The fact that you are reading this suggests that you have heard of open educational resources (OER). Currently, there is a lot of buzz about OER. Some see them as totally revolutionising how we bring learning materials into our education system and use them, while others see OER from a more pragmatic perspective. Before we start looking at OER, including their origin, benefits and challenges, it is important to consider the problems that we are facing today in education. While these problems range, in different countries, from lack of access to poor quality, there is a common thread in most: low availability of good-quality educational materials. Although learning materials are available, the cost of access in many locations is very high and increases each year. For example, the cost of college textbooks in the United States increased 82 per cent between 2002 and 2013— three times the rate of inflation.
According to the College Board, in the 2014–15 academic year, students in the USA spent about USD 1200 each on textbooks. Another study indicated that 65 per cent of U.S. students do not buy textbooks due to prohibitive costs, despite being concerned about grades.3 Is this not alarming? While there are many other reasons to support OER, the cost issue is a primary factor in their growing popularity amongst students and teachers.