August 13, 2020

Surprised woman in front of computerOpen Educational Resource (OER) is a hot topic these days as we all cope with increasing textbook prices and fewer available resources. Buying books is a significant portion of college costs, especially for those of us with limited budgets. The OER movement seeks to provide alternatives to expensive books with open textbooks that are free — or at least less costly — and additional educational resources such as lecture notes, course outlines, and online classes.

According to the Hewlett Foundation: “[OER resources] are educational materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” The tricky thing, however, is that OER can be cheaper than free textbooks… and they can also be more expensive.

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How can this be? Well, OER is a growing set of resources, and there are still many specific areas and courses for which no equivalent to a commercially produced textbook is available; this means that even though we could encourage our instructors to use OER, there simply is not a viable alternative on the market. However, as the concept catches on and more support is provided by governments and donors, more authors are willing to produce commercial-quality materials as part of the OER community.

NHTI belongs to one such community, the OER Commons, as part of CCSNH and the University System of New Hampshire, through our hub NH Open, but this is not the only option. All across the nation (and around the world), the OER concept is taking hold. OpenStax, created by Rice University, provides hundreds of free online textbooks, and the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT), which started at California State University, now represents a consortium of many states’ educational resources combined to “provide access to curated online learning and support materials and content creation tools.” For faculty members, these consortia offer support in providing free or low-cost course materials.

At NHTI, we’re constantly exploring new avenues to help save you money while getting the challenging, academically rewarding education you’ve come to expect from our institution. Several courses at NHTI already use OER, either as textbooks or as links to websites where the required information can be freely accessed; others use instructor-provided material that takes the place of a purchased textbook.

As we all grow more aware of OER that can meet your needs, the staff and faculty of NHTI will try to incorporate OER into a larger proportion of our courses. Stay tuned for more updates, or talk to our instructors for additional information.

>> Visit our Library page to learn more about available resources.