Does research support the use of OER?
The goals for the OER pilot align with outcomes other universities have achieved after implementing their own OER initiatives.
Reduce time to graduation and student debt.
One longitudinal study from Florida Virtual Campus between 2016-2018 found that students enroll in fewer courses per semester as the cost of required textbooks increases. By delaying their date of graduation, students take longer to complete their degree and may end up taking on more debt in total (Florida Virtual Campus, 2018). To add to this, e-book cost has risen dramatically over the last ten months as publishers take advantage of the disrupted learning environment (Price gouging from Covid: student ebooks costing up to 500% more than in print, 2021).
Improve student learning outcomes.
One reason instructors have historically shied away from OERs is the perception that they’re lower quality. However, that has been proven to not be the case. Not only do OER resources not harm student learning, but they can also lead to improved student outcomes in comparison to commercial textbooks (Jhangiani, et al., 2019).
Reduce equity gaps.
Marginalized student groups - e.g., racially marginalized, first-generation, and low-income students - experience more extreme financial insecurity and borrow at a much higher rate than their more privileged peers. (Nusbaum, Cuttler, & Swindell, 2020). The rising cost of instructional materials like textbooks and online publisher sites is a barrier to student success—especially when students are faced with making tradeoffs at the expense of their other financial obligations: food, rent, gas, medical expenses, or childcare.
Increase student retention of part-time, first, and second-year students.
Research from 2015 shows that students do as well or better in courses with OER or open access materials and there are a lower number of Drops and Withdrawals within these courses (Hilton, Fischer, Wiley and Lane, 2015). Retention between semesters is supported by Hilton et.al, but newer research about “OER at Scale” and student success metrics associated with OER further demonstrates that their use leads to student retention for part-time students, as well as an increase in retention between the first and second years (Colvard, Watson, and Park, 2018; Griffiths, Mislevy, Wang, Ball, Shear, and Desrochers, 2020).