There is a movement sweeping across the country to help save students money. Textbooks are a huge part of the cost of attending college, with the average two-year college student spending just under $1,400 a year for books and supplies.
Achieving the Dream (ATD), a national nonprofit focused on improving student success in college, launched an Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative in which 38 community colleges across the nation are creating full degree programs that use solely OER. This initiative began in 2016, and will be in full swing by fall of 2018. There will be at least 53 various degrees offered, and ATD estimates that students are already saving around $134 per course.
There has been movement started here in Minnesota as well. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system received a grant from the state legislature to begin to implement OER. The program began in 2015, and preliminary reports are showing annual student savings of over $220,000 in total.
Start with General Education Classes to Maximize Return
A recent news story in EdSurge reported that colleges are having success when they start their OER programs with general education courses. Michael Mills, the vice president at Montgomery College, told EdSurge that they chose general studies as their OER major because it benefits the most students and they hope to use it as a foundation to build on other degrees. Many other colleges in the initiative are doing the same thing.
Help Faculty Find the Resources
The largest obstacle cited by professors is finding the time and resources to locate and vet OER content. A majority of the professors participating stated that it takes at least one and a half times as much time as a traditional course to develop an OER course. Quality of OER materials came up as the most important criteria when choosing products. What this has shown us is that it is important to engage faculty that already have online teaching experience or have advanced knowledge in digital literacy. Some colleges have assigned campus librarians the task for creating OER committees that can help be a resource for faculty on their campus.
Institutional Support is Key
For OERS to take off on a campus you need to gain support from the leadership of the institution. Karen Stout, president and CEO of ATD, says that the campuses doing the best at OER implementation are those with buy-in from the top.