Contributed by Tanysha Klassen
When you bring up the issue of textbooks with students, you’re usually met with wave upon wave of “they’re so expensive,” “it’s a waste of money,” and so on. And, I’m sure you think that we complain about it enough, right? However, there is much more to the issue than simply cost. Yes, students care about the amount of money they are spending. Talk to any of them and that will be the first thing you hear. But we also care about so much more—like the quality of our textbooks. The money we spend on our education impacts us, but so too does the quality of our education.
So, what impacts the quality of the textbooks we use, and how do OERs work to fix this? Most of the time we sit in a class with a textbook from a big-name publisher sitting unopened in front of us while our professors run through basic slides with the publisher’s logo emblazoned on the bottom right corner in order to help us prepare for a test taken straight from said publishers test bank. There is definitely an issue here.
Students understand that professors have a lot of work to do, and we understand the ways in which publishers work to market to and convince professors to use the newest and latest edition of their textbooks (that is definitely better than the one promoted to them the year before) with all of the fancy add-ons that make teaching easier. And for this reason, professors write off open education resources because they feel as though they lack those additional instructor resources or don’t measure up in terms of content, which simply isn’t the case. OERs are completely customizable. Professors can change them to fit the exact content they want to cover: no more skipping unnecessary chapters or pages, and many come with test banks and other special resources to support your teaching.
But here’s the crux of it. Students want open education resources not only because it will save us money—although we really love that aspect of it—but also because we want an education that will make us feel like we are spending our money on something worthwhile.
We want to save money because we are students. We are students because we want to receive an education.
Open educational resources can satisfy both of these desires—benefitting students and professors alike—so, if you think students are only supporting OERs because of the money, you are mistaken. We are here to learn, just as you are here to teach. Let’s work together to achieve both of our goals.