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Great news! OER courses can boost engagement

A two-year study reveals that instructors found OER materials helped them make positive changes to their teaching

More than 60 percent of students in the participating community colleges say they experienced a higher-quality learning experience in an OER (open educational resources) course compared to a typical course, according to a new study of 38 community colleges across 13 states.

The two-year study, conducted by SRI International and rpk GROUP and released by Achieving the Dream (ATD), is among the first to examine the direct costs to institutions for supporting broad expansion of OER and degree pathways, and the direct cost for implementing OER degrees is roughly $500,000 per institution over two years.

Creating OER courses and degrees is often time-consuming, but instructors in several community colleges said they changed their instruction as a direct result of working with the open materials.

Using OER materials helped the instructors align materials better with learning goals, and instructors who were already using student-centered and hands-on learning strategies said the materials helped them enhance their practices.

Related: OER can lower the cost of higher ed-but only if 4 steps are taken

Some instructors also saw students engaging more with the materials than with textbooks, possibly because they are more relevant and students can be involved in creating their learning experience.

“The study indicates that, based on two years of implementation across scores of colleges, OER can be an important tool in helping more students—and particularly low-income and underrepresented students—afford college, engage actively in their learning, persist in their studies, and ultimately complete,” says Dr. Karen A Stout, ATD president.

“Data show that even using the most conservative estimates, cost savings are significant and that OER content plays a role in helping strengthen instruction and learning across not just a few courses but entire degree pathways.”

Students saved between $66 and $121 per course, with the lower number based on a detailed calculation for determining savings that takes into account students’ typical purchasing behavior. That amounts to, at minimum, $6.5 million net savings to students across 32 institutions in just two years.

Low-income students are using these resources to cover college tuition, personal expenses like rent and child care, learning materials, and courses that can help them stay in school.

Laura Ascione

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