The importance of OER proves to be a key driver in providing education to all. But what is OER in education? OER stands for open education resources. Many online universities, including the University of the People, depend on OER in order to deliver accessible, quality, and affordable education to students all over the world.
Let’s take a look at what is OER, and why they are so necessary for the future of education.
What does OER stand for? As stated, OER stands for open education resources. This could refer to something as simple as a handout or image that is placed online, but it can also include an online course.
In terms of traditional education resources (such as textbooks), there are restrictive copyright laws. These laws dictate that the work cannot be reproduced in any form without consent, among other stipulations.
With regard to OERs, on the other hand, it’s all about collaboration and participation. OERs are made available to students and professors/teachers alike to take part in shaping learning materials together, while granting the ability to use them freely.
Benefits of OER
The major benefit of OER comes down to cost savings. The cost of traditional institutions of higher education continues to skyrocket, and the cost of books and supplies is following the same trajectory.
According to educationdata.org, the average cost for books and supplies for undergraduate students attending a four-year university in 2021 was $1,240 per year. This means that over a four-year bachelor’s degree, students can expect to spend about $4,960 on books and supplies.
With online education resources, affordability is a main upside as everything is digitally available at no cost. Compare the aforementioned figure to the fact that an entire bachelor’s degree at the University of the People costs roughly the same (there are no tuition fees, but there are some relatively small fees associated with taking exams).
Along with the cost savings, online resources inherently make them more accessible. For example, if you need a textbook that is only available at your school’s library bookstore, but it has been sold out, then you may have to start your course without the required resources. Additionally, if you are unable to get to a physical location that has your resources, you’re out of luck. Instead, with an internet connection and accessible device, OER are made available to all, no matter where they may be logging in. There’s no cap as to how many people can access the information that they need to learn.
Another major benefit is that information evolves over time. But, with printed materials like textbooks, it could take years to write, edit, publish, and circulate any updated versions. On the other hand, when online instructional materials need to be updated, it is easy to execute immediately since they are digitally produced and shared.
OERs are naturally scalable so that there is no limit on how many students can access the resources. Furthermore, OERs allow for alumni to be able to stay connected and continue learning on their own time should they have any desire.
Lastly, they provide a way for students and professors to collaborate with regard to the materials themselves, which opens the door to pedagogical and collaborative learning experiences.
An OER Approach: University of the People
At University of the People, our mission is to provide students with access to affordable and quality higher education, no matter where they come from or where they want to go. As such, we operate entirely online and run our non-profit as a tuition-free university.
That being said, a major part of our ability to do so is because we leverage open educational resources. Our OERs span across course materials, tests, software, modules, and textbooks, to our entire courses, which end up granting graduates with accredited degrees upon completion.
One of the most valuable benefits of OER to us is that it allows the University of the People to deliver the best quality education without extra costs to the most underserved locations in the world. That’s part of the reason why we have students in attendance from over 200 countries and territories around the globe.
OER is the Future of Education
The importance of OER is clearly evident when it comes to online education and the future of education. The ability to provide students anywhere with affordable and accessible education is made possible because of digital resources, technology, and continuous innovation.