Open Education Week (March 27-31) is a celebration of the global Open Education Movement. Its goal is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. SMU Libraries are helping to celebrate this week with three brief interviews with as many Open Education experts. Today’s expert is Daniel Williamson.

Daniel is the Managing Director of OpenStax, a non-profit organization located at Rice University that provides Open Educational Resources (OERs) to student throughout the world. Daniel has spent the bulk of his professional life developing and promoting the cause of OERs and open education, and he was kind enough to answer a couple of questions from us:

1.Why are Open Educational Resources important for the future of higher education?

Higher education has an exciting future ahead of it, but it also faces some challenges. Higher education is more critical than ever however, the high cost of secondary education deters many students from attending college. Additionally, only 60% of students who attend four-year colleges graduate within six years, and less than 33% of students who attend two-year colleges graduate within three years.

Open Educational Resources (OER) not only save students money on costly textbooks, they unlock innovation in the classroom. Rather than relying upon static, copyrighted, “look but don’t touch” restricted learning resources, OER provide explicit freedoms to use, adapt, redistribute, retain and build upon existing resources. OER encourage faculty to take ownership of the content and adapt it to make it perfect for their students’ needs. OER also provide students the opportunity to legally pull content into their favorite note-taking and quizzing apps, so that the content is where they need it to be for them to succeed. Furthermore, OER enable innovators to create the next great advances in learning science applications without having to reinvent the textbook wheel.

In other words, the freedoms afforded by OER provide an exciting opportunity to improve student learning and retention of knowledge, whether the end user is a student, a teacher, or an innovator. OER immediately reduce the financial pressure on students and institutions while simultaneously offering a pathway toward increased student success through innovation.

2.Ten years from now, what is an Open Educational Resource?

I believe that OER will become pervasive over the next ten years, and will likely cover much of the content spectrum. Hopefully, people will no longer be asking, “Why should I use OER?” but rather, “Why wouldn’t I use OER?” I believe there will also be a greater wealth of materials; right now, there are only a few vetted, turnkey OER available to meet instructors’ needs.

In some respects, OER will look much the same ten years from now as it does today. Open Educational Resources will continue to be teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER will continue to include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

However, I do think the way that we use OER will change. In ten years, higher education will be less reliant upon using static textbooks as reference materials. Instead, faculty will select specific modules of content to address specific learning needs and desired outcomes. Faculty and students will also experience the open content in different adaptive learning platforms. These platforms will give OER users greater insight into a student’s current standing; it will the highlight areas in which a student is doing well, and pinpoint others where the student may want to spend extra time to improve their performance.


Thank you, Daniel! Check back Friday, March 31 when Nicole Finkbeiner of OpenStax discusses the benefits and challenges of an OER program on a college campus.