Why should SMC explore the use and creation of OERs? Below we argue how OER initiatives at Saint Mary’s College can align with SMC’s strategic priorities, as articulated in the College Strategic Plan, 2015-2020—particularly goals one, two, three, five and six (Saint Mary’s College of California, 2015).
Goal 1: “Discovery in Dialogue.” OERs can raise SMC’s academic profile and distinction by promoting student-driven pedagogy and innovative teaching practices. For faculty members who choose to create and develop open educational resources, the Saint Mary’s Digital Commons is the ideal archiving repository platform to increase the visibility, discoverability and impact of faculty open scholarship, promoting scholarly communication, and helping to further the College’s goal of being “nationally recognized for academic excellence.”
Goal 2: “Access to Success.” OERs can support the student lifecycle and contribute to student success by expanding access to free, unrestricted, high-quality online textbooks and course materials. Open textbooks are customizable, scalable, and can be revised and adapted as needed. The quality of open textbooks has also been shown to be as good as commercial textbooks (Jhangiani, Dastur, Le Grand & Penner, 2018). Some studies show students get better exam and course grades and have lower failure and withdrawal rates in courses that use OER textbooks (Fischer, Hilton, & Robinson, 2015; McKenzie, 2018).
Goal 3: “From De La Salle to Lasallian.” OERs align with the goals of inclusive equity, social justice, and the common good. The adoption and use of open, freely-available to read and use, educational resources can help fulfill the SMC mission and Lasallian principles by upholding social-economic justice, educating the poor, cultivating lifelong learners, and creating an equitable student-centered community.
Goal 5: “Claiming Our Competitiveness.” By adopting OERs and reducing the cost of textbooks for students, Saint Mary’s can send a strong message that the College embraces a student-driven multimodal learning environment for students from all economic backgrounds. Prospective students may be more likely to choose an education at SMC if one can make the case that SMC offers a higher return on investment and lower educational costs for students compared with SMC peer institutions and other public colleges and universities. As SMC looks to increase its population of transfer students, the College should be mindful that many of these students will be coming from community colleges where OERs are commonplace, and they may come to SMC expecting their instructors to use OERs.
Goal 6: “Strengthening Foundations in Affordability.” OERs improve Saint Mary’s financial stability by providing affordable and equitable access to open educational materials (Peet, 2019). While SMC Library purchases textbooks totalling about $20,000 annually for its textbook collection, some of these resources could potentially be repurposed toward supporting faculty use, adoption or development of OERs. The positive effects of OERs on student success could help SMC retain more students from historically underrepresented groups. As the College relies less on high-priced textbooks over time, faculty and students could benefit directly from being able to access and use quality OER content that is free to use and read, and free of copyright and licensing restrictions.