Answered By: Victoria Peters
Last Updated: Nov 22, 2022     Views: 2

Benefits for students

One of the first aspects of OER to be praised by the general public was the cost savings that they could bring to students. As Figure 1 shows, the price of college textbooks has risen greatly over the past 35 years, outpacing all other consumer goods in the Consumer Price Index by a great margin.

A line graph is displayed with two lines. The first, labelled "CPI" increases from 0% to just over 200% over 35 years. The second line, labelled "textbooks," rises from 0% to 900% over the same time period.
Figure 1: “Increase in Textbook Prices” by David Ernst, the Open Textbook Network, is licensed CC BY 4.0Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.


The cost of textbooks has a profound impact on college students, many of whom must wait to purchase their course materials until well into the semester or choose not to purchase them at all.[1]

The cost of textbooks might not be a major issue on its own, but it can be an insurmountable hurdle for students already struggling to get by. As a recent survey found, 36% of college students are food insecure. This number is even higher for community college students, 42% of whom reported food insecurity.[2]

The problem of food and housing insecurity among college students cannot be fixed by adjusting the price of textbooks alone. There are a wide variety of reasons why these problems are in place.[3] However, the unexpected additional cost of textbooks can make the difference between a student persisting in college or dropping out.

Access to a quality education

When you choose to share course materials openly, you are providing students with the opportunity to engage with your content before, during, and after your course. Because OER are always free to access online, students who are interested in taking a course you teach can read up on the course ahead of time and ensure that they are ready and interested in the material. Moreover, students who have already taken your course can be safe in the knowledge that their course materials will not evaporate at the end of the semester and that they can continue to review the materials you provided to them for years to come.

The students who benefit from access to OER are not just the ones in your classroom. Unlike affordability initiatives like course reserves, OER are free for anyone in the world to access, whether they have a college affiliation or not.[8] This encourages aging learners and students in the Global South to explore educational content without having to commit the time and money they might not have to attend college.[4]

Benefits for instructors

Although cost savings are a major talking point in favor of adopting open educational resources, instructors can utilize OER effectively without replacing paid resources at all.[5] In fact, the freedom to adapt OER to instructional needs is often the most attractive aspect of OER. Since OER are openly licensed, educators are free to edit, reorder, and remix OER materials in many ways.

Use, improve, and share

  • Adapt and revise resources that have already been created to fit your course syllabus.
  • Create an updated second edition of an existing OER.
  • Tailor resources to fit your specific course context (e.g., translation, local examples).

Network and collaborate with peers

  • Access educational resources that have been peer-reviewed by experts in your field.
  • Create a new open educational resource with a team of your peers.
  • Explore user reviews for a more in-depth understanding of the resources available.

Lower costs to improve access to information

  • Enable all students to have equal access to your course materials.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to explore course content before enrolling.
  1. Florida Virtual Campus. 2018 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey: Executive Summary, 2018. Accessed June 15, 2019.
  2. Romo, Vanessa. "Hunger and Homelessness are Widespread Among College Students, Survey Finds." NPR: The Two-Way, April 2018.
  3. Goldrick-Rab, Sara and Cady, Clare. Supporting Community College Completion with a Culture of Caring: A Case Study of Amarillo College, 2018.
  4. Although OER are free for anyone to access, this access is still limited by who has access to the Internet. Still, since OER can be freely redistributed, some individuals have printed OER for dissemination in areas that do not have Internet access as well. 
  5. Hodgkinson-Williams, Cheryl and Arinto, Patricia B. Adoption and Impact of OER in the Global South. Cape Town & Ottawa: African Minds, International Development Research Centre & Research on Open Educational Resources, 2017. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1005330 
  6. Attribution: The Benefits for Instructors section of this chapter was adapted from the SUNY OER Community Course, licensed CC BY 4.0.