An important conversation in the open community is about moving the focus away from the cost argument for OER and more towards the other benefits, to avoid the new trap being set by traditional publisher. Inclusive Access programs, such as the one offered by Cengage, purport to solve the problem of textbook costs by creating a program in which institutions can sign up a whole class of students for discounted digital materials. The students then pay a fee, or have to actively withdraw from the program. This not only limits a student's choice, it also does not address barriers that OER seek to address, such as access. Once the semester ends, the student still loses access to the content. They still have to pay a fee to access the content, and if they choose not to or can't afford it, they are still at a disadvantage.
David Wiley's (Lumen Learning) blog post "If We Talked About the Internet Like We Talk About OER: The Cost Trap and Inclusive Access" discusses these issues and asks how, then, we can continue to show that OER is more than just about cost savings, but about revitalizing the educational experience for students by removing barriers and innovating in the classroom.
“The foundation of Open Education is Open Educational Resources (OER), which are teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use. Generally, this permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the resource—anytime, anywhere. “Open” permissions are typically defined in terms of the “5R’s”: users are free to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute these educational materials.” - SPARC
The University of Oklahoma University Libraries has also produced a very helpful FAQ with more information about OER.
There are a lot of things out there that are free, but that does not make them OER. Free does not equal open. To be considered OER, the material must have an open license. Open licenses enable what are called the 5R permissions:
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