Wednesday, October 11, 2017

OER, Publishers, and Libraries

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The website Inside Higher Education featured a story yesterday about how Cengage is moving to support OER with its new OpenNow service. Very interesting - especially how they are offering value-added services on top of the OER content to
create “value-added digital solutions that help institutions use OER to its best advantage.”. Of course, their "open" solution contains a lot of ifs. IF you want to use content on your own platform, it is supposed to be free. If you want to make use of their frameworks, it will be $25/student/course , which is reminiscent (if less expensive than) the course codes and, going even further back, the CDs and DVD's that shipped with their texts and had to be purchased with each book.

Of course, the publisers are looking at this as another opportunity to find revenue where they expected to find none. But be very cautious when you consider this. What resources are you being asked to pay for? Are you paying for course structures and frameworks? Test banks from other texts? Are they resources that were repurposed from their original content?  Are you paying for content that you might already be paying for somewhere else? 

This last question is where your library comes in. Libraries license a lot of online content from publishers like Cengage, EBSCO, Elsevier, and others. This content comes as collections of ebooks, article databases, reference content, and in other forms. Your library pays for its institutional users to access and use these materials pretty much 24/7/365, anywhere our users are and in ways that make sense to their own circumstances. Given that we are already licensing these products, and paying for the right to use them as freely as we can (obviously, limits exist, and they vary between publishers), it does not make sense to pay for them in some other way - by marketing to a different set of people on our campuses, and trusting to our usual information silos to hope that one hand doesn't know what the other hand is spending money on.

What I am suggesting is simple. Check out OER resources, and use what makes sense o you and your circumstances. And take a look at what the publishers are offering; ask lots of questions, and make sure that you understand what you are getting. But talk to your librarians, too, and make sure you don't commit to a product or service that w may already be receiving. Let's work together to make sure that our students have access to quality resources in as cost-effective a way as possible.

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