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Meet Oregon State’s open educational resources team

Reducing the cost of course learning materials through the use of open educational resources is a proven way to increase student success and reduce barriers to learning.

Growing OER Unit provides ample services to support faculty in driving down student costs

June 3, 2020

Making high-quality education affordable and accessible for students is a critical priority at Oregon State University. That’s the mission that has driven OSU’s Open Educational Resources Unit for many years, and it’s one we’re committed to more than ever.

The OERU – which is a part of the Division of Ecampus at Oregon State – is constantly expanding its efforts to support all OSU faculty – those who teach on campus as well as online – as they adopt, adapt or author OER into their curriculum. The two people leading those efforts are OERU director Stefanie Buck and production manager Mark Lane.

Stefanie and Mark recently answered a series of questions in order to help the OSU community better understand their roles, the support they provide and why OER are so critical for student success.

Stefanie Buck, OERU director

I joined the OERU team in 2019 as the new director. Before that, I was the Oregon State Ecampus librarian for nine years, so I got to know OSU’s distance students and the Ecampus staff well. When this position came up, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of a team that focuses on affordability of learning materials for students.

Having been a professional librarian for 25 years, I know how hard it can be for many of our students to afford their textbooks and other course materials. Our team at Ecampus includes a production manager, and we currently have seven fantastic students working for us.

Our goal is to assist all faculty, regardless of the teaching modality, in finding, selecting, adopting or creating openly licensed learning materials that are free to the students and can be shared with and used by other faculty, either at OSU or another institution.

So far, we have more than 50 open textbooks published with more on the way. We’re looking forward to a productive and exciting year.


Mark Lane, OERU production manager

I currently serve as the OER production manager within the OERU. I work closely with faculty and students to produce high-quality, openly licensed and freely available educational resources.

Prior to joining the OERU, I worked as a writer, editor and bookstore director. My interest in education, technology and quality assurance also helps me serve as a reviewer and subject matter expert with Quality Matters. As an active community member, I advocate for student rights and have served on numerous boards and committees.

I hold a B.A. in English from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth; an M.S.Ed. in Information Technology; and a Graduate Certification in Instructional Design from Western Oregon University.


What are open educational resources?

Open educational resources are learning or course materials that are openly licensed and are offered freely for students, teachers and researchers to share, use and reuse as a means of increasing the world’s access to knowledge.

OER are generally written by experts in their field, such as faculty and researchers. They are located in digital media collections but can also be printed for a very low cost.

Examples of OER include full courses, textbooks course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games and much more.

Do OER actually make a difference?

They do! There is a growing body of literature showing that open educational resources positively impact the student experience. For one thing, they are free, which means all students have access to course materials on the first day of class. They don’t need to worry about the cost or wait until they get their financial aid to purchase the text. There is also evidence that OER can reduce withdrawal rates in courses.

Using an OER means that the faculty member has more control over the content, can rearrange it to fit their course schedule and update the materials as necessary.

OER can also make a difference for faculty. Using an OER means that the faculty member has more control over the content, can rearrange it to fit their course schedule and update the materials as necessary.

The great thing about OER is that the open license means faculty can mix multiple materials together into one set of learning materials that really works for their course.

What resources are available to me if I want to add OER to my course?

The number of resources is growing all the time. There are many repositories such as OpenStax, the Open Textbook Library, or BC Campus, where authors share their open textbooks.

Other OER materials such as quizzes or homework problems can be found in the OER Commons or MERLOT. It can be a little tricky to navigate the OER universe (OERverse? UnivOERse?), so we at the OSU Open Educational Resources Unit can assist you in that process. We can help you find OER materials that you can reuse or remix for your course.

Of course, authoring an open educational resources is also an option. If you want to see what your OSU colleagues have been up to, check out the OERU Pressbooks site with more than 50 OER texts authored by OSU faculty. If you are thinking about authoring an open textbook, please contact us about what resources and support our unit can provide.

Why should I join the OER movement now?

Good question. We have faced many challenges this year already. Many of our students are facing financial hardship. We anticipate that these challenges will continue and be exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

A student can expect to spend anywhere from $700 to $1,200 a year for textbooks. … For some it can make the difference between continuing their education and dropping out.

So how can we help? Reducing the cost of the course learning materials is one way. A student can expect to spend anywhere from $700 to $1,200 a year for textbooks. That may not seem like a large amount, but for some it can make the difference between continuing their education and dropping out. The research indicates that as little as $1,500 can become a financial crisis for someone.

Now is a great time to consider going OER.

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