I have been hearing more and more about the use of OER textbooks and resources –but what does that really mean and why might I want to look into these?
Dear OER Investigator,
OER stands for “Open Educational Resource” and refers to freely available educational materials that typically do not carry traditional copyright constraints so they can be shared, modified, and used freely. OER resources are growing in popularity as a way to ensure education is open and available to all.
Benefits of Using OER Resources:
There are several benefits of using OER resources. For one, they are free to students! Beyond saving your students some money, they can also ensure every student in your class has access to course materials. Students often avoid buying textbooks as a way to save money or just because they simply can’t afford them. By utilizing OER resources, that potential barrier is removed. Because OER resources are free and easy to adapt, they can also provide instructors with a lot of flexibility to mix and match different readings or materials. Our students would likely revolt if we asked them to pay for 3 or 4 textbooks just so they could get the “best” coverage from each of them. But, if materials are free, it’s easy to pick and choose the best source for coverage of a particular topic. In addition, instructors can write in their own material or edit materials to fit their course goals, providing customization that we often don’t see with traditional textbooks.
Resources for Getting Started:
If you are interested in looking into OER, where do you start? Note that there are a wide variety of resources out there and some have been more heavily reviewed and used than others. These resources can help you get started:
*OER Commons: This website lets you search for OER content in a variety of areas and includes both lower-level and upper-level psychology course content. You can also read reviews of the various OER materials (or leave a review of your own!) and get basic information about the material (including any copyright restraints). In addition, their tool “Open Author” provides a mechanism by which you could begin creating your own OER materials.
*NOBA: NOBA offers Psychology-specific OER textbooks (including ones focused on Introductory Psychology and Social Psychology). In addition, they have a variety of modules that could be mixed together to customize your course or support other course topics in Psychology. They also offer some instructor resources (powerpoint slides, test banks, etc.) to help support your teaching.
*OpenStax: Openstax was developed by Rice University and they offer textbooks in a variety of fields (including Psychology). Their current Psychology offering is Psychology 2e which is primarily designed as an Introduction to Psychology textbook. OpenStax also offers instructor resources and gives students the option to purchase a low-cost print textbook if they prefer holding a book over the online format.
*Rajiv Jhangiani’s Psychology OER Resource Links: Although OER is increasing in popularity, it has been around longer than you might think! In fact, Rajiv Jhangiani presented on OER at the 2014 STP Annual Conference on Teaching and provided a list of links to help Psychology instructors get started with OER. This list of resources includes not only links to popular OER textbook resources but also a variety of OER resources and tools (including videos, demonstrations, interactive online material, etc.). In addition, he has shared a video overview of OER resources in Psychology that he posted in 2018 which provides specific suggestions for content based on the areas of Psychology that you teach.
To Go OER or Not?:
Picking course materials can always be a challenge when designing a new course (or when re-vamping an existing course). OER resources offer an accessible option that can be investigated and compared alongside traditional textbooks as you make the decision about what is best for your course and for your students. Keep in mind your course goals and examine if you can find high-quality OER materials that speak to those course goals and cover the content that you need. With OER, even if there isn’t a “perfect” resource, you might be able to mix and match a few resources to provide your students with the coverage they need. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t see an OER option that fits your class now, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t design your own OER resource in the future and share it with your fellow STP members!
Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee
Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.
Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.
Janet Peters, Ph.D.
Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.
Christina Shane-Simpson, M.S.W., Ph.D.