Sul Ross State University faculty were recently surveyed to assess how widespread the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) is in courses offered.

Fifty-three percent of faculty surveyed reported that they have used OER in their courses. Another 29 percent said they were extremely or very familiar with OER. Other faculty on the survey expressed an interest in learning more about OER.

In 2017, Texas Senate Bill 810 was signed into law to promote the use of teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released as intellectual property. The free materials have served as big benefits for students.

One suggestion has been to move away from expensive textbooks to using more OER; especially in core courses. Dean of Library and Research Technologies April Aultman Becker attended last summer’s Open Education Texas Convening, hosted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and has been researching the movement. Drawing upon the resources of the library, Becker has provided faculty training and support in finding OER for classes.

“This is an optimal time for faculty to explore OER,” Dean Aultman Becker said. “The open educational resources are very compatible with our increased use of online delivery.”

Dean Aultman Becker added that the Sul Ross Ellucian Grant Consultant has announced the annual open call for grant applications (due July 20) to THECB’s Open Educational Resources Grant Program. She said the grants are offered for faculty to either substantially redesign a course to incorporate OER or develop and improve an existing course by adding OER. “These are all excellent opportunities that provide funding for Sul Ross faculty to embrace and adopt OER,” she said.

Some faculty, such as Dr. Anirban Bhattacharjee, use OER extensively in their classes.

“My Astronomy and Physics courses use OER textbooks, which are freely available from Openstax,” said Bhattacharjee. “My students can download them on a tablet and easily take notes on the textbook using a stylus. I am extremely happy using this OER, because it is accessible and it prevents my students from purchasing a high-dollar resource for a one or two semester course.”

Dean Aultman Becker said the survey has bolstered interest from faculty in OER.

“Sul Ross seeks to support the expansion of open educational resources in courses offered,” she said. “This not only provides a cost benefit to our students but also serves as a digital upgrade of instruction.”

For more information, contact Dean Aultman Becker at (432) 837-8121 or email april.becker@sulross.edu.