Open educational resources (OER)—freely licensed, remixable learning materials, from single lessons to full textbooks—lower the overall cost of attending college, improve student retention and success, and result in more equitable outcomes. When educators offer all students in a class free materials on day one, they can help level the academic playing field. Research shows that in certain contexts in which educators provide OER, student performance gaps shrink and withdrawal rates decline. More than 3,000 faculty across the United States have signed an open textbook statement of support sponsored by Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs), pledging to consider cost in choosing course materials and to promote the use of high-quality open textbooks. But more faculty can take advantage of OER as they plan their courses. Even though 82 percent of faculty select materials for their courses, just 17 percent were “very aware” of OER in 2019–20, according to the report Digital Texts in the Time of COVID: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2020 by Julia E. Seaman and Jeff Seaman.
All types of higher education institutions should consider OER as a quality, equity, and affordability strategy as they seek to bolster their student success efforts. Effective OER initiatives do not need to be massive, resource-intensive, or exhaustive. They do, however, require strategic planning, targeted approaches, collaborative leadership, and goal-oriented advocates.