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Understanding Open Education

Education touches all lives: be it the child learning to read, a high school student seeking to be the first in her family to enter college, the university student struggling to pay exorbitant textbook prices and rising tuition costs, or the life-long learner returning to college after twenty years. Education fosters creativity and critical thought, building the foundation for lifelong curiosity. It is intrinsically linked to cultural development and the economic security of an established career. Unfortunately, too many people are deprived of access to learning and educational resources due to technological and price barriers.

Open education establishes opportunities to support an affordable and effective learning environment.  Involving tools and practices, open education resources (OER) provide students with quality materials that are free of cost and without re-use restrictions. Technology and the power of hyper-connectivity, brought forth by the Internet, provide potential to utilize OERs for the improvement of teaching and learning. In addition to the Open Education Library Guide, the following resources provide a quick introduction:

Textbook Shakedown

The graphic explains how textbooks are marketed and why prices continue to exponentially rise (click on image to expand).

Defining the "Open" in Open Education

Remember the 5 Rs!

The terms "open content" and "open educational resources" describe any copyrightable work (traditionally excluding software, which is described by other terms like "open source") that is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities:

  1. Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

The Reason for Rising Textbook Prices

Framing the Issue

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the cost of textbooks increased 1,041% between 1977 and 2015; more than triple the rate of inflation during the same period. Skyrocketing textbook costs pose a stark challenge to students unable to afford the excessive prices. Restrictive prices are forcing students to forgo purchasing textbooks, negatively impacting the quality of education received. Confronted with the systematic challenge of rising textbook costs throughout higher education, the open education movement works to overcome technological, financial, and legal barriers between students and information.

Rising textbook prices and the resulting challenges to student learning is a single component within open education. Open education is based on a collective vision where education is a guaranteed right afforded to everyone through a collaboratively developed collection of openly shared resources. Utilizing the influence and potency of the internet allows for the rapid and free sharing of educational resources to reuse and revise content. Not only students, but all persons deserve access to information and ideas with the power to transform one's knowledge and skills. 

The open education movement includes, amongst others: instructors, students, librarians, administrators, and politicians. Each party performs a pivotal role in promoting the spread of open education. The library guide outlines the role of advocates in supporting open education and opportunities for all parties to get involved.


Anali Perry
Scholarly Communication Librarian

Alexandra Humphreys
Education and Humanities Librarian 

Bee Gallegos
Education and History Librarian


Many college students are unable to afford the exorbitant cost of textbooks; forcing some to make painful sacrifices for their education. When paying for a textbook means sacrificing the amount of food on the table or receiving essential healthcare treatment, the status quo must change. #textbookbroke tells the stories of students and the struggle to sustain a standard of quality living when confronted with excessive educational costs.

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