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Open Educational Resources (OER) Course Marking

Guide on course marking for faculty to designate their course as free or low cost.

OER and Course Marking: Supporting Students with Textbook Affordability

What is OER?

The Board of Higher Education adopted this definition of OER on October 2019: "Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”

For more information on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education OER strategic initiative, refer to their website.

Designating OER as No Cost (includes Library Resources)

Type Description

The required instructional materials are provided online at no cost (i.e., free). An optional printed version and some supplementary course instructional materials may be available for purchase. This designation includes Open Educational Resources, No Cost, and Library Resources. Institutions may elect to separate the designation types to provide specificity to students. For this purposes of this guide, we have combined the types of no cost instructional materials.

Type Criteria

To be designated as an OER/No Cost/Library Resources course/section, a course/section should use the following as the primary, required instructional materials for the course:

  • OER:  OER are resources released either under an open license or in the public domain permitting their free use, repurposing, and sharing.
  • No Cost: Instructional materials are provided to students at no cost. No cost instructional materials are generally funded by grants, institutional funding models, or a compilation of materials that are not OER.
  • Library Resources: Unlimited simultaneous user resources from the campus library including ebooks, digital journal articles, streaming films, etc.

Qualified Cases Labeled as OER
  • OER resources that are free, but are not adaptable (e.g., have a CC-ND component to the license).
  • Use of adopted or adapted open textbooks or instructional materials regardless of the format, e.g., course/sections that use an optional printed version of open textbooks or instructional materials with a small printing and handling cost[2].
  • Use of faculty-developed textbook or instructional materials with an open license or public domain designation, if
    • Instructional materials are freely accessible by the students and students can keep them after the course is completed.
    • Faculty plan on releasing the instructional materials with an open license or public domain designation when ready.
  • Use of open textbooks or instructional materials as required course materials. Before supplemental copyrighted materials with all rights reserved are used, faculty should consult with OER experts on their campus. Faculty members are encouraged to locate or create an OER replacement.
  • Use of a combination of OER and the campus library resources as required course materials, if
    • OER provides the primary foundation of the required instructional materials.
    • Unlimited simultaneous user resources from the campus library are available to the students.
Insufficient Cases Labeled as OER Course/Sections
  • Use of OER as a supplementary course/section instructional material while using a commercial textbook as the primary course/section instructional material.
  • Use of library reserved text when a textbook purchase is required, unless the reserves provide unlimited-user resources.
  • Use of OER with software or online sites that require the purchase of software or licenses permitting the use of materials, e.g., if a student has to purchase an access code to do homework or read primary course/section materials, the section should not be designated as OER. It may be marked as Low-Cost if the course/section fee for each student is $50 or less.
  • Publisher content included in tuition or course/section fees such as online course/section materials provided through Inclusive Access Program or First Day program are not to be marked with the OER code.
  • Third-party bookstore products such as BNC OER+ are not to be marked with the OER code unless the content is publicly available with clear terms of use that allow free public access. It may be marked as Low-Cost if the course/section fee for each student is $50 or less.
  • Course/sections that traditionally do not require any course materials are not to be marked as an OER course such as aerobics, yoga, or sports dance class. These types of courses should be treated as Low Cost if the course/section fee for each student is $50 or less.

Note: If required material for a course/section cannot be evaluated using this OER marking criteria prior to registration, it should not be marked as an OER course.


 

Designating OER as Low Cost ($50 or less)

Type Description

The required instructional materials cost $50 or less.

Type Criteria

To be designated as a Low-Cost course/section, the combined cost of the course/section instructional materials should be $50 or less. This marking is to designate those course/sections that use affordable instructional materials that do not conform to the OER/No Cost/Library Resources criteria.

This includes all required instructional materials (definition above).

The $50 (or less) threshold is based on the pre-tax retail price and is applied to all class sections regardless of the number of credits offered.

  • The threshold is based on the price at the campus bookstore or charged by the publisher directly; whichever is lower.
  • Prorating the book cost based on the number of credits or the number of sections used is not recommended. For example, a $100 textbook spanning two semesters is not to be prorated 50/50, thus it is not to be labeled as Low-Cost.

Consider the cost of new and also used, rented, and older editions of the required instructional materials.

  • For used, rented, and older editions to be included in the Low-Cost designation,
    • Students should be able to acquire the instructional materials for $50 or less either from the college bookstore or the publisher directly, and
    • The college bookstore/the publisher should have sufficient stock for all enrollments. The faculty member should be advised to confirm this before assigning.
  • Prices offered by other third-party vendors such as Amazon.com should not to be considered due to price fluctuation and uncertainty of stock availability.

A lecture course with an associated lab section should be coded together if lecture courses are integrated with lab sections (i.e., lecture and lab are simultaneously registered into a single course).

  • A combined cost for the required instructional materials from lecture and lab should be $50 or less in order to be marked as Low-Cost. This excludes the lab fee and the cost for any supplies or equipment needed for the lab section.
  • A lecture with lab may be coded separately only if they require separate registration with independent section numbers.
Examples of Courses Meeting the Low-Cost Threshold
  • Use of an inexpensive commercial textbook costing $50 or less.
  • Use of a course material bundle (e.g., textbook and homework website) costing $50 or less which can include a faculty member choosing an inclusive access option.
  • Use of a faculty-developed course package costing $50 or less