There are many benefits to using OER, including affordability, improving student success, promoting accessibility and inclusion, and easy access.
The price of textbooks has increased significantly over time, even accounting for inflation. According to the CBC, “over the past 15 years, the cost of university textbooks has increased more than four times the rate of inflation. In the past three decades, the costs have risen some 834%; this is more than double the rate of increase in house prices and triple the cost increases in the Consumer Price Index” (CBC, 2014). For students already struggling financially, the cost of textbooks can be insurmountable.
Due to the high price, 65% of students report not purchasing a textbook because it was too expensive; of these students, 94% were concerned that not purchasing the textbook would hurt their overall grade (Student Public Interest Research Groups, 2014). What starts as an economic challenge becomes an academic issue, as students can’t learn from textbooks they can’t afford. Matt Reed argues that “a great book that goes unbought and unread isn’t as good as a pretty good book that a student actually reads” (Reed, 2021).
Unlike proprietary publisher content, OER can be adapted to meet accessibility requirements.
OER offers the opportunity for instructors to adapt and curate a wide range of materials. This material may be “authored by a diverse set of individuals, including those who identify as disabled, normalizing and reducing stigma while sharing viewpoints that have historically been marginalized” (SPARC, 2018).
With the permissions granted by open licenses, OER have enhanced access options. Although OER can be in any format, they are primarily available digitally. Since OER are free, students do not need to log in or use a special platform to access these digital texts. Students can read OER on any device, including mobile devices, and in any country. OER can also be downloaded to be read offline, as well as printed without restriction.
Course resources, open or otherwise, do not impact a course’s transferability to another institution.
Course resources are not reported each term to make a transfer decision or maintain a transfer agreement, including interprovincial agreements (Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials, 2019).
For more information, please see:
The labour associated with creating OER is widely recognized. At Red Deer Polytechnic, we are currently exploring ways to compensate faculty who are creating OER.
At other institutions across Canada, faculty are compensated for this labour in a variety of ways:
In some cases, OER creation is included in the workload for a course. Faculty often create course resources as part of the expected labour associated with that course, and choose afterwards to license and publish these resources as OER.
Many OER creators choose to donate their labour freely because they believe in the value of sharing knowledge openly. For more information about why RDP instructors have created or adopted OER, please see RDP OER Guide: Student & Faculty Showcase.
The high price of post-secondary education is significantly impacting students at Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP). At RDP, the Students’ Association’s food bank supported 422 people in Fall 2022; a 287% increase from Fall 2021, and a 530% increase from pre-pandemic Fall 2019. In the midst of this cost-of-living crisis, the cost of textbooks has increased at three times the rate of inflation (Nagle & Vitez, 2021). This increase is far beyond the rate of other consumer items, including recreational books (Perry, 2016).
Perry, M. J. (2016, Sept. 1). Chart of the day: The astronomical rise in college textbook prices vs. consumer prices and recreational books. AEIdeas. https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/chart-of-the-day-the-astronomical-rise-in-college-textbook-prices-vs-consumer-prices-and-recreational-books/
A survey of credit students at RDP in Fall 2022 illustrated the high cost of course resources across credit programs at RDP. For RDP students, these high costs have required students to seek financial aid, work additional hours, and miss paying other bills. Notably, 15% of credit students at RDP reported skipping meals due to the high cost of textbooks and other course resources (Macnaughton & Ratcliffe, 2023).
Macnaughton, S. & Ratcliffe, C. (2023, May). Student use of course resources at Red Deer Polytechnic: Course resources and Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) survey report. Red Deer Polytechnic Library. https://guides.rdpolytech.ca/ld.php?content_id=36789819
One RDP student respondent commented:
“I am not able to afford all of my textbook costs. I am a full-time student and work full-time to support myself and my family. I have been saving for my entire life and live on a very strict budget. I am very smart with my money and based on my calculations I am not able to afford all of my textbooks and still be able to make rent all year.”
The affordability of post-secondary education disproportionally affects the most vulnerable students. In a large-scale survey of college and university students in the U.S., 82% of students who experienced food insecurity also reported not purchasing a textbook: a 17% increase from the broader national sample (Nagle & Vitez, 2021). For students already struggling financially, the cost of textbooks can be insurmountable. What starts as an economic issue becomes an academic one, as students cannot learn from textbooks they cannot afford. Students are forced to make difficult decisions between prioritizing living expenses and their ability to learn and participate in their courses; in many cases, they are priced out of both.
Red Deer Polytechnic recognizes that our campus is situated on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda peoples, and that the central Alberta region we serve falls under Treaty 6, traditional Métis, Cree and Saulteaux territory. We honour the First Peoples who have lived here since time immemorial, and we give thanks for the land where RDP sits. This is where we will strive to honour and transform our relationships with one another.