Posted by: Gregory Linton | 10/30/2018

New study reveals benefits of open educational resources (OER)

A report released by U.S. PIRG in 2016 revealed that 5.2 million undergraduates spent $3 billion of their financial aid each year just on textbooks and access codes. For Pell Grant recipients, textbooks can account for up to 80% of the cost of college attendance. To counteract this, Achieving the Dream used generous grant money to initiate an OER Degree Initiative at 38 community colleges. Those colleges were tasked with developing degree pathways that would utilize only open education resources.

Recently, they released a report on the results of Year 2 of the initiative. They estimate that students at those colleges saved between $6.5 million and $12 million. In addition, students at those schools found the OER materials to be more relevant, easier to navigate, and better aligned with learning objectives than traditional textbooks. Faculty reported increased student engagement with OER materials. An additional benefit is that students have their textbook on the first day of class.

This study is especially relevant for institutions with a high percentage of low-income students. At my own institution, 48% of undergraduates are Pell Grant recipients, and 65% of students on our Kissimmee, Florida campus receive Pell Grants. To receive a Pell Grant, family income can be no higher than $50,000, and most recipients come from households with less than $20,000 in family income. Many of these students cannot and will not purchase expensive textbooks.

In my role of managing student grievances, I hear from students who have to purchase textbooks that cost $200, $300, and more, and access codes can also be very expensive. A staff member at my institution recently reported that he purchased a $200 textbook for a low-income student out of his own pocket because that student could not afford it. Affordability is a historic value of Johnson University, so I have encouraged faculty members to consider whether their textbook selections align with that value.

If you would like to begin investigating using open educational resources in your classroom, check out these websites that provide open textbooks:

Many of those textbooks also include instructor helps, such as PowerPoint slides, answers to textbook questions, test questions, etc. For those interested in free teaching materials to use in the classroom, check out these repositories:

An Internet search can also turn up materials, and the government also provides many free teaching resources.

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