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VSC Library Council OER Statement

VSC Library Council Statement on Open Educational Resources

In the interest of supporting lower educational costs for students and promoting access to and use of high quality course materials, the Library Council of the Vermont State Colleges affirms our commitment to supporting the development, adoption and adaption of Open Educational Resources (OER).

A widely accepted definition of OER comes from the Hewlett Foundation and defines OERs as “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”  Many teaching faculty incorporate open resources into their courses to meet specific learning objectives, selecting individual open materials that reside in the public domain or have copyright licenses, like many of the Creative Commons licenses, that allow for the greatest level of accessibility and sharing.  An entire OER course incorporates materials that are open and sharable, saving students from purchasing a textbook or other course materials.  With lower or no textbook costs as a primary objective, some OER courses also incorporate library materials that may have restrictive copyright licenses but are freely accessible to enrolled students.

Using OER and library resources in courses can support student learning and success.  Among the benefits to students and faculty are:

  • Reduction or elimination of textbook costs.  “Covering the Cost”, a February 2016 report from the non-profit Student Public Interest Research Group found “almost one-third (30%) of students replied that they had used financial aid to pay for their textbooks”, spending “more than $300 on average per semester”.
  • Providing immediate access to course materials.  Studies of open textbook use at Houston Community College and Virginia State University found that students who had access to open course materials at the start of the semester had higher grades and lower withdrawal rates than students asked to purchase a traditional textbook.  
  • Providing faculty with more flexibility and control over their course content and respecting the faculty role as subject-matter experts in selecting course materials. A 2011 survey of faculty and students using OER textbooks as part of the Kaleidoscope Grant found that 97% of students and 100% of faculty surveyed perceived the quality of the OERs to be the same as or better than the quality of traditional texts used in other courses. [i]

OER initiatives provide an opportunity to profoundly impact student success and transform teaching and learning, and libraries and librarians can play a critical role in supporting the use of open and library resources on our campuses.  The VSC Library Council calls for raising the awareness of OER among faculty and administrators and for the development of campus and system strategies for supporting OER initiatives.


[i] This document draws from the OER at Reynolds: Terms and Definitions document (unpublished) and the Northern Virginia Community College OER Faculty Learning Community’s “Open Educational Resources Initiatives White Paper” (unpublished).