OER for Precedent

Why an Open Educational Resources Model Means More Opportunities for All Learners

Our system is broken. Like many inside and outside the education system in the United States and globally, the cry for equity has been bellowed for years. We all know the system is broken, yet major changes are not instituted, or fully embraced and utilized to their fullest potential. We have all used the buzzwords, skimmed articles, and attended conferences and presentations with the intention of doing better. But inequities still exist.

Take the movement for Open Educational Resources, or OER, for example. Based on the idea of open access, OER is the free, immediate, online use of available research articles with re-use rights. Open access and OER makes content available for anyone anywhere in the world to read, access and build upon.

OER levels the playing field for all learners: learners who don’t have the economic resources to buy textbooks; learners who learn differently; and school systems who lack the resources for updated materials, for example. OER also puts learning in the hands of the learner and the educator. If a textbook is outdated – which is the reality in many school districts in the country – educators can tap into the vast library of OER resources to supplement and add to their curriculum without breaking the bank. Textbooks take a long time to be published and updated, and revisions can mean that an updated textbook publication can take years. OER enables the most up-to-date information to be produced and allows students to discuss old concepts with the new. These are just a few of the benefits of OER.

OER is not a new concept, so why has it not been adopted everywhere? Many claim the biggest barriers to a full adoption are: time, lack of resources and fear. Let us dive into each of these pain points a little further and dispel these myths.


Many educators are hesitant to adopt OER because they already feel overloaded. How will they have enough time to research their additional sources when they have to sort through the materials they are already required to use, in addition to their other responsibilities? How will they know the sources they find are applicable, verifiable, and legitimate?

We know that educators are swamped, and many are being asked to do more with less. Add a global pandemic into the mix and we all know our teachers and educators are burnt out. What if we told you that OER could actually help?

Photo of Caitlin Carter, Informationist

Caitlin Carter, Scholarly Informationist

Caitlin Carter, Scholarly Communication Informationist, has conducted talks across the U.S. on the importance of OER and how it could actually save time.

As an informationist, Carter is an expert at navigating the publishing landscape to respond to complex requests related to research, scholarly output and research dissemination. Much of this work is also focused on open access and its benefits to researchers.

Caitlin co-hosted an informative webinar, “Finding and Using Openly Licensed Content” where she discussed the importance of open access and open education and how to find and use openly licensed content for accessible teaching and learning. 

Oftentimes, once we learn the how, the doing becomes easier. And those efforts become the push that gets that equity needle moving forward to make real, impactful change.

Lack of Resources

Ok, so OER can help save time, which is considered a valuable resource. But what about money? Most K-12 school systems lack the finances to fund new and updated textbooks every year. Meanwhile, in higher education, many students cannot afford the textbooks that the colleges and universities require for classes.

Through OER, organizations can use verified, up-to-date, free resources that avoid circulation and print delays. This means that educators can provide an expanded access to a quality education on a global scale. Through OER, students can increase their critical thinking and writing skills due to OER’s capacity to be modified, expanded and remixed. One of the major outcomes of a college education is the ability of a student to apply critical thinking to solve real-world problems – skills that aren’t always fully developed within the constraints of a textbook. In fact, according to SPARC, 93% of students who use OER do as well or better than those using traditional materials, since they have easy access to the content shared from day one of the course.

OpenStax, a nonprofit of Rice University that aims to improve educational access and learning for everyone through the publication of openly licensed books, created a library of 27 peer-reviewed, high-quality open textbooks for the farthest-reaching college courses by enrollment. This is just one stellar example of free, accredited open access OER secrets that can help educators reach education equity. (And you can find out so much more by watching our “Finding and Using Openly Licensed Content” discussion).

Diagram of OER's benefits to researchers

OER benefits to researchers


Fear of the unknown is inevitable. Many educators that are hesitant to use OER are fueled by fear of the unknown. How will they know the source they are using is reputable and vetted? How do they know where to start?

When we start something new, it is always scary. But there is a great saying, “The expert at anything was once a beginner.”  In order to become an expert and to feel truly confident in utilizing the benefits of OER, the first step is to start and to accept that it won’t always be perfect.

Starting out small by incorporating one OER per lesson, can ease the burden of fear. These small practices will turn into habits, which then ultimately increase usage and thus, confidence, in using OER materials. Instead of spending precious time trying to reinvent the wheel, educators cite and use OER resources that have already done the grunt work for them.

Students and educators depend on access to scholarly journals, which in turn, develops a more robust knowledge and education, and spurs innovation, advancement, and growth in our societies.

Elect OER for Precedent

Child reading book with mock presidential campaign stating

We all want an equitable education. We all want to see our learners succeed. When we elect OER for precedent in education, we are putting equity first. We are putting our learners first. We are also putting innovation, discovery, advancement and growth first. 

In the words of Caitlin Carter in an article from JoVE, a world-leading producer and provider of science videos with the mission to improve science research, “OER expands the possibilities of student-centered learning by giving students creative agency in their education through the act of creating and sharing learning materials.

The time is now.

CourseArc’s intuitive platform incorporates many aspects of OER, making open, accessible education simple for educators. Talk with a CourseArc expert today to determine which CourseArc product is right for your organization. 

CourseArc was built as a tool and team to support organizations as they build online content. Check out our resource site to see how we can help your team. Check back to our blog and social media feeds for additional resources and case studies on how our clients are using CourseArc to move their learning online. 

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