June 30, 2017 11:14 am

Preliminary results from a national effort to expand community college degree programs that use open educational resources (OER) found high levels of faculty interest and engagement. OER are freely available learning materials that users can download, edit and share.
The study was released by community college reform organization Achieving the Dream (ATD). The report indicates that faculty at colleges participating in ATD’s OER Degree Initiative, including Pierce College, are changing their teaching and that students are 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.
As an early adopter of OER, Pierce College launched its first fully open degree program in 2015. Known as the Pierce Open Pathway, the program eliminates the high cost of traditional textbooks and could save students as much as $1,300 per year. The college is also in the process of developing a pre-nursing degree featuring open education resources.
"Advancing widespread adoption of OER is a key student success strategy,” says Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “OER gives all students a chance of being equally ready on day one of class and has the promise of cutting costs to students, especially when deployed in full degree pathways. Equally important, OER has the promise of improving student engagement with course materials and can re-energize faculty engagement in course design and spark more dynamic approaches to teaching.”
At Pierce College, the Pierce Open Pathway program is designed to remove financial roadblocks that have the potential to derail students’ progress and spur improvements that will increase the likelihood of degree and certificate completion.
Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative is a $9.8-million effort designed to help remove financial roadblocks that can derail students’ progress and to spur other changes that will increase the likelihood of degree and certificate completion. The initiative involves 38 community colleges in 13 states and is spurring them to build the infrastructure needed to launch OER degree programs. Thus far, the report says, 80 percent of instructors participating in the survey have been involved in introductory level courses in the program’s first year, and the initiative is on track to make OER degree programs available to a minimum of 76,000 students over a three-year period.