Faculty Feature by Dave Braunschweig, Professor, Computer Information Systems

I began the switch to using Open Educational Resources (OER) in my courses five years ago. We had an opportunity to offer a dual credit course, but the school district didn’t have a budget for new textbooks and needed a free alternative. We needed to replace the textbook in the course anyway, and this was a good reason to try using open content instead.

After developing and running the course, I discovered that student outcomes were from 10% to 20% better with the OER content than they were with the traditional textbook. More students were completing the course, they were earning higher scores on assignments and quizzes, they had comparable scores on the final exam, and they were successfully completing the corresponding industry certification exam at a higher rate.

Based on this early success, I switched other courses over from textbooks to OER content. And the pattern of success continued. Students were more successful in these courses with OER content than they were with traditional textbooks, and we started seeing higher student retention rates and better outcomes on program assessment. The results were also consistent across delivery methods, and with different instructors.

This left me wanting to switch more courses over to OER than I had time to write myself. So, I started having students write the content, with me editing their contributions. This was more successful than I could have imagined. There is something about knowing that their work will be public, and will be used by students the following semester, that brings a higher level of engagement and quality to student efforts than that produced by traditional assignments.

This past March I had an opportunity to share details of this approach in a presentation at the Illinois Community College Online (ILCCO) Growing Online Learning Conference. In short, my experience is not unique. Multiple peer-reviewed studies show students are more successful with OER-based courses, and students could save anywhere from $600 to $1200 a year if we all switched to OER. There are many sources of open content now available, and good templates to use if you want to develop your own content or have students create it themselves.

Read more about the Growing Online Learning Conference. Each of the presentations was recorded and are still available to view here.

At Harper, we are starting a community of practice that will investigate OER and current best practices for implementing OER in our courses. Learn more and join our community!