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A new report by Massachusetts Public Interest Research Groups (MASSPIRG) Students determines that open educational resources, or OER, are saving college students a lot of money.
As defined by UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, OER are resources such as textbooks and research materials that are in the public domain or are otherwise free for educators and students to access and use.
According to the report released by MASSPIRG Students, “students now spend more than $3 billion of financial aid dollars a year on course materials.”
At UMass Dartmouth, the school estimates that each student will spend around $600 per semester on textbooks and supplies.
But through the use of OER, these costs could be cut down substantially.
UMass Dartmouth is a supporter of MASSPIRG and OER, and according to the school’s website, “the MassPIRG fee, imposed by student vote, is charged each semester, and is waivable through COIN self-service. It supports the activities of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.”
This fee is only $9 per semester and, as previously stated, is waivable.
That means, as UMass D students, you are paying this small fee for access to an innumerable amount of educational and research materials.
The report states that “every dollar invested in OER Grants can save students $10 – $20 dollars.” Therefore, we can assume that the $9 fee included in your tuition can save you and your peers up to $180.
In addition, the report also says that “Grant Programs started during the pandemic have already saved students more than $2.5 million dollars.” There has been an 11% increase in OER awareness and adoption since 2015, which proves the program’s rapid growth.
The research has found that, overall, these grant programs have saved students over $310 million in total.
OER’s growth has been made possible through the spread of awareness for this program.
The report claims that “faculty who are aware of OER initiatives are three to four times more likely to have adopted an OER textbook than those who are not.”
The spread of awareness is crucial to the program, and the data gathered by MASSPIRG researchers shows that students need educators to gain awareness so they can avoid being crippled by the expenses of their textbooks.
Emma Wood, the Scholarly Communication Librarian at UMass D, says that “OER place everyone on the same page by providing students access to their course materials from day one of class. Without the financial and logistical burden of traditional textbooks, students can simply focus on learning, and it has been shown that they have a better chance at academic success with OER. Further, faculty can customize OER and tailor it to their classes. It’s a win for students and faculty alike.At UMass Dartmouth, we have a faculty OER cohort this semester wherein professors are choosing OER to replace traditional teaching materials. It’s an exciting development, and I’m looking forward to continued OER progress at UMD.” Wood has a Certificate in OER Librarianship.
Despite OER’s success and the support it has garnered from faculty, “57% of grant programs receive little to no institutional support outside of the staff responsible for the program,” states the report.
Because of this, MASSPIRG needs the continued support of the educational community and the students that it serves.
To continue supporting this program, you can build an OER Committee or join one that has already been established.
There is a MASSPIRG chapter on campus, which not only supports OER but is also pushing for 100% renewable energy and is working to combat hunger and homelessness.
The campus organizer is Maria Ayala, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and the chapter meetings take place on Monday nights from 5-6 PM in LIB 110.
You can email Ayala for more information.