Open educational resources (OER) have taken off over the past 5-7 years. These resources, such as textbooks and academic journals, are available for free and easily accessible. Their emergence helps reduce the cost of textbooks for students, thereby increasing access to higher education. And, similar in concept to a community library with free book checkout, OER materials are also available to the public, allowing citizens to become more informed on a variety key topics.
OpenStax, developed at Rice University, is a producer of free, peer-reviewed OER textbooks for use in high enrollment introductory college classes. These required classes are the ones that typically use lengthy and expensive textbooks in order to cover all the material adequately. Once OpenStax emerged and had developed a critical mass of textbooks for classes such as Economics, History, Sociology and Psychology, I contacted them about the need for a book for the oft-required Introduction to American government class. At that time, I had students come up to me each semester who could not afford the textbook I was using and asked if I had extra copies for them to borrow.
My initial queries to OpenStax were intended to get them moving toward developing a free OER textbook, not for me personally to be involved in developing the textbook. However, when they decided to move forward, they reached out and asked me to consider taking on a role in the book’s development. My initial hope was to help with a chapter or two as one of the writers, but that changed quickly as my ideas for the chapters (and the book) became a framework of sorts. I was asked to be the “content lead” for the book and I and worked with an outstanding group at Wisewire to produce the book, including Lead Editor Dr. Sylvie Waskiewicz and Kerry Ceszyk, as well as an expert group of chapter authors who took my detailed outlines and formed them into lively chapters. The book faced peer-review three times and a careful once-through by a fact-checker. The 2nd edition will be available early in 2019. Here are links to the book and an interview I did with the OU library about OER.