Thank you sign CC BY-SA 3.0 NY

The work you do in OER matters. We can spout numbers about dollars saved and the impact on student completion and retention. But today, in honor of Open Education Week, I’d like to talk about one student. Sara (not her real name) was a student in my Survey of American Literature course in fall 2016 and she offered me permission to share her story. After graduating high school, Sara married her high school sweetheart, had their first baby and became a stay at home mom. Three kids later,  Sara and her husband decided to divorce. Faced with the prospect of supporting her children with only a high school degree, Sara decided to go to the local community college. She always dreamed of being a teacher. Due to some complications with the divorce, it was difficult for Sara to apply for financial aid. She worked two jobs to pay the tuition for her courses, but often didn’t have enough left over to afford books. She relied on the generosity of her classmates and her instructor, but always felt she was at a disadvantage to her classmates. By the time Sara arrived in my class, she was close to graduating. She had been putting off her needed literature elective because she had heard the anthologies assigned, even used, were around $100. She had no money for books and had no idea how she was going to pass a literature class if she couldn’t purchase the reading material. Sara didn’t even realize she signed up for two OER courses that semester. All of her materials were available to her for free. In her own words, Sara “flourished” in those courses. For once she didn’t have to make the choice of buying a book or providing for her children.

This semester, Sara was able to enroll in all OER courses and is on track to graduate this May. She has already been offered admission to the local four-year university and with her divorce finalized, she can finally access financial aid resources. Sara shared, “OER courses helped me tremendously. A weight was lifted off my shoulders and for me, it made the difference between quitting and graduating.”

On behalf of Sara, and the 50,000+ students the Virginia Community College System has served with OER, I want to thank you for the work you do for students. I also want to challenge you. We still have a long way to go and many more colleagues across the system to bring into the fold.

Take a few minutes this week to celebrate open education and to learn about the exciting developments that have happened over the past year.


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