Community Colleges in Achieving the Dream’s Open Educational Resource Degree Initiative Report Progress Spreading OER, Plan for the Future

Silver Spring, MD (April 3, 2018) -- The 38 community colleges in Achieving the Dream’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative have cumulatively created more than 650 new OER-based courses and 52 degree pathways as they conclude the initiative’s second year of establishing OER as a powerful student success strategy in the community college sector.

The OER Degree Initiative, begun in 2016, is a $9.8-million effort designed to help remove financial roadblocks that can derail students’ progress by ensuring all students have the same no-cost resources available to them on the first day of class. Five funders are supporting the OER Degree Initiative and related research: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, the Shelter Hill Foundation, and the Speedwell Foundation.

The colleges are gathering for their annual meeting April 3-5, 2018 in Miami to share progress and discuss next steps in spreading OER and OER degrees on their campuses and to other institutions. ATD’s President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout will give the keynote address, OER: The Student Success Multiplier Effect.

OER Degree Initiative partners Lumen Learning, SRI Education, rpkGROUP, and Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources also will make presentations. Representatives from Florida community colleges including Broward College, Florida State College at Jacksonville, and Miami Dade College will describe the status of OER in Florida and identify state-level challenges and opportunities for OER.

Achieving the Dream’s Dr. Stout has noted OER’s promise, borne out by evaluation research, of improving student engagement with course material, increasing faculty engagement in course design, and sparking more dynamic approaches to teaching. A formative study, Launching OER Degree Pathways: An Early Snapshot of Achieving the Dream's OER Degree Initiative and Emerging Lessons, conducted by SRI Education and the rpkGROUP and released in July 2017 indicated that faculty at colleges participating in ATD’s OER Degree Initiative were changing their teaching and that students were at least as or more engaged using OER courses than students in non-OER classrooms.

Eighty-four percent of faculty members surveyed said that students in the new OER courses had the same or a higher level of engagement with the learning materials as compared to courses they have taught using traditional course materials. Meanwhile, faculty with experience in using OER who received assistance from technology specialists and librarians in developing their courses, were most likely to report changes in their teaching, the report says.

In September, Bunker Hill Community College President Dr. Pam Eddinger and Odessa College President Dr. Gregory Williams joined Dr. Stout in speaking to an audience of 30 Congressional staff members plus higher education policymakers and OER supporters at a briefing on Capitol Hill to explain OER’s impact on community college student success. The presidents explained their colleges’ experiences using OER to save their students money, keep them on track to graduate, and improve teaching. At Odessa College, the boom and bust cycle of the local Texas economy meant textbook costs often posed a significant challenge for many students, so the college decided to convert all sections of its 42 core associate degree courses to OER. At Bunker Hill Community College, OER is used to support culturally relevant teaching and community-based learning. The flexibility of OER allows faculty to customize their course materials to reflect students’ diverse backgrounds and interests.

Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 220 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing academic achievement gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with more than 100 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 40 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students.

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