"Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." ~ William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
Often it's the case though that when people talk about reducing the cost of classes to students they are talking about a mixture of OER and open access materials. In talking about what makes something a true OER you'll often hear mention of the 5 Rs which describe the permissions often given to you to:
The cost of textbooks continues to rise and costs are becoming prohibitive to the point students are choosing to not purchase a textbook if they can avoid it. According to Nicole Allen, of Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), a recent survey "found that seven in 10 undergraduates skipped buying one or more required textbooks because the cost is too high, and three-quarters of those students believed that doing so could hurt their grades" (2013). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 2006, consumer prices for college textbooks have increased 88 percent and housing at school (excluding board) increased 51 percent.
OnCampus, a division of the National Association of College Stores, reports that the annual spending on required course materials had dropped to an average of $655 in 2012 (2012) through programs such as textbook rentals, eBooks, and guaranteed buy-back all of which can save students considerable amounts of money. The problems with these programs is that the books are due back at the end of the semester, they don't allow the student to keep the book for multi-semester classes or as a reference for future classes. These programs can also be underminded by publication of new editions, the number of allowed devices for eBooks, and Digital Rights Management of eBooks. (Senack, 2014).
Learning about the costs of textbooks and how those costs can be reduced for students is an important part of student recruitment and retention. The cost of textbooks can be surprising, especially those who are first generation college students. Faculty across the country are starting to take notice and are working to reduce the amount of money students are paying for class materials and in the process are saving them thousands of dollars.
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