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Wednesday, November 11 • 1:00pm - 1:25pm
How Does OER Efficacy Vary Based on Student Age and Course Modality? A Multi-institutional Analysis

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Open educational resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are available without access fees. Previous findings have indicated that learning outcomes are similar between OER and commercial resources (which typically require fees to access), but there is considerable variation in the findings (Clinton & Khan, 2019; Hilton, 2019). It is not well known which students in what kinds of courses may have different outcomes with OER use. The purpose of this study is to examine how OER interacts with two characteristics that are becoming more commonplace in higher education: students older than typical age and online courses (Markle, 2015; Ortagus, 2017). Students older than typical age and in online courses were of particular interest as both these characteristics are associated with lower college retention rates (Chen et al., 2020; Cochran et al., 2014; Murphy & Stewart, 2017). It was anticipated that OER would be more beneficial for students older than typical age and those enrolled in online courses due to the lower costs and flexibility afforded by OER. Students older than typical age are more likely to come from lower SES backgrounds and often have more financial responsibilities than their younger peers (Goldrick-Rab & Han, 2011). In online courses, students report using their course materials more (Cuttler, 2019) and were more likely to take advantage of potentially helpful features in their OER (e.g., animations, videos, and links; Lindshield & Adhikari, 2013).
To test these ideas, a dataset from seven public postsecondary institutions (two and four year) in Maryland with 9,475 course outcomes was analyzed. Based on multilevel modeling findings, typically-aged students had higher grades with OER whereas OER did not reliably relate to the grades of students older than typical age. This was contrary to what was anticipated, but may be due to students older than typical age viewing course materials as investments and budget accordingly (Heagney & Benson, 2017). There were no differences between students in online and face to face courses. However, students older than typical age in face to face courses with OER had greater enrollment intensity (number of credits in a term). OER was not associated with withdrawal rate, contrary to previous findings. This may be due to the low withdrawal rate (6.2%) in this dataset causing floor effects. Future directions include a need to consider instructor effects and directly hearing student voices on OER.

Learning Outcomes:
This study examined how OER adoption interacted with student age and course modality in course grades, withdrawals, and course enrollment.
An overall benefit of OER adoption was found, but was limited to typically-aged students (no difference for students older than typical age).
There was no effect of OER adoption on course withdrawal rate for any groups.
An overall benefit of OER adoption on enrollment was found, but only for students older than typical age in face to face courses.

avatar for MJ Bishop

MJ Bishop

Associate Vice Chancellor and Director William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, University System of Maryland
Dr. MJ Bishop directs the University System of Maryland’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, which was established in 2013 to enhance USM's position as a national leader in higher education transformation. The Kirwan Center conducts research on best practices, disseminates... Read More →
avatar for Virginia Clinton-Lisell

Virginia Clinton-Lisell

Assistant Professor, University of North Dakota
Dr. Virginia Clinton-Lisell began her career in education as an ESL teacher in New York City. She then obtained her PhD in Educational Psychology with a minor in Cognitive Science at the University of Minnesota where she was trained in educational research. She has published over... Read More →

Wednesday November 11, 2020 1:00pm - 1:25pm EST
Concurrent 1
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