Access and achievement: The growing momentum of OER
While many in higher education have long seen the potential of open educational resources (OER), the process of acceptance and integration into the academic mainstream has been slow. However, the movement is growing. More schools and systems are making investments in OER, and faculty are starting to see its value — both in terms of students purchasing their assigned course materials and the success they see in the classroom.
Ensuring that students get the course materials they need is an ever-increasing challenge. In a recent survey by the Babson Research Group, only one-third of faculty members said that 90 percent or more of their students purchase all the necessary materials for their course. Other research from the student perspective backs that up: about 67 percent of new college or university students chose not to buy their course materials due to the cost, according to the Florida State Textbook survey.
Students are not alone in their concerns about affordability: only 22 percent of faculty in the Babson survey were very satisfied with the cost of the course materials they adopted. These numbers point to a difficult and unsustainable situation — and help explain the changing attitudes around OER. The survey also indicated that a majority of faculty (71 percent) preferred or were neutral about digital course materials. Moreover, they consistently referred to OER as a means of reducing costs to students.
Cost is a key part of the OER equation — and one already delivering results. A recent SRI Education survey indicated that students using OER materials saved between 5-22 percent of annual student textbook costs. But another part of the equation is student success. OER offers greater opportunities to keep students engaged and help them learn in different and more effective ways. In the same survey, 84 percent of faculty members reported that students using OER in the courses they taught demonstrated the same or higher level of engagement as students using traditional course materials.
Barnes & Noble Education’s LoudCloud OER Courseware solution addresses these issues by providing faculty with accessible and affordable learning solutions that empower student success. Faculty using OER Courseware share similar feedback from their experiences with the platform, which offers digital course content, including videos, activities and auto-graded practice assessments that make it simple for faculty to customize and align with class objectives.
Increasing Student Engagement
At Penn State Altoona, students demonstrated significant improvement when Lynn Nagle introduced OER Courseware to her Psych 100 course. In a recent exam, the 30 students who were completely up to date with the Courseware program, emerged as the highest performers in the class. “Of that group, 63 percent of them scored an A on the exam, 20 percent earned a B and 17 percent earned a C — no student fully utilizing the Courseware scored below a C,” she notes. To compare, Nagel looked at students who used the Courseware the least, and found they completed a quarter of the expected content or less. “That’s 17 of my 76 students; and only four of them, very regular with class attendance and participation, scored in the B range on the exam,” she says. “There were two Cs among them, and the rest were Ds or Fs.”
In a recent interview with NEXT, Dr. Dan Krane, Vice President of Faculty at Wright State University and Professor of Biological Sciences, found the LoudCloud OER Courseware platform easy to adopt, and the additional capabilities that it offers, key to his students’ engagement with the course. “The weekly on-line quizzes have allowed me to seriously engage students from the very start of the course, rather than have them just check in a few days before each of the exams,” he says.
As OER continues to show measurable improvements in student savings and performance in the classroom, acceptance will continue to grow on campuses across the nation — among students and faculty. Through partnerships with companies, such as Barnes and Noble Education, OER and other digital learning tools will allow colleges and universities to recognize and respond to the rapid evolution of student learning. Over time, this ability to adapt could become a matter of success or failure both for students and for schools.