VCU faculty share benefits of open teaching materials in series of articles

February 17, 2022

High textbook costs negatively impact students’ academic experiences, from how many and which classes to take to how well they do in those classes. Some students simply do not buy texts. The diverse VCU student body is composed of many students who are disproportionately impacted by textbook costs, such as first-generation students, Pell-eligible students and those from historically underrepresented backgrounds. 

Many VCU faculty recognize the burden that textbook costs place on their students and have begun shifting to more affordable options to help ensure students can succeed in their classes. One of these affordable options are Open Educational Resources (OER), which are freely accessible teaching materials that allow for unrestricted use, sharing and editing. 

VCU faculty have a rich history of using, customizing, and creating OER, and the “Why We Choose Open: OER Stories” series aims to highlight these efforts. Each article features an interview with a VCU faculty member who has used, customized or created OER, allowing them to:

  • tell the story first-hand of why they switched to open course content;
  • share their experiences in transforming their course or creating or customizing a resource; and
  • detail how the new resources have impacted them, their teaching philosophies and their students. 

Each article includes a link to the resource to further showcase VCU-created content to the wider world.

While affordability underscores almost every post as an initial motivator, the interviews show a wider impact of the switch to open. Faculty share how their transition to OER has enabled new international collaborations, increased flexibility and control over content, heightened reach and impact of resources, offered new opportunities for publications and presentations, local and national recognition and awards, new opportunities for co-creation and collaboration with students as well as other benefits.

The article series is coordinated by Open Educational Resources Librarian Jessica Kirschner. “I’m excited to be able to add this series to VCU Libraries’ advocacy and outreach efforts around textbook affordability,” says Kirschner. “Previously, I could share the negatives of the current system or hypothetical benefits of a switch to open. I can focus on measurable impacts to students, namely cost savings. By allowing faculty to tell their own stories, I can go beyond numbers and can highlight deeper benefits of OER that may otherwise go overlooked, including the positive impact on the faculty creators themselves.” 

Articles in the series to date:

The “Why We Choose Open: OER Stories” series is just a small part of VCU Libraries’ efforts to support textbook affordability efforts throughout the VCU community. This year, VCU Libraries’ also joins others around the world in celebrating Open Education Week on March 7-11, a time to learn about open education and share the latest achievements in Open Education.   

Share your “OER Story”

The interview series “Why We Choose Open: OER Stories” invites VCU community members to share why they use, adapt or create Open Educational Resources (OER) and what impact that work has on their students, teaching experiences, and/or career. Would you like to share the story of your switch to OER? Please contact Jessica Kirschner at

Open Education beyond Open Education Week

Open Education Week is an opportunity to learn about open education and to create connections across and between communities who are engaged with open education. But this engagement can continue year round through VCU Libraries’ Open and Affordable Course Content Initiative. This initiative provides education on open education and textbook affordability and direct support for the adoption, customization, and creation of open educational resources, including managing the Affordable Course Content Awards. To learn more or explore the possibility of using or creating OER, visit the initiative’s website or contact Jessica Kirschner, Open Educational Resources Librarian, at

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