Despite COVID-19 there has been a steady increase in the use of open educational resources, or free course materials, said Michelle Reed, Open Educational Resources director.
“One thing that [COVID-19] has done is made it clear to administrators in particular that the time is now for [open educational resources] adoption and moving this direction,” she said.
Open educational resources help educators identify, use, customize, create and publish teaching and learning materials available at no cost to UTA students, according to the UTA Libraries website. The resources are fully self-contained textbooks, videos, quizzes, learning modules and more.
It also has the intellectual property licensing that allows other people to legally revise and reuse that content, Reed said. Although it’s free for the end user, it isn’t free to produce since there are material, labor and structure costs as well.
“[Open educational resources] can reduce the cost of higher education,” Reed said.
Rebecca Mauldin, School of Social Work assistant professor, said in an email each semester she receives comments from her students that they are grateful for the free and easy to use textbooks in her course.
“It makes teaching much easier because I have tailored the materials to match the content I want to emphasize and present it in a way I feel is natural for students to learn,” Mauldin said.
UTA provided her grant funding to adapt the material into her class for students, she said. She has used open educational resources since fall 2019.
“I also think it builds some trust with the students because it sends an implicit message that I am concerned about student finances,” she said.
There are many positive outcomes aside from the affordability, including improving course grades and lowering drop, failure and withdrawal rates, Reed said.
Students using these resources in their courses typically enroll in more courses that positively impact intensity and time to completion and graduation, Reed said.
During Open Education Week in the spring, tabling events for the Maverick Opinion Board were conducted where students gave their responses on what they would do with the money they could save if they didn’t have to buy textbooks.
Students said that by not paying for the textbooks that they could pay for car loans, insurance and more, said Mitul Kachhla, former Student Body vice president and information systems junior.
Kachhla said every professor should know that they can develop it for their course to benefit students. He serves on the UTA CARES Grant Program Committee as the only student representative.
The committee serves as a review board made up of Reed and other professors who review the funding process for professors applying to utilize the resources, Kachhla said.
Students can go to the UTA Libraries website to find the steps on how to search for classes that utilize open educational resources on MyMav.
The Open Educational Resources Department also organizes open textbook workshops to raise awareness among UTA professors.
During the virtual workshops faculty can learn about open educational resources, take a look at existing open textbooks and if they wish to, they can provide a review, Reed said.
Reed said they frequently hear questions about the quality of open educational resources since it’s free.
“We don’t believe that if it’s free that it can’t be very good,” she said.