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Published August 7, 2018

Lowering the cost of higher education

The benefits of open educational resources

Sam Abramovich, assistant professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction and the Department of Library and Information Studies, is the director of the Graduate School of Education’s Open Education Research Lab. The core mission of the lab is to actively engage and support the study of the State University of New York open education efforts.

“Open educational resources are educational resources that are similar to any other, such as textbooks, presentations and assessments, but are free to use by anyone for any purpose,” said Abramovich. “But what makes an educational resource ‘open’ is that it is licensed to not only be free, but it can also be modified or changed by anyone, and then redistributed afterward.”

The University at Buffalo has aligned with the SUNY-wide state effort to enhance and extend the use of these open educational resources. The New York State budget has allocated $16 million for these resources in the last two years, with a portion of that funding GSE’s Open Education Research Lab’s mission to study the use of open or free educational materials that can be downloaded, edited or shared.

In addition to lowering the cost of higher education, another benefit of open educational resources is the flexibility to update educational materials, as needed. “If a professor found a good open textbook but it had some out-of-date information, they can change it and then share the newly updated version,” said Abramovich. “This is especially critical in subjects that are rapidly changing.”

The Open Educational Research Lab has the ambitious goal of studying SUNY’s system-wide open education efforts and then making learned lessons available to all. The lab will study how to improve open education technology and practices, and help SUNY educators develop better ways to use this technology.

“Having free textbooks is already a tremendous benefit for college students. It’s especially important for anyone who is receiving student loans or paying for college while paying other bills,” said Abramovich. “But open educational resources is more than just distributing free books and online materials.”

Related benefits to open educational resources include technologies such as a micro-credential system that offers proof of learning, and massive online open courses for non-traditional students. “There are so many interesting and effective uses of open education technology in SUNY,” said Abramovich. “But we need better ways to understand what those are.”

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