How many times have you purchased textbooks for hundreds of dollars, only to have their value depreciate dramatically? I have personally wasted hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, that could have helped pay rent or buy food.
Currently, in the academic world, there is a push to use open educational resources. Basically, open educational resources are supplemental materials for a course that can be publicly accessed. They can be resources in the public domain, which everyone has access to, or they can be licensed by Creative Commons, through which the owner still owns it, but others can still use it. Let’s say you are in a freshman seminar for Western civilization. There could be an open educational resource available to your professor that is as simple as a syllabus for the required readings (some primary sources are out of copyright), or an in-depth open educational resource that has PowerPoints, videos or other materials for a whole course. You could also have access to a whole textbook, like the textbooks on Open SUNY or OpenStax. Open educational resources are a win-win for students and faculty, and there is no better time than right now for Binghamton University to create its own database.
By creating an open educational resource, a professor gains acclaim and receives gratitude. We attend a research school. Our professors are expected to publish some sort of research; in fact, it is in their contracts. Between researching and teaching, professors often have little time to develop course content and often opt in for premade course content that textbook companies make. In return, textbook companies are able to sell their books and digital course materials to us for outrageous prices.
If a professor makes course content, like a book, and puts it up as an open educational resource, it’s beneficial for faculty. First, they won’t have to worry about the materials required for creating the course next year and can easily update the information. Second, they are helping other faculty members, which may lead to reciprocity between colleagues. Faculty at other schools may also become familiar with the professor who has made the course content, giving the professor who created the open educational resource a distinguishing mark for their balance of research and teaching.
Right now, both BU Libraries and the Center for Learning and Teaching have a grant to distribute among faculty who convert a class they will teach in 2018-19 into an open educational resource class. This is to compensate for the professor’s time creating the course, paying out about $2,000 per course to do so. Classes that have a wider reach, like ones with a 100- or 200-level designation that many students have to take, are being prioritized, along with classes that are costly to take. By converting their class to an open educational resource, the professor will make the students happy not only because they do not have to purchase an expensive textbook, but also because their professor has invested their time to benefit them.
Joshua Hummell is a senior double-majoring in classical and Near Eastern studies and history.