Open Educational Resources at Georgia State University
Georgia State University Library plays an active role in affordable education
through advocacy and support for Open Educational Resources (OERs).
Grants secured through Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) have affected over 120,000 Georgia State University students since 2014, ranking GSU at #1 of 26 institutions for students impacted to date by ALG grants (Spring 2023). With the continuing support of textbook affordability programs, like those sponsored by ALG, students in the University System of Georgia have saved more than $143 million over the past decade. -Affordable Learning Georgia, 2023
As the cost of education has risen, Georgia State University Library has maintained a commitment to supporting students with affordable and accessible resources. This year, librarians Mary Ann Cullen and Charlene V. Martoni are leading Georgia State University’s participation in the OpenStax Institutional Partner Program. This opportunity provides the University Library with a year of intense focus on Open Educational Resources.
What are Open Educational Resources?
Open Educational Resources (also known as OERs) are textbooks and other educational materials that are freely available to anyone, either through the public domain or by open licensing. Open licenses, such as Creative Commons Licenses, allow copyright holders to give blanket permission for others to use their resources in ways not normally allowed by copyright. OERs can be textbooks or other educational materials, ranging from an entire course to an image or an assignment. OpenStax is one example of a publisher that produces high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are also OERs.
What are the benefits of OERs?
OERs eliminate financial barriers to educational materials and can also contribute to diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and representation. Because OERs are freely available, all students have access to them by the first day of class; so, they do not need to wait for financial aid or other funds prior to purchasing required materials. The removal of monetary barriers to textbook access can improve student success, particularly for those with financial challenges.
A 2018 study of over 20,000 University of Georgia students found that fewer students withdrew from courses in which required readings were OERs, and they also achieved higher final grades overall. The use of OERs had a more pronounced positive effect on students receiving Pell Grants, as well as part-time students and students from underrepresented groups. This study is just one example of how adopting OERs in courses may help students overcome barriers to academic success.
Depending on an OER’s license, you can copy, modify, distribute, and/or retain copies of the work. This often allows OER content to be updated, adapted, and shared.
It also allows instructors to go beyond cost-savings to address other important aspects of instructional design, like diversity and accessibility. For example, an instructor can incorporate more relatable references into a text or share the resource in a format that is more accessible to their students. OERs also provide opportunities to develop coursework that contributes to knowledge creation and creativity beyond the classroom. This type of approach to instruction, often called Open Pedagogy, facilitates college-to-career readiness as students demonstrate their impact and develop portfolios.
What about websites, YouTube videos, and library resources? Are they OERs?
Not usually, which is why awareness and understanding of OERs and other affordable material is so important. Yes, most websites and YouTube videos are “open access“; this means that they are free for anyone to examine, but they do not have an open license giving permission to retain, reuse, remix, or redistribute them.
Georgia State University Library provides online resources for the GSU community as well. While they may seem free to use, the library pays for these resources from its materials budget. As a result, use of library materials is only extended to registered Georgia State University Library users and visitors, according to our Borrowing Policies. That said, because students at Georgia State University have equal access to our library materials and there is no per-use cost to the students, these resources can be used in courses to make education more affordable. Another way to reduce financial hurdles to course materials is for instructors to put textbooks and other materials on course reserve. Still, OERs present an equitable and versatile alternative to low-cost or library-licensed materials.
What affordable learning initiatives has the library been involved in this year?
We kicked off our partnership with OpenStax in the summer of 2022 by participating in monthly meetings with nationwide OER representatives from various colleges and universities. These meetings offered us the opportunity to learn with others who are also working to make education more affordable by advocating for the use of OERs in higher education classrooms.
Once we gained our footing with the partnership, OpenStax provided us with guidance on the development of a strategic plan. Our plan includes three main phases: (1) assess the current landscape of OER within the Georgia State University community, (2) identify unmet needs for faculty and students, and (3) develop services and resources to address those needs.
In the fall, we developed OER-focused questions that we then incorporated into the 2022 Faculty Survey. These included four optional questions about (1) experience using OERs in courses, (2) motivation for using OERs, (3) hurdles in adopting OERs in courses, and (4) how the library could potentially support OER efforts. About half of the total respondents for the overall survey elected to answer these OER-focused questions, which indicates to us that there is, indeed, interest in OER at Georgia State University.
Action & Instructional Support
From our survey of the OER landscape at Georgia State University, we determined that a micro-credentialing course introducing faculty to OER would help address frequent questions surrounding their use in the classroom—questions about copyright or quality, for example. The micro-credentialing course follows Abby Elder’s The OER Starter Kit, which provides instructors with “an introduction to the use and creation of open educational resources.”
Like the text, the micro-credentialing course is chunked into easily digestible sections and is “intended for users who are entirely new to Open Education.” We have also adapted the book to an audio format to help save faculty time and make the resource more accessible to diverse audiences—and the adaptation is an OER itself! Upon completion of the course, participants will receive a credentialed “badge” indicating their competency and commitment to student success with OERs. The badge can then be shared on resumes, CVs, dossiers, LinkedIn, other social media, etc. To participate in the pilot of this course, please contact Mary Ann Cullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, four open and affordable projects by Georgia State University faculty were added to the Galileo Open Learning Materials repository in 2022. These include Interactive Tools for Principles of Microeconomics, Principals of Chemistry, Lumen Waymaker Abnormal Psychology Adoption, and Introduction to Social Work. Librarians Sheeji Kathuria and Mary Ann Cullen were team members on two of these projects.
The Georgia State University Foundation Board of Trustees also awarded $20,000 to the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies for its AYS Open initiative, which will save students an estimated $1 million by 2026. Of note, policy studies librarian La Loria Konata contributed to this success. EBSCO also added two new databases to Faculty Select: Pressbooks Directory and LibreTexts. And lastly, the GSU Library is continuing its Open Access Read and Publish Agreement with Cambridge University Press (CUP) and has added an Open Access Read and Publish Agreement with American Chemical Society (ACS) Publications.
Outreach & Advocacy
As part of our Open Stax Partnership initiative, we engaged in an outreach and advocacy campaign to spread awareness of OERs and encourage their adoption, adaptation, or authorship. We presented at Perimeter Faculty Development Day and at the University System of Georgia Teaching & Learning Conference on the use of OERs and affordable content to support student success and ensure equity in higher education. We also provided our library colleagues with an update on the current state of OER at Georgia State University, the library’s OER goals, and best practices for informing others about OERs as we look to the future.
GSU Library celebrated International Open Access Week in October by asking students two questions that were displayed on whiteboards at libraries on each campus, and students were encouraged to respond in writing. Referring to photo documentation of the activity, we estimate that we received 167 responses to our first survey question, “What should professors know about expensive textbooks?”
About ¼ of responses mentioned affordability or cost of content, 22% commented on the pedagogy of course material selection, and 11% referenced tuition or financial aid. We also received 362 responses to our second question, “What have you done when a textbook was too expensive?” The most frequent response to this question was the admission that students seek access to expensive textbooks in a multitude of alternative ways, forcing them to sometimes engage in copyright infringement. We offered a similar activity for Open Education Week in March when we also focused on explaining the differences between open resources and library-licensed resources, and how they can both be used in instruction.
We kicked off our Open Education Week festivities with an inaugural conference, titled “Open for Student Success.” senior vice president for student success Allison Calhoun-Brown began the day by discussing new and innovative programming to address issues of effective academic advising, unmet financial need, curricular progression barriers, the connection between college to career, and support for at-risk students. Librarians Lauren Bellard and Rachel Chandler also presented their current projects relating to OER, including work with the Georgia Knowledge Repository and a bibliometric analysis of research on OER.
Faculty teaching in the disciplines of kinesiology and health, Spanish, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, and communication presented various innovative applications of open pedagogy at Georgia State University. For example, professor Victoria Rodrigo and her students presented on Serie Leamos, a reading project where students write, illustrate, and produce audio adaptations of Spanish-language picture books at a beginning reading level but on content that suits the engagement levels of college-aged students. Professors Nancy Gup and Holly Keddington of the psychology department also participated in a panel discussion on their experiences authoring OERs. For a full conference program and posted recordings, visit research.library.gsu.edu/openforstudentsuccess.
How to Get Help with OERs and Other Affordable Content
Librarians at Georgia State University are familiar with OERs, including open licensing, direct linking, and search strategies. We are happy to guide you on your journey! Librarians can also help you identify library resources appropriate for your courses and show you how to incorporate them into your instruction. If you’re considering applying for a grant to support OER use and development, such as a grant through Affordable Learning Georgia, remember that librarians can be valuable members of your team, early on and throughout the process. Just contact your librarian by college or campus.
The GSU Library offers many resources to help you succeed in your use of OERs. Our librarians have collaborated to curate and continuously update online reference guides for various aspects of open education, too!
- Copyright and Publishing Support: These topics impact many aspects of academic work, from coursework to teaching, presentations, publishing, policy development, theses, and dissertations. This guide can help you manage your rights, respect the rights of others, and determine whether and how to make your work available.
- Creative Commons: Perhaps the most popular and user-friendly open licensing framework, Creative Commons is a global nonprofit that has enabled the sharing and reuse of works with free legal tools. This guide can help you choose an appropriate open license for your work or use another’s work legally by understanding and following the license’s rules.
- Direct Linking: One way to provide students with easy access to reading materials and other library content is to include in your syllabus a persistent, stable link to the full text of a specific work. It’s easy to create this link yourself; this guide will show you how.
- Faculty Select: A one-stop shop to support textbook affordability, Faculty Select allows you to search and access quality open textbooks, request e-books from top academic publishers, and find DRM-free e-books in the library’s collection. This guide will introduce you to Faculty Select.
- Open Access: What is “open access”? What can you do with open access resources? This guide explains the history behind the open access movement, how it works, and why it’s important.
- Open Educational Resources: Use this guide to learn everything you need to know about OER, Affordable Learning Georgia, course catalog designators, and inclusive access.
- Open Images: Using visual content in courses is one way to increase engagement and retention. This guide provides links to recommended repositories that offer access to openly licensed images.
- Open Source Videos: Many instructors incorporate audiovisual content into their courses to better engage students and encourage critical thinking. This guide provides links to recommended repositories that offer access to openly licensed videos.
- OpenStax: A nonprofit corporation that is part of Rice University, OpenStax is the world’s leading publisher of peer-reviewed, OER textbooks. You can find books in the disciplines of business, humanities, mathematics, science, the social sciences, and college success.
- Public Domain: As of January 1, 2023, most works published in the United States during or prior to 1927 are in the public domain. With the end of each calendar year, this public domain date advances by one year (e.g. works published in 1928 will enter the public domain on January 1, 2024). This guide provides links to recommended public domain repositories where you can find content no longer under copyright.
- ScholarWorks: ScholarWorks is GSU’s institutional repository, which is open access. This guide will explain how to use ScholarWorks to find journal articles and book chapters, books, conference proceedings and presentations, data sets, technical reports, and audiovisual materials. ScholarWorks also contains electronic dissertations and theses.
Interested in learning more or getting involved with OER?
Contact librarian Charlene V. Martoni at email@example.com.