Diving deeper into Open Educational Resources

A person diving into the water.

When I first registered into the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) program, I never envisioned discovering a topic that I would become so passionate about, and that would change my life so much in one year. While completing the readings and residency for the LRNT 521 – Digital Learning Environments, Networks, Communities and LRNT 522 – Introduction to Research: Critical Reading and Writing courses, I was introduced to the topic of OER. The concept of OER fascinated me and was similar to the idea of open source software that I had used in my previous career as a website specialist. Like many individuals I have spoken with over the past year, I was using OER within my teaching practices and did not even know it. I was adapting content that was available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license, using openly available video-based content from YouTube, and used web applications that were free to use, allowing students to test their knowledge on several aspects of website development. While some material was easily adaptable, not all content was created with the same level of openness. It was easy to update the text-based material but without source files, the video files were used as-is and could not be easily changed.

As I continued on my MALAT journey, I learned of the benefits of OER from a student and faculty perspective. The benefits included lowering students cost for post-secondary education, adapting material to make the content a higher quality and more relevant (Weller, de los Arcos, Farrow, Pitt & McAndrew, 2016), involving students in the process of OER creation for an in-depth learning of the subject matter (Jhangiani, 2017), the ability to create OER in a variety of digital and print-based formats (Bates, 2016), faculty and students satisfaction, and increased academic success for students (Hilton, Fischer, Wiley & William, 2016).

Through my interest, research and experiences of OER, I have had the pleasure of speaking at local and international conferences on the topic of OER, being selected into the Thesis stream of the MALAT program to complete primary research on OER, and was recently hired by eCampusOntario in a role specifically focusing on OER.

As part of my new role at eCampusOntario, I will be leading the Open at Scale – Business OER project. The Open at Scale – Business OER project aims to create high impact and flexible learning resources for faculty that will save students money by allowing them to use free OER instead of paid textbooks. To determine the courses to target for the Open at Scale – Business initiative, eCampusOntario consulted with the Heads of Business, a group consisting of Deans of the School of Business at each Ontario College. The consultation resulted in nine prioritized courses being selected for the project, which include:

  1. Business Fundamentals / Intro to Business.
  2. Business Mathematics.
  3. Business Communication / Professional Writing.
  4. Intro to Marketing.
  5. Intro to Human Resources.
  6. Financial Accounting / Intro Accounting.
  7. Intro to Business Computing.
  8. Organizational Behaviour.
  9. Economics (eCampusOntario, 2019).

While I have read compelling statistics on OER such as over the past 15 years, textbooks costs have increased by over 129%, nearly four times the inflation rate (Jhangiani & Jhangiani, 2017), and the average cost of a textbook and supplies for one year of an Ontario undergraduate program being $1,298 (CUDO, n.d.), I had not seen any data pertaining to Ontario college business courses. Through in-person conversations, faculty estimated $1000 for textbooks within the first year of their programs; however, I was interested in a full breakdown of the costs by individual courses. I decided to visit an Ontario college website and build a cost breakdown of what students pay in the first year of a business program.

The cost breakdown below is for first-year Business students at Durham College. The data was retrieved from the courses listed in semester one and semester two of the Human Resources – Business program webpage and the textbook price listed for each course on the Durham College Bookstore website. It consists of the required textbooks for each course. It does not include recommended textbooks, the tax charges on each book, or the cost of a textbook for a general education course, as it varies based upon the course they are registered in.

Semester Course Textbook Cost
1 Accounting I
(ACCT 1200)
Accounting I Coursepack Working Papers Edition: 15 $8.38
Fund Accounting Principles Vol1 W/ Connect Edition: 15 $145.88
1 Business Computer Applications I
(COMP 1209)
Exploring Microsoft 2016 W/Myitlab & Ebook (365 Day) Ces Edition $98.00
1 General Education Elective (GNED 0000) To be determined based on course selection $0
1 Human Resource Management I (HRM 1200) Managing Human Resources Edition: 8 $134.01
1 Introduction To Business Management
(MGMT 1209)
Intro To Business Management Custom Edition: 1ST $65.86
1 Marketing I
(MKTG 1200)
Mktg 4ce + Printed Access Card (12 Month/Multi Term) For Min Edition: 4TH 107.25
1 Supply Chain Management
(SCMT 1200)
Principles Of Supply Chain Management Ces Edition: 5E $79.95
2 Accounting II (ACCT 2200) The Ping Ball Series, Tilt Inc. & Acctg Simulation 2016 Ed Edition: ’16 $64.50
Accounting II With Connect Custom Pkg $124.56
2 Communications For Business I (COMM 2204) No required textbook. Only lists Reccomended $0
2 Business Computer Applications II (COMP 2209) Exploring Microsoft 2016 W/Myitlab & Ebook (365 Day) Ces Edition: 1 $98.00
2 Macroeconomics (ECON 1200) Flex Text Macroeconomics $53.46
2 General Education Elective (GNED 0000) To be determined based on course selection $0
2 Business Mathematics (MATH 1202) Texas Instruments Baii Plus Calculator $49.73
Fund Of Business Math In Canada (360 Day)W/Connect Ebook Ces Edition: 3RD $89.00
Total $1,118.58

As many individuals are working in post-secondary education in our MALAT cohort, I would be interested in discussing your perception on the use of OER in higher education. Guiding questions to start the discussion include but are not limited to:With knowledge on the benefits of OER and a better understanding of the costs for students on an individual course basis, the next research I determined that would improve my success in leading the Open at Scale – Business OER project and that I was interested in examining in more detail was faculty perception of OER. I am interested in discovering what do faculty view as positive aspects of incorporating OER into their teaching practices, what barriers do they face with using OER, and what is their current background in OER?

  • What is your current experience with OER?
  • Have you been encouraged to use OER by fellow faculty members, teaching and learning centres or administrative staff?
  • Are there specific areas of faculty adoption that I should consider?

Thank you, and I look forward to discussing further in the comments section.


Bates, T. (2016). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. British Columbia: SFU Document Solutions.

eCampusOntario. (2019, April 18). Get Involved. Retrieved April 18, 2019, from https://business.openatscale.ca/get-involved/

Common University Data Ontario (CUDO) (n.d.), 2014-15 and 2015-16. G1- First Year Average Undergrad Arts and Science, Books and Supplies, Domestic Students. Retrieved from: http://cou.on.ca/numbers/cudo/

Hilton, J. L., III., Fischer, L., Wiley, D., & William, L. (2016). Maintaining Momentum Toward Graduation: OER and the Course Throughput Rate. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning,17(6). doi:10.19173/irrodl.v17i6.2686

Jhangiani, R. S., & Jhangiani, S. (2017). Investigating the perceptions, use, and impact of open textbooks: A survey of post-secondary students in British Columbia. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i4.3012

Jhangiani, R. S. (2017, January 12). Why have students answer questions when they can write them? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://thatpsychprof.com/why-have-students-answer-questions-when-they-can-write-them/

Weller, M., de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Pitt, R., & McAndrew, P. (2016). Identifying categories of open educational resource users. In P. Blessinger & T. J. Bliss (Eds.). Open education: International perspectives in higher education (pp. 73–91). Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers

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