5 OER and Student Success

5. Student Success

Affordability is a critical component in equitable access, success and outcomes for students of color, non-traditional in age or family, ability and geographic situation. Research also indicates the importance of student support services alongside interventions that help students navigate campus, implement techniques to deal with challenges outside of school and learn strategies and work through social emotional needs. Even if a student’s financial needs are met, there still can be significant barriers that stand in the way of persistence and completion. Colorado Department of Higher Education’s Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (Links to an external site.) (COSI) team published a postsecondary support guidebook which provides guidance to campus leaders and administrators to create such programs. The guidebook includes step-by-step instructions to setting up a support program or coaching model, with a recommended ratio of one counselor to 150 students. Additionally, the guidebooks include supplemental resources and curriculum to be shared widely and adopted by all.

The University of Georgia Study

In July 2018, a large-scale study (Links to an external site.) was published that examined the impact of OER on student success metrics. The study evaluated the academic performance of 22,137 students in nine different courses at the University of Georgia. Each of these courses was taught by a professor who switched from a commercial textbook costing $100 or more to a free, open textbook from OpenStax.

Key Findings

The results demonstrate that OER adoption does much more than save students money. OER also impact student learning, completion, and attainment gaps by improving end-of-course grades and decreasing DFW (D, F, and Withdrawal letter grades) rates. More specifically:

  • OER improve end-of-course grades for all students
  • OER improve course grades at greater rates for non-white and Pell-eligible students, part-time students, and populations historically underserved by higher education
  • OER decrease DFW rates for all students
  • OER decrease DFW rates at greater rates for non-white and Pell-eligible students, part-time students, and populations historically underserved by higher education

Data on course grades and DFW rates, described in link below

Accessible text equivalent of data table

Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC, noted that “the most important finding of this study is that it directly links OER with equity. The greatest gains from using OER accrued to the students most likely to be underserved for traditional models” (McKenzie, 2018 (Links to an external site.)).

Suggested Additional Learning

The 2018 COLTT Conference (Links to an external site.) keynote from Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, “Serving Access, Equity, and Innovation through Open Educational Practices”, highlights how open education supports pursuits in social justice.

Colvard, N., Watson, C. E., & Park, H. (2018). The impact of open educational resources on various student success metrics (Links to an external site.). International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2).

Data table graphic: “Choosing to Create an Equity-Minded College? The Case for Open Education and Zero Textbook Cost Degrees” by James Glapa-Grossklag, licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Links to an external site.)

McKenzie, L. (2018, July 16). Free digital textbooks vs. purchased commercial textbooks (Links to an external site.).

Rajiv Jhangiani: 2018 COLTT Conference (Links to an external site.) Keynote.


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OER Subject Librarian Toolkit Copyright © by Jennifer Beamer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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