Sep 21 2017

OER Materials Drive Student Engagement and Savings, Study Finds

College faculty report that students are seeing benefits of digital texts.

There’s been quite a lot of buzz about open educational resources, or OER, in recent years. These open-source, digital materials have even gotten some backing from the U.S. Department of Education: To boost access to works funded by federal competitive grants, the department is requiring that they be openly licensed by fiscal year 2018.

With even the highest level of education policymakers backing OER, it’s clear that these materials can have a big impact, especially as students seek to use their mobile devices more for education.

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OER Offers Accessible, Cheap Education Tools

With almost 1.5 million college students expected to save $145 million this academic year using the Rice University–based OpenStax OER publisher alone, it’s clear that these materials have the power to save students a lot of money.

Just going digital with textbooks has helped save students at Indiana University $3 million each year. With many OER texts available for free, that savings could skyrocket. A yearlong study of national OER initiatives found that on average students saved about $134 per course or 5 to 22 percent of the annual student textbook cost.

With about 81 percent of students using mobile devices for coursework and college students indicating that mobile apps are key to their success, digital resources are tapping into a platform that students already rely on.

As Indiana University discovered with its digital text program, using digital resources also helps students be more prepared from the first day of class, even if they can’t afford a hard copy of the text. Also, with open-source materials, even students without a mobile device can access and print a copy of the text on a campus computer.

“OER gives all students a chance of being equally ready on day one of class and has the promise of cutting costs to students, especially when deployed in full degree pathways,” says Karen A. Stout, the president of the community college reform organization Achieving the Dream, which sponsored the OER study.

According to the study, 84 percent of faculty indicate that students were equally and sometimes more engaged in courses that used OER. With further research and backing from the Education Department, resources will likely continue to improve and drive engagement.

“OER has the promise of improving student engagement with course materials and can re-energize faculty engagement in course design and spark more dynamic approaches to teaching,” says Stout.

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