Reviewed and/or Updated on: January 29, 2020

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Educational Resources are teaching and learning resources (e.g., textbooks, powerpoint slides, activities, assessments, etc.) that are openly licensed and free to use. These resources can be adopted and used in the classroom as is or modified as needed to best fit the learning outcomes of a course.

These open resources are critically important for advancing student success and closing equity gaps across student groups. Textbook costs have risen at approximately three times the national inflation rate (GAO Report to Congressional Committees on College Textbooks 2013), and these rising costs influence student decisions and subsequent performance in courses. For instance, 67% of post-secondary students did not purchase the required textbook for at least one of their courses, and students withdrew from and decided not to register for courses due to textbook costs (Florida Student Textbook Survey 2016). Students who enroll in courses that have OER textbooks have higher course grades on average compared with students in courses that have traditional textbooks, and these increases in student performance are more pronounced for Pell recipients, minority students, and part-time students (Colvard, Watson & Park 2018).

Upcoming OER Professional Development Opportunities

  • March 17-18, 2020: "E"ffordability Summit at UW Stout
  • April 24, 2020: WTCS Create Fest for Medical Terminology OER at FVTC
    • Faculty and Staff from all Wisconsin Technical Colleges are invited to attend the Medical Terminology Create Fest to collaborate and create new free or low-cost resources for medical terminology students. Lunch will be provided!
    • 9am-4pm in room E130 at the FVTC Appleton Campus

WTCS resources to support OER innovation:

Within the WTCS, we strive to transform the delivery of postsecondary education and training to advance the success of our students. This goal includes maintaining affordable education for our students using innovative strategies, including the development and use of Open Educational Resources. To achieve these goals, the WTCS provides OER resources and funding opportunities to our colleges as well as a platform for sharing and collaboration of OER best practices across colleges. In addition, through the Community for Open Wisconsin we work with our K-12 and post-secondary partners to enhance OER access and use across our state.

The WTCS has two grant categories that can be used to create and develop new OER resources and textbooks for programs. Both the Perkins Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs grant and the Core Industry state grant can be leveraged for OER creation and development.

Our national partner, Achieving the Dream has implemented an OER Degree Initiative to assess the effects of providing open textbooks and resources in college classrooms. This project involves 38 community colleges in 13 states, and results from the second year indicate that open resources provided significant cost savings for students ($66-$121 per course on average), and students tended to invest these savings in their education (tuition and fees). The key challenges in adopting OER included faculty engagement and the costs of implementing OER courses, which averaged $11,700 and $18,200 per course for single-instructor and collaborative multiple-instructor courses, respectively.

OER Repositories

  • WISC-ONLINE is a non-profit organization based at FVTC that provides open educational programs, objects, videos, tutorials, games, and in 2020 they are releasing open virtual reality scenarios!
  • WISELearn Resources Library is a OER Commons repository for OER used in Wisconsin's K-12 schools, and the College and Lifelong Learning group allows for collaboration and sharing of post-secondary resources for WTCS, WAICU, and UWS. 
  • Skills Commons Repository provides OER for career and technical education and workforce development
  • LibreTexts provides a collection of open resources and allows for easy remixing of content to create new resources that are tailored to best fit your needs
  • OpenStax provides open textbooks for general education courses and they have a 'Institutional Partnership Program' for colleges who are interested in training and guidance in OER
  • Open Textbook Library provides a library of open textbooks with comprehensive faculty reviews.

Other Resources

OER Best Practices

  • Transparency and student engagement
    • Label courses as OER in the course catalog for registration and educate advisors about OER
    • Get students involved: (1) solicit student input and feedback for OER course design and (2) deploy a multifaceted approach to communicating about OER to students (‘free the textbook’ rally, OER t-shirts, presentations, press releases, etc.)
  • Provide faculty supports for OER
    • Faculty training in finding, adopting, adapting, and creating OER (e.g., OER training in FQAS courses)
    • Support from the library (copyright clearance, vetting, finding OER, etc.), IT, instructional designers, and education technology experts
    • Create OER learning communities and communities of practice to engage faculty, provide support, and enhance collaboration of OER efforts
    • Provide faculty incentives (e.g., release time, stipends, performance evaluation criteria) for developing open courses
  • Alignment
    • Align OER with the college’s strategic directions and initiatives
    • Develop an OER culture (e.g., student-centered teaching practices, emphasis on college affordability, culture of collaboration and sharing resources)
  • Measure and quantify OER use
    • Track OER metrics (number of open courses, OER student savings, number of faculty who use OER, OER course evaluations from students, student testimonies and feedback about OER, etc.)
    • Set quantifiable goals for OER adoption (e.g., OER adoption in all general education courses by 2022, adoption of OER in at least 10 courses in each career cluster by 2025, creating 5 Z-degrees by 2025, etc.)



Date Modified

File Type

Affordable and Open Educational Practices Scale of Adoption Assessment 04/29/20 PDF File
User Guide to OER 04/29/20 PDF File
WTCS OER Playbook 03/19/20 PDF File