We are very excited to announce our campus’s role in the CUNY OER initiative. During the 2017-18 academic year, the College of Staten Island plans to convert 13 courses with 53 sections into zero cost classes using Open Educational Resources. This semester, the library has adopted open educational resources (OER) for all of its sections of LIB102, a credit-bearing course that teaches students research skills using the library. And next semester, courses in Biology, Economics, and ESL English will follow suit. We hope that this large coordinated effort to create and sustain zero cost classes for our students is merely the beginning of a larger campaign to transform the way our students experience college.
But let’s take a step back for a minute and talk about OER. “Open educational resources (OER) are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes” (Creative Commons). Textbooks are often prohibitively expensive for students—students may have to make the tough choice between spending hundreds of dollars on books for a single course, or attempting to learn without the book. The CSI Library purchases textbooks for a two-hour reserve checkout, making those readings technically free, but admittedly students cannot make notes in these copies, nor can they read them from home. An OER textbook is one that its author has published under an open license, which allows users to access the book for free (digitally), and allows educators to revise, retain, remix, reuse, and redistribute the work for free. OER imagines a world where high quality educational materials are free for students, libraries, and professors, removing that expense as a barrier to learning. And indeed, “Studies show that 93% of students who use OER do as well or better than those using traditional materials, since they have easy access to the content starting day one of the course” (SPARC).