The University Libraries Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative is thrilled to announce its collaboration with the Department of English Language and Literatures in the development of an Open Educational Resource (OER) designed for First-Year English Core Composition classes. The creation of the OER will save students money and make course work much more accessible.
With an enrollment of approximately 3,509 students in their composition classes, the UNM English Department is poised to make a substantial impact on student affordability. At a conservative estimate of $27.50 per course material for the OER, this translates to an astounding savings of $96,500 for students within a single semester.
Open Educational Resources (OER) can be any type of educational material— a class handout, an image, even a textbook, or an online course. OERs use open copyright licenses such as Creative Commons that allow for different degrees of openness and allow users, like faculty and students, to engage in one or more of the 5 R’s: retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.
“The sheer volume of high-quality options available through OER enables faculty to select, as well as edit and combine, materials that suit their programs and instructional methodologies,” said Leandra Binder, contributor, and part-time English Faculty member.
The decision to embark on this journey was motivated by several key factors. According to Rachael Reynolds, associate chair of Core Writing, "Our biggest motivation was to save students money. Our next priority was to have something that, as a program, we could adjust. By going the OER route, we now have material adapted by current instructors teaching in the program which can easily be updated for our students."
Lisa Myers, a contributor to the OER and term teaching faculty member of the English Department, explained the multifaceted motivations behind this endeavor. "We wanted a course text that could fulfill the many needs of UNM students including: content and information specific to our program, content designed to meet UNM students where they are and to assist a wide range of students in developing their reading and writing skills, content that takes into consideration the background and culture of UNM students, and an interface that is usable for students with limited access to technology."
“After we decided to pursue the project in Fall 2022, a group of volunteers spent the spring semester locating OER resources. In the summer, we compiled these resources into Pressbooks, finalized a style guide, and edited it just in time for the Fall 2023 semester,” said Binder.
Open educational resources bring substantial benefits to both students and faculty. Students gain access to materials tailored to their needs, free of charge, and aligned with the course outcomes. Furthermore, these resources remain accessible beyond the duration of the course, providing continuous support for their academic journey.
For faculty, OER provides liberation from publisher-driven textbook schedules, fostering a sense of autonomy in curriculum design. Jennifer Jordan, University Libraries OER librarian and prior CNM English instructor, recalled the frustrations of working with publishing companies. “I had experienced a publisher changing the edition on me without much advance notice. It was very frustrating for me to have to update all my materials because the publisher wanted to create a new edition of their textbook that seemed very similar to the previous edition.”
Additionally, Jordan emphasized that collaborative development of OER materials fosters a sense of community and resource-sharing among educators.
When asked about advice for other departments interested in creating OERs, Lisa Myers advises them to “just jump in and start.” Rachael Reynolds echoed this sentiment, urging others to "make the leap" and highlighting the value of strong guidance and open communication throughout the project as well as connecting with University Libraries OER Librarian, Jennifer Jordan.
“These projects take a lot of steps from the idea to the creation and publication of the work, and we are working to develop the infrastructure to support faculty and departments,” said Jordan.
The English Department is currently working with Jordan on measuring the impact and success of this OER through a study that examines the perceptions of both students and faculty who engage with the resource.
UNM’s Open Educational Resource (OER) initiative seeks to provide faculty members with the support they need to adopt low and no-cost textbook and class material solutions for their courses when it aligns with their instructional objectives and academic freedom.
The estimated amount of money that students spend on textbooks and supplies in the United States is over 14 billion dollars annually, and Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that these costs have risen by 4 times the rate of inflation over the last decade. Populations of students who cannot afford to buy or rent textbooks choose not to buy them at all, negatively impacting their education.
For more information about the UNM OER initiative, visit oer.unm.edu.