Open Education Resources

Minimizing Costs with Open Education Resources

Justin Kani
Business/SPEA Librarian
University Library

I first became aware of the often debilitating cost of textbooks as an undergraduate student; however, it was only when I first taught full-time as a college professor, that I realized how big of an impact the cost of textbooks can have on student success. In my classes, students might not purchase the textbook because their student aid had not arrived in time for the semester or because they couldn’t afford the cost of all their books. This left them to decide which texts were the most important. I found that the students who did not purchase the book had less comprehension of the material and, as a result, often received lower grades. It was because of these observations in the classroom that I first explored open-educational resources and became a proponent of their use. 

Open Educational Resources (OER) are any copyrightable work (or in the public domain) that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities: 

  1. Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend) be retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute

The cost of textbooks and learning material is a barrier to success. As my esteemed colleague, Jere Odell, recently noted, IUPUI students currently pay an average of $1,204.00 for books and supplies per year. That’s an annual investment of $26 million by students and families on course materials. This is a staggering statistic that is especially detrimental to under-resourced students. And, utilizing OERs is one of the easiest ways to help create equitable access and student participation in the classroom. While research on OERs is still in its infancy, recent studies have indicated that OER adoption contributes to improved course grades and withdrawal rates (which subsequently impact time-to-degree). Along with the overall reduction of per-semester costs that results from OER use, these factors point to the possibility of better retention rates for students using OERs as their primary textbooks. These elements also particularly benefit under-resourced students, for whom contingencies associated with cost, course performance, and time-to-degree can mean the difference between staying in college or dropping out.

To learn more about how the IUPUI University Library is innovating with OER, visit