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Point of Pride #40 - Open Educational Resources (OER)

January 10, 2019

Herkimer College is committed to making college more affordable and to reducing barriers to student success, resulting in the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are freely available learning materials that users can download, edit and share. More than 50 percent of the courses offered at Herkimer now utilize OER.

Additionally, with funding through the Achieving the Dream (ATD) grant, Herkimer College is now offering two degree programs - General Studies (A.A.) and Social Science (A.A.) - completely textbook free. Instead of requiring students to purchase textbooks, which cost approximately $1,200 a year, these two OER degree programs, called Z-Degrees can be completed with zero textbook costs.

Traditionally, students who depend on financial aid may not have the financial means necessary to purchase textbooks before the first day of class. "Nationwide, students have to make decisions regarding how they spend their money," explains Professor Emeritus Bill Pelz who serves as instructional designer for online learning. "If they rely on financial aid, oftentimes textbooks are not instantly available. They have to wait for approval." By the time students are able to purchase the required course materials, they may find themselves behind in coursework. The OER program, on the other hand, ensures students are ready to learn from day one.

"Having the textbook from the very first day is a very strong predictor of success in the course," explains Pelz. But that's just one of several benefits that the OER program has to offer. When using OER materials, students receive instant access to course content, including class readings and PowerPoint presentations. Unlike other online textbooks, most open educational resources are accessible forever, making them as valuable at the end of a student's college career as they are on the first day of class. Plus, the content is downloadable in a PDF format, so students can access it without a high-speed internet connection and print a copy at home, on campus or with a printing service. Hard copies are also typically available at an affordable rate.

In regard to benefits for faculty, Pelz emphasizes, "Open resources lead to open pedagogy." For instance, Herkimer College's faculty can modify and add content as they see fit, giving them the ability to edit out nonessential information, include current events and customize the materials to meet the demands of the course. With OER, students are also empowered to contribute valuable course content, improving the textbook for future classes and giving them greater ownership over their learning.

As one of the top community colleges in the nation for student success, Herkimer College anticipates even better student outcomes and higher degree completion rates with OER. To learn more, visit www.herkimer.edu/oer.