OER Frequently Asked Questions

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  • OER means "Open Educational Resource" and ZTC means "Zero Textbook Cost." These two acronyms are often confused, but do not mean the same thing. A zero textbook cost course is one that uses learning materials that cost the students zero dollars. The main method of eliminating textbook costs in courses is by adopting Open Educational Resources (OER). OER is not the only method of creating a zero textbook cost course since WHCL Library materials and some online educational materials (e.g. websites, videos, tutorials) are also free to the students. ZTC is our goal and OER is one of the methods to achieve that goal.

  • For students: Unlike traditional course textbooks and ancillary materials, like homework systems, OER is completely free and students can access their course material on day one instead of waiting for financial aid or a paycheck. And, instead of selling the textbook, returning a rental textbook, and/or losing access to ancillary materials at the end of the semester, students retain access to OER for as long as it exists on the Web (or their computer, if they have saved it there). Also, OER is more likely to come in various formats (e.g. PDF, HTML, iBook, ePub, etc.), which lends a helping hand to accessibility.

    For faculty: Research has shown that use of OER in the classroom can lead to similar or higher student success and retention as traditional textbooks. This may be because students have access to the textbook right away and students that would normally not be able to afford the course textbook, will now be able fully participate in class. The open licensing on these resources also allow for modification so faculty can remix chapters, change images, or alter in ways that work well for the course.

  • This is one of the main concerns of many instructors and the answer is that articulation should not be affected with the adoption of OER. Courses are more likely to articulate when faculty choose uncontroversial, open textbooks and scholarly sources instead of a series of Web resources. Please, read this article from ASCCC about the topic.

  • West Hills College Lemoore and West Hills College Coalinga are leaders in the field of Open Educational Resources, free digital textbooks and resources. These free resources replace your textbooks. We currently offer dozens of sections of OER courses. 

    West Hills College Lemoore OER

  • The ASCCC has had an OER Task Force for several years and has recently received funding for the ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiatives (OERI), which has a mission of increase OER adoption at the CA Community Colleges and reducing the gaps in OER content that exist in some disciplines. So far in 2019, the OERI has established regional OER coordinators, as well as, OER liaisons at each of the 114 CA community colleges. Find out more about the ASCCC OEI and their webinar series on their website.

  • Yes and it is defined by California Educational Code Section 67423 as "...high-quality teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license, such as a Creative Commons license, that permits their free use and re-purposing by others, and may include other resources that are legally available and free of cost to students." With the formation of the new Student Equity and Achievement (SEA) Program, the educational code (AB 1809) has been revised to make OER adoption and ZTC Degree pathways an encouraged use of the SEA funding.

  • Yes! Canvas works great with OER and there are even several tools embedded into WHCL Canvas, like an attribution builder, to make it easier to give credit where credit is due. See a librarian or instructional design specialist for help on using OER in your course.

  • In most cases, it is easy to print out your OER for your students so that they can buy the printed copy from the bookstore and/or check it out from the WHCL Library. If you are using an open textbook from somewhere like OpenStax or Noba, the companies themselves will allow you to order a low-cost printed version of the book. If you are using an open textbook from another source that does not offer print copies, you can work with the Library and the Bookstore to choose a print option that works best for you.

  • Just like with traditional publisher textbooks, there is a process of resource adoption and communication that must occur at WHCL whenever you decide to change or update your required course materials. You will want to make sure both your learning area and department are aware that you'd like to adopt an OER and then you will need to go through the process illustrated in this OER adoption flow chart (Link to PDF on other page). The adoption process will have you working closely with the library who will inform the bookstore of your change, but always double check that the required course materials are listed correctly on the bookstore's website.

  • Of course not! If you are feeling frustrated and feel like there is nothing out there that is quite as comprehensive as your current course textbook, be sure to get in contact with your OER librarian or reach out to other CA community college faculty members in your discipline. It is also helpful to join the CCCOER listserv or search the archives of that listserv.

    Remember that you are not alone and there are many other instructors looking for the same or similar OER as you! Another option is to compile various open resources links instead of using a traditional textbook format. And, if you are very motivated, you can write your own open textbook and share it! What's nice about Creative Commons licenses, is that you can use bits and pieces of other OER and add your own content, as well.

  • Yes! Both Cool4Ed and Open Oregon share what OER instructors are using. Open Oregon is limited to Oregon colleges and Cool4Ed is limited to CCC, CSU, and UC. Cool4Ed's "Faculty Showcase" and "Course Showcase" both give valuable insight into OER use around the state by providing evaluations of both quality and accessibility, and a general look into what other instructors are using. And remember, the Open Educational Resources movement is all about sharing, so feel free to reach out to other instructors at other instructions all over the country (and their libraries!) and ask them about their OER adoptions.

    In addition, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office has created the Vision Resource Center, which has a section where all of the Zero Textbook Cost Degree Grantee colleges have uploaded the materials their courses used to develop the degree pathway. Create a free account and check it out!

  • If you are looking for resources in an OER repository, there is a very good chance that this is an openly licensed resource and, in most cases, the type of open license will be displayed along with other information, like the author and publication date. If you are not searching in an OER repository, open licenses are still usually easy to find somewhere on the resource webpage. Try looking at the bottom of the page where you'd usually find the copyright information or in the “terms of use.” If you are still unsure, be sure to ask a librarian!

  • If you notice your selected resources are falling out of date, the open license gives anybody the ability to change the resource as they see fit (as long as it does not have a "no derivatives" Creative Commons license). You are legally able to update the text and re-license and share your updated version with the world. In many cases, OER with a high adoption rates (e.g. OpenStax textbooks) are frequently updated and revised. The beauty of OER is that it can be adapted over time. Some instructors work with other instructors or even with their students on customizing and updating the open textbook or resources used in their classes.

  • Not at all! Though all online content needs to be thoroughly evaluated for quality, many of the openly licensed learning materials created and used today are just as good, or better, than traditional publisher textbooks. There are a growing number of studies that show that students are doing just as well or better in their courses that use OER. The vetting process is essentially the same as traditional textbooks.

    What is so great about OER is that the open licenses allow for information to be changed easily as the world changes and new research and current events become important. Traditional textbooks fall short here, often lagging behind what is currently happening in today's world and releasing expensive new editions whenever they are updated. It is important to remember, however, that each discipline is at a different stage of growth in OER; some disciplines have many high-quality resources to choose from while others are less developed.

    A few OER repositories have begun including peer reviews and faculty showcases, which highlight how the OER they selected worked for them and their students. As the open education movement gains popularity, more ancillary materials are being created, like test banks and homework systems.

  • Though there are a few definitions of OER floating around, the most widely accepted one defines an Open Educational Resource as something that can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed. Not all open licenses automatically mean a resource is OER, however. If the license chosen restricts derivative works, for instance, that means a person could not revise or remix a work to better fit their needs and it is not truly an OER.

  • A common misconception is that if somebody openly licenses their work, that they are giving away all of their hard work for free. While it is true that they are waiving some of the "protections" of a traditional all rights reserved copyright license, they still retain the ownership and moral rights to their work (something that is taken away if writing a textbook for a publisher). OER authors often enjoy more freedom to use, share and adapt their own works than they would under a restrictive license with a publisher. In addition, all Creative Commons licenses require users to attribute, or give credit to, the original creator unless the creator instructs otherwise.

    In most cases, OER authors are paid for their creation through grants, stipends, non-profit organization support, or release time. Creators do not get royalties like they would by going through a textbook publisher, but they are usually not creating OER free of charge.