BISMARCK -- In conjunction with Open Education Week, the North Dakota University System will hold an open education resources conference on Friday, March 6, at the Holiday Inn in Fargo, the university system announced Monday, Jan. 6.

The full-day program will include an overview of open education resources at a national level, a panel of representatives from UND, Mayville State University and Valley City State University who have implemented OERs, and research conducted by UND professor, Virginia Clinton, regarding the effects of using open textbooks and student learning outcomes.

Open educational resources, also known as OER and sometimes referred to as open-access resources, allow students to save money on textbooks through a free online textbook.

A 2018 state audit report showed an increase in classes using the online resources exclusively from 2014 to 2017. In the fall of 2014, nine classes used the open education resources, that number increased to more than 200 in fall 2017, the Herald previously published.

That report had estimated the use of open education resources had saved students between $1.1 million and $2.4 million.

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Clinton told the Herald during a 2018 interview that students spend a significant amount of money on books, sometimes more than they pay in rent. Some students would have to wait to purchase a book until their financial aid kicked in or they needed the money for other expenses. Not having the textbook can put a student behind from the get-go and potentially hurt their grades, she said.

“I think a lot of times people have this idea that college students are very privileged. They just need to ask mom or dad for a few more bucks, but that’s not the case,” she said at the time.

Lisa Johnson, the university system’s vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said conference attendees will be “instrumental in shaping the future” of OER in North Dakota.

“Adoption of OERs is gaining tremendous momentum not just in our state but throughout the country,” Johnson said in a statement. “Open education resources support the creative potential of innovative faculty and reduce the financial burden to students.”

Attendees can choose from a number of afternoon breakout sessions focusing on the OER perspective of faculty and students. Conference participants also will be able to learn what options are available using OER in general education courses or Z degrees.

The conference will conclude with a discussion led by Johnson that will focus on the next steps for OER leadership in the university system. The full program information is linked here. Registration link is here.