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Open Educational Resources and Penn State Abington Library

This guide is about Open Educational Resources and support at the Penn State Abington Library

Benefits of OER

Student Affordability

Financial Challenges: A high number of Penn State students face significant financial challenges when it comes to the cost of their education. Nearly 75% of the students at some of the Penn State campuses are receiving some form of financial aid, and more than a third meet the requirements for Pell grant eligibility.  

Textbook Costs: Students also struggle to gain access to their course materials due to already high costs Textbook prices have increased over 1,000% since 1977, or more than 3 times the rate of inflation (Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 2015). The Penn State University OAER Work Group researched the average amount students spent on textbook per semester is $197.73, while first-year students spent $244.95 on average per semester. High course materials costs can result in students not having access to their textbooks; in some cases, multiple weeks after the semester has started.  Often both faculty and students report that they do not acquire the textbook at all. 

  • 65% of students have declined to obtain a required textbook because they were too expensive
  • 23% of students routinely forego purchasing a required course textbook because of the expense
  • Students save an average of $128 per course when traditional textbooks are replaced with open textbooks
  • The Open Textbook project at BC Campus showed that adoption of just 12 Open Textbooks in classes saved their students over $350,000 in one year.
  • A study of eight colleges from around the United States shows that students saved an average of $900 per year on textbooks when their professors used Open Textbooks or Open Educational Resources in place of commercial textbooks.

Instructors can directly influence the cost of education for their students by adopting low- or no-cost course materials. 

"Open Textbooks: the Billion Dollar Solution" by Ethan Senack is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Barriers to Access: Other student populations have additional barriers to access. Nearly 25% of Penn State's World Campus students actively serve in the military and may be stationed overseas. Students in these circumstances may not be able to order traditional textbooks in a timely manner and face challenges in receiving mail-ordered library materials. Lack of access to course materials directly impacts student learning and success, which directly impacts retention and graduation rates. . Penn State University Libraries contributes to textbook access through Course Reserves, but access codes make it ever more challenging for students to find alternate means of procuring their course materials when they are financially unable to do so.

Teaching Benefits

Lifelong Learning: In addition to creating a cost-barrier for students, expensive course materials also hamper students’ ability to be lifelong learners. When they need to consistently choose to rent or sell-back core materials in their discipline, they lose the option to develop a resource of instructional materials that could maintain their interest and knowledge as they progress through the curriculum and into careers or graduate school. When books are single-use, they can’t return to them to refresh and cement their understanding as they encounter new ideas.

Faculty Customization On the instructor side, faculty can feel hemmed in by closed textbooks – forced to continually adapt their instruction to each new edition of a textbook, or left to flounder when the material suddenly changes. Open materials allow instructors to choose the best, most relevant content from a variety of sources in a way that best supports their own syllabus and instructional goals – and each new iteration of an open course provides support for another instructor to do the same.

Increasing support for "plug and play" resources: For instructors who have little time to adapt resources, OER projects like OpenStax and the Open Learning Initiative (Carnegie Mellon) are increasingly making "packaged" resources available. Packaged resources include textbooks with accompanying ancillary resources (slides, clicker exercises, learning materials) and entire courses and course modules.

Student-driven, multimodal learning: OER are one way of engaging students more deeply in the educational process, moving beyond lecture and text. Open education gives instructors the tools to involve students in the creation of learning materials.

"Open Educational Resources (OER): Tools for Affordable Learning Washington State University LibGuide" by Anderson, T. and O' English, L. is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Are Free Resources as Effective or of the Same Quality as Textbooks?

"Students spend a lot of money on textbooks. Alternatives to the expensive textbooks that come from commercial publishers are open educational resources, or OER. But, are these free resources as effective or of the same quality as textbooks? The research says yes." This video summarizes the available research synthesized in Hilton, J. (2016) Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Education Tech Research and Development, 64(4), 573 - 590.

To access the original research, go to

"Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions" by Research Shots is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0

"Open Educational Resources (OER) NUS LibGuide" by Jamila Osman

OER MythBusting

There are a lot of myths about OER, but they are not true. Below link is an excellent resource on OER Mythbusting:

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