Diving In: The Open Waters of Digital Resources and Open Educational Resources (OER)


Jill Buban, Ph.D; Online Learning Consortium

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Over the past couple of weeks, my news feed reminds me of the vast disparity in use of digital and open educational resources (OER) as well as the lack of education surrounding how to use these cost effective, pedagogically sound course resources. A recently released report, Going Digital: Faculty Perspectives on Digital and OER Course Materials (Green, 2016), exemplifies that it isn’t a question of if faculty want to use digital resources, but understanding how to best use these resources (Green, 2016).  The story for OER is quite different, as results from the survey demonstrate that “OER remains unused or unknown by all but 15% of faculty.” (2016)  The question I pose is not how we use digital or OER,  but how we use the combination of both types of resources to provide pedagogically rich, high quality, cost-effective resources for students?

For me, arriving at this question and the subsequent research and presentations surrounding the implementation of digital and OER resources has been a decade-long  journey.  In the beginning, my role was that of a participant learner, much like those figuring out how to use digital resources and OER at their institutions today.  I joined academics from around the world  on initiatives such as Open SUNY and OERu to envision what open education looked like in higher education settings and how open initiatives might be implemented at institutions. I was intrigued by the concept of offering open courses, materials, courseware, as well as the potential for broader educational impact.

Flash forward ten years to the present day in which the promise of open education has evolved into rapid expansion of open learning initiatives, including the implementation and use of open and digital resources.  Much like many of my peers who dipped their toes in the open waters years ago, my passion surrounding digital resources and OER sustains as there are millions of learners  for which digital resources and OER can provide a positive impact. The cost of textbooks continues to rise (Bronars, 2012; Bidwell, 2014; Weissman, 2013) and students continually struggle with affordability issues (Cady, 2016). In addition to reducing student costs, these resources can positively affect retention rates (Reed, 2015) and  provide a rich, robust, quality learning experience.

The same questions many institutions and their respective administrators, faculty and staff face today, the ‘how questions’,  I encountered along my journey from participant learner to digital resource and OER champion.  I invite you to join me for a pre-conference workshop at OLC Innovate in which we will address these questions, as well as discuss implementation plans for your institution.  If OLC Innovate isn’t in your professional development plans for April 2016, consider the OLC workshop, Exploring Open Educational Resources, that begins March 9th.  Either way, be sure to visit our blog, OLC Insights during Open Education Week as we feature additional posts on the topic of open and digital learning.

Cady, C. (2016, February 28).  Students shouldn’t have to choose between books and food. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from
Bidwell, A. (2016, January 28). Report: High textbook costs have students struggling. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/28/report-high-textbook-prices-have-college-students-struggling
Bronars, S (2012, January 23).  Textbook inflation. Retrieved from https://sbronars.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/textbook-inflation/
Green, K.C. (2015, February). Going digital: faculty perspectives on digital and OER course materials. Retrieved fromhttp://www.campuscomputing.net/goingdigital2016
Reed, M. (2015, February 25). OER as retention initiative. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/oer-retention-initiative
Weissman, J (2013, January 3). Why are college textbooks so absurdly expensive? Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/why-are-college-textbooks-so-absurdly-expensive/266801/

Suggested Additional Reading
Straumsheim, C. (2016, February 22).  No rush to go digital. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/22/study-faculty-members-skeptical-digital-course-materials-unfamiliar-oer
Wiley, D. (2015, November 11). The practical costs of textbooks. Retrieved from http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/4040

About the Author

Dr. Jill Buban
Jill Buban, Ph.D is the Senior Director of Research and Innovation at the Online Learning Consortium. Prior to joining the Online Learning Consortium, Dr. Buban was the Assistant Provost for Research & Innovation at Post University.  In this role, Buban instituted university-wide initiatives with a forward thinking, student-centered focus.  These initiatives included, but were not limited to, the university’s transition to digital course materials, the creation of an online academy for high school students, competency-based learning initiatives, professional developing credentialing, articulation agreements, enrollment management, oversight of all academic publications, as well as a variety of teaching and learning initiatives. Prior to joining Post University, Buban worked in Academic Affairs at SUNY Empire State College.   She collaborated on a variety of online learning initiatives including the implementation of ePortfolios, open learning access and opportunities, and prior learning assessment.
Dr. Buban holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education from the Lesley University where she wrote her dissertation on “Adult Undergraduate Students’ Experiences in Online Academic Mentoring Relationships.” She continues to study and present on topics surrounding effective technology use for adult learners in online environments. Given the opportunity, Buban continues to teach in the areas of adult and online learning.

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