Open Education Week 2024 and OERizona

Published March 6, 2024
Updated March 8, 2024

March 4th to March 8th is Open Education Week, a global celebration of the open education (OE) movement and open educational resources (OER). 

What is OER? Simply put, instructors design open educational resources to be used free of charge for teaching and learning. OER content is growing quickly, encompassing everything from textbooks to tests to course modules. If you want to know more about open education, ASU Library offers a helpful guide with resources for instructors and students.

Educators around the world are sponsoring events in recognition of Open Education Week. Last week, I attended the 2024 Arizona Regional OER Conference, hosted by the Maricopa Community College District and Yavapai College. The conference was organized by OERizona Network, a community of Arizona professionals seeking to make educational materials more accessible and equitable with OER.

Screenshot of OASIS home page, an online OER database
OASIS, an online OER database

During the conference, I learned a lot about the state of open education in Arizona. Here are my five key takeaways:

  1. Open educational resources maintain the same quality standards as commercial counterparts. Unfortunately, many educators mistakenly believe that OER lack quality control because they are available at no cost. As John Doherty of Northern Arizona University pointed out, many open educational resources are only published after a rigorous peer review process. And some popular open textbooks, like John McMurry’s Organic Chemistry: A Tenth Edition, originated from major presses.
  2. Adopting OER empowers educators and learners. Throughout the conference, I listened to stories of how open education is positively impacting Arizona’s institutions of higher education. Faculty praised the customizability of OER materials, while students highlighted the increased affordability of textbooks. At Eastern Arizona College alone, students saved around $44,000 after a one-year OER initiative.
  3. The open education movement is evolving with technology. In her keynote session, Jennryn Wetzler of Creative Commons noted many of the challenges posed by artificial intelligence, such as erosion of privacy through non-consensual data harvesting. But she also highlighted the potential for artificial intelligence to transform education. The sentiment was echoed by others on an emerging technology panel, who discussed how artificial intelligence and extended reality might be applied to open pedagogy.
  4. Libraries provide crucial support to open education initiatives. During a librarian panel, I listened to individuals from Mohave Community College, Yavapai College, Coconino Community College, and Eastern Arizona College discuss their strategies to promote OER. They mentioned customizing materials to meet students' needs, building relationships with instructors, and leveraging library resources, like LibGuides and collections, to support OER implementation. To collect and share these efforts, a group of Arizona librarians have formed a community of practice on the OER Commons.
  5. More OER materials are available than ever, if you know where to look. OASIS is an OER database developed by SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library, containing over 450,000 records, including textbooks, audiobooks, courses, videos, podcasts, and much more. Openverse, a library of stock photos, images, and audio, contains more than 700 million works available for free. OpenStax offers a vast collection of free textbooks. Other excellent resources include Open Textbook Library, Pressbooks Directory, and Maricopa Open Digital Press

The OERizona Conference demonstrates the amazing growth of the open education movement. However, there is a long way to go before education is open and accessible for everyone. If you are interested in getting involved with open education in Arizona, consider joining the OERizona Network’s community email. Also, check out the OERizona shared repository on OER Commons for a starter kit, multidisciplinary communities of practice, and curated collections.