Will OER Breathe New Life Into Higher Education? – O'Donnell Learn

Will OER Breathe New Life Into Higher Education?

Published by Joana Jebsen
on Jan 24, 2020

Lowering the cost of required course materials and textbooks has been the goal from the beginning of the open educational resources (OER) movement. But with OER moving more mainstream, are we seeing other benefits as well?

“OER Embrace” (Inside Higher Ed, September, 2019) shared that early data among some California community colleges suggests increased student success. Consider the following stats:

Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) courses saw grades 3% greater than traditional courses overall, with an 11% decrease in failing grades and a 7% increase in “A” grades.

In this same article, Mindy Boland, director of OER services for the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) states, “Often what happens is faculty using

OER in their courses have a much deeper connection with the content they’re using. They’ve actually really taken the time to develop a course specifically for their learners.”

OER advocates at Boise State University (Boise State) agree, seeing OER as a “boon for faculty” and adding “a diversity of voices to the canon and more flexibility in course design.” Rob Nyland, eCampus Center research and innovation team manager at Boise State indicates that “Faculty members can customize them [OER], blend resources from many sources and teach the classes they want to teach.”

James Glapa-Grossklag, a dean at College of the Canyons, concurs with Boland’s and Nyland’s views, “We hear again and again and again from our grantee colleges that their instructors are thrilled to be able to select, revise and share instructional materials freely and legally,” he said. “Feedback from their students about these materials is not only that they’re grateful for the price barrier to have been removed but also that they feel that the course materials have been designed specifically for them.” (OER Embraced, Inside Higher Ed, September, 2019)

Could what started as a movement to make higher education more affordable and more accessible also be the key to unlocking greater student retention? Think about it. Reduced costs, increased faculty and student engagement all work against some of the prime factors causing the decrease in retention rates in Higher Ed.

So, given its many benefits, how widespread is OER? When O’Donnell Learn (ODL) talked to over 170 higher ed leaders in 2019 as part of a research study to better understand nationwide learning design initiatives, we found that many schools are involved in or planning OER initiatives.

We also heard that one of the big challenges with OER adoption (and other learning design initiatives) is the ability to implement it, to find and work with willing faculty, and then to keep the momentum going and scale across disciplines, departments, schools, campuses, even.

What began as a movement to make higher education more affordable and more accessible might just be what breathes new life into the future of higher education as well.

That’s why ODL is excited to be part of the conversation of how to help jumpstart OER initiatives. Our solutions help institutions build capacity without creating expensive overhead, while also helping accelerate the time-to-launch (and to scale) strategic learning transformations.

Additional Reading about our new partner PanOpen: Houston Community College System Partners With panOpen To Expand OER Usage Across All Campuses “The introduction of the panOpen platform means that faculty throughout HCCS will have greater options for robust and fully supported tools to aid in their use of OER.”

Joana Jebsen is the President of O’Donnell Learn, a leading learning experience (LX) design firm dedicated to helping learners achieve their goals and flourish in life. ODL is passionate about partnering with institutions and their faculty to deliver learner-centered design and innovation.


Purposeful Learning DesignTM – Why People are at the Center of Everything We Do

Published By Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 15, 2021

I’m often asked why our company is so good at collaborating with  faculty. The first time I heard this question, I didn’t realize clients found this unique to O’Donnell Learn. We’ve always been great partners  because people are at the heart of everything we do. In fact, our entire design philosophy - Purposeful Learning DesignTM - is anchored around people.  It starts with this truth: learning is for people. As such, learning design should be grounded in empathy and it should promote success for both learners and faculty. Purposeful Learning Design is the philosophy we embrace to ensure we never lose sight of this truth. It is comprised of six key considerations.

2020 Reflective: Breathe Deep and Stay Agile

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Dec 22, 2020

While end-of-year survey results are still to come for how enrolled students are evaluating their 2020 college experience, I queried two of our staff, both students, about their overall experience and considered how these compared to what I was seeing with O’Donnell Learn clients. Kellie, our graphic design intern, just completed her Associates Degree in Graphic design. Prior to 2020, all of her courses met on campus. Cathryn, a Learning Design Associate is currently enrolled in an online Master of Education program in eLearning and Instructional Design. As this program was conceived as online delivery, it serves as a benchmark to compare against courses that were forced by COVID to switch delivery modes.

Evolving Our Project Management to Advance Client Results

Published By Craig Leonard
on Dec 16, 2020

If you were to talk to anyone in our organization, you’d quickly discover that we are all truly passionate about learning. So much so, that always learning is one of our core values. Learning from our successes, failures and each other is integral to how we operate and how we’ve grown into the agile company we are today.