has impressed many OER faculty members—like De Lecour and Suzel Molina, associate professor of kinesiology—has been the level of collaboration both within departments and in the classroom.

“Collaboration. That’s what it’s all about,” said Molina. “Open education means that it’s open for all. Students contribute their work and they also contribute their research as part of the instruction material.”

Molina said she structures her course activities around student research, which in turn empowers students to bring forth their best for debate within the classroom. Through the process of finding their own research, Molina and De Lecour say students are developing improved critical thinking skills.

“Students get different voices,” said De Lecour. “One textbook, no matter who that author is, has a point of view. That bias—good, bad, indifferent, whatever—is going to be there. [With OER] we can take several different viewpoints and let them make decisions, critical thinking decisions, about those viewpoints.”

“That’s what makes open education different than the traditional. Traditional is when the professor knows the information and tells them what they need to know,” said Molina, adding that she has learned from her students through the use of OER. “It’s just a different type of philosophy.”

In fall 2016, a total of 225 sections are using OER materials. The total savings for the students in these sections, based upon the price of new textbooks, is $499,746. That amounts to over $900,000 in savings in two years—and the free resources have proven beneficial in many ways to students and faculty alike.