“My experience is that many faculty members are excited about the prospect of using OER but not everybody has time to go out and find them,” he said.

Bloom surveyed his colleagues in 2015 about their use of OER, finding that nearly half the respondents said they use OER for their courses.

Maricopa Community Colleges (MCC) has been a leader in the OER movement, particularly for the cost advantages it offers students. Bloom’s survey found that 62 percent of MCC’s faculty who used OER reported savings of at least $75 per student. Since 2013, MCC’s Maricopa Millions OER project has funded the development of more than 20 complete courses and saved students more than $15 million through OER and other no-cost or low-cost course materials in place of traditional textbooks.

But Bloom emphasizes that, while the savings OERs provide are important to students, “It’s also about access. When students get an online book at low- or no cost, they can get it immediately and are more likely to start reading it immediately.”

Bloom emphasized the distinction between free materials and open.

“Free is great,” he said. “But open is better because the open source licenses explicitly permit students, faculty and everyone else in the world to freely, immediately and permanently access and generate knowledge.”

Partnership is key

Enlisting the community colleges in the project provides two-way benefits, Anbar said.

“It’s valuable for them to be able to be able to partner with a research university like ASU,” he said. “And it helps us live up to ASU’s mission of universal learning: reaching as many students as we can, at all stages of work and learning and from all backgrounds, with educational and skill-building opportunities.”

Copy writer, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College