Open Access & Open Education Resources (OER)

By Marian Taliaferro - Digital Scholarship Librarian

October 21 is the start of Open Access Week, that time every year when we salute all things open access. “What is open access,” you say? According to Peter Suber, in the scholarly communications office at Harvard and one of the foremost champions of open access (OA), “Open-access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.” This year, W&M Libraries is focusing on Open Education Resources (OER), which are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. If you have a professor who's adopted a truly free, online textbook then you've experienced using OER. 

Libraries and academic institutions across the country are becoming more aware that the cost of textbooks and other course materials each semester can be painful for students to bear. Even those “reduced cost” online rentals or used print versions add up, and the online books go "poof" once the class ends. Textbook (and tuition) costs nationally have risen over the years in a far faster rate than inflation. Currently, the national average stands at $600 per semester for a student to purchase all of their required course materials.  In an effort to help, more openly-licensed textbooks are increasingly being created, adapted and adopted by faculty in order to save students money. Thankfully, there is funding available to faculty in Virginia for adopting, adapting and writing OER. Several W&M faculty have already adopted OER for their courses.

Due to recent state legislation, W&M students next year will be able to determine when they go to search for classes through Banner whether no-cost or low-cost (under $40) course materials have been selected for those courses. For right now, they can see the textbooks adopted (if communicated to the bookstore) for courses in spring 2020. Once registered, they can also link via Banner to information on adoptions in their courses. If you're a student who's interested in resources on textbook affordability, you can read more on our Textbook Affordability website.