Open vs. traditional textbooks
Open educational resources (OER) can save students hundreds of dollars, but are they equal in quality to high priced textbooks from traditional publishers? If a book is free, will it have undergone to the same academic or editorial review as a high priced textbook? Increasingly, the answer is yes. There are many new resources and tools designed to help faculty find high quality, peer reviewed OER.
Do you get what you pay for?
One question to consider: Do traditional textbook publishers truly produce a superior product? Publishers argue that high textbook prices are necessary to cover their costs for peer review, editorial development, and top quality production values. However, new editions frequently come out with even higher prices but with very little new content to justify the higher cost. Traditional publishers are driven by the bottom line and many new editions are produced simply in order to generate sales. Instead of buying a used copy at a substantial discount, a student buys the “new” edition at full price and the publisher reaps the profit.
Open Educational Resources can be a great alternative to high priced textbooks. Read this CNN article for a great overview of new developments and how free resources really can work in the classroom. But do free resources really meet the same quality standards as traditional textbooks? Yes! Many of them are peer reviewed and carefully developed by educators. The OER Commons includes a new tool which allows educators to rate the quality of OER with seven rubrics. Check out this video for a tour of the tool and the rubrics.
MERLOT II includes over 4,000 in-depth peer reviews and allows users to search for materials with peer reviews, editor reviews, and user ratings. Other sites such as College Open Textbooks include lists of peer reviews divided by subject area.
Where to find peer reviewed OERs