Faculty Advocate for OER As Movement Grows

December 13, 2017




The recent decision to invest $8 million to provide open educational resources (OER) to students at New York’s SUNY and CUNY colleges, signals a shift in the acceptance of OER in higher education. New York is not alone. Similar programs at Cal State and Georgia’s Affordable Learning Georgia system demonstrate a growing movement, capitalizing on early pilot programs and early adopter tests to firmly establish OER into the academic mainstream.


Classroom Tested

With increased availability and familiarity, faculty are feeling more confident about open learning resources. In a recent SRI Education survey, 84 percent of faculty members reported students in courses they taught, using OER, had the same or higher level of engagement as students using traditional course materials. That same survey also suggested that savings to students using OER materials averaged $134 per course, or between 5-22 percent of annual student textbook costs. “The conversation has always been about affordability,” says Brigid O’Reilly, On-Boarding/Sales Operations Manager, Digital Content for LoudCloud, a Barnes & Noble Education company.


Working with faculty on training and support for the LoudCloud OER platform, O’Reilly is experiencing, first hand, faculty’s fears and expectations. “I’m hearing conversations where faculty say their students won’t get the textbook or buy the big publisher platform — so they’re grateful they’ve found this product that will give their students access at a nominal fee,” she says. “Now, their students aren’t enrolling in their classes without first buying the course material.”


That preparedness is having a positive effect on students’ academic success. At Penn State Altoona, pupils demonstrated significant improvement when Lynn Nagle introduced OER 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, having 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 additional capabilities OER 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.


Introducing OER has also given Dr. Krane clearer insights in identifying his at-risk students earlier in the course. “With the analytics we’ve been experimenting with LoudCloud this year, we can, for the first-time, take steps to help students succeed — even before they have a poor performance on an exam to drag down their grade and, even better, before they even start the course,” he says. “It’s particularly important because they’re getting the support and insights they need — as they need it — and what’s remarkable is that those students participating in these special recitations are now performing at a level that is comparable to the very least at-risk students.”


Sign of the Times

The momentum OER is now achieving on college campuses is no accident, as LoudCloud’s O’Reilly points out. “Although there are faculty who are passionate about OER and have prior experience with it, a lot of the momentum is coming from the top down,” she says. “And while faculty have freedom to make their own decisions, there’s real pressure from administrators to start making more affordable decisions.”


Indeed, research indicates that more than 7 in 10 instructors (71 percent) say they are very, or somewhat, likely to promote use of OER to colleagues, but the advantages OER can bring might also reflect the way the students themselves increasingly want to learn. “Things are moving very quickly,” Dr. Krane points out. “They need information differently. They want it in the blink of an eye. We need to be able to respond to that and deliver the information quickly and, in a way that makes sense to them — and that’s what the platform can provide.”



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