Skip to main content

Open Educational Resources: An Opportunity to Enhance Student Success: Foundation Grant Final report

Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute: The Four Pillars toward course completion, improved grades, increased credit load, and overall student success. How the library can assist faculty in achieving these goals effectively and efficiently.

Foundation Grant Final report

Innovation Grant Awardee:  Siegel, Neil L.

Title: Open Educational Resource Faculty Adoption                       Department: Library

Office Telephone: 7608               Mailstop: Lib 114                           Amount Awarded: $5,000

Grant Purpose: To incentivize the adoption, adaption and creation of open and free alternatives to the publisher textbook that saves students money and thus results in students taking a greater course load thus expediting graduation, producing better class performance and enhancing the overall student experience at Truckee Meadows Community College.

Statistical Basis for Open Educational Resource Adoption:

Student Survey Results: Fall 2017

In the fall of 2017, 845 students were surveyed in the Library Commons, the student classrooms, the cafeteria and other campuses in regard to the impact of textbook costs upon their education.

43% of the students or 360 did not purchase the required textbook

37% of the students or 309 took fewer classes which greatly impacts the college’s revenue stream.

20% or 169 did not register for a specific class, which delays their graduation.

24% or 200 did not purchase the required textbook and thus earned a poor grade

10% or 85 did not purchase the text book and dropped the class

7% or 60 failed a class which meant they may have to repeat the class

25% or 210 claimed no impact, but upon reading their comments it was emphasized that family, VA, work earnings paid for the textbooks but caused severe personal spending limitations

88% of the students or 677 responded that they would prioritize taking a class that provided a free online accessible textbook.

Student Survey Results: Spring 2016: 502 students surveyed

In your academic career, has the cost of required textbooks caused you to:

49% not purchase the required textbook 

39% take fewer courses 

19% not register for a specific course 

15% earn a poor grade

 9% drop a class

 7% fail a class

21% no impact 

As an institution that recommends 5 courses per semester as a pathway to graduation, 38% of the students responded that the cost of a textbook caused them to take fewer classes and 19% responded that they did not register for a specific course due to the cost of the textbook. These are big concepts to consider as we are awarded State dollars based upon completion.

We can all speculate on the 20% who earned a poor grade, the 9.5% who ended up dropping a class and the 7% who failed a class. The issues of fewer classes taken and specific classes avoided loom largest.

Only less than a quarter of our students surveyed were not impacted by the cost of textbooks and many of them responded that scholarships, veteran benefits and financial aid covered the textbook cost.  Additionally, students in the No Impact category reported that the money they earn working covers the textbook cost, but they were not happy about the expenditure.

In addition, many students commented that faculty failed to use the required publisher textbook during the semester, thus they feel relieved when there was no impact upon their class performance by not owning the textbook and annoyed when they purchased the textbook and never/rarely needed to open it. Thus, the basis for the Innovation Grant.

Faculty Involved in the Grant Award:

Math: Dan Hooper, Jonathan Lam

Biology: Edmund Burke, Megan Lahti, Cecilla Vigil

Nutrition: Heather Graham Williams

English: Karen Wikander, Lenaya Andersen

Art History: Corina Weidinger, Connie Stathes

Business: Chantel Mathson

Breakdown By Participating Faculty:

Biology: Edmund Burke

a. materials selected to replace the publisher's textbook

OpenStax - Biology 2nd edition

OpenStax - Human Anatomy& Physiology - 2nd edition

b. # of students using the replacement material

Biology 2nd edition = 60 students

Human Anatomy& Physiology - 2nd edition = 25 students

c. # of class sections and the specific classes

Biology 2nd edition - Biol 190 sections  and 1005

Human Anatomy& Physiology - 2nd edition - section 2001/02

d. estimated savings by using OEr rather than publisher's text

Biology 2nd edition = $9,000 approx

Human Anatomy& Physiology - 2nd edition = $4,000 approx

e. Student attitudes toward the OER resources

In both classes it has been extremely positive.  Had one student tell me how incredible well laid out she thought the Biol 190 text was - very well organized.

f. your evaluation of the materials

In both cases of the OpenStax that I use there are some issues with the artwork.  Some figures are not very clear and so I use other images available through Google.  The texts however are more than sufficient and cover all of the necessary course material.

g. whether you would continue with the resource used this semester or seek other resources

Will continue to use both of these texts next semester.  Always looking out for new and improved versions though.

h. any change in student performance as a result of using OER

I have not seen any significant changes.  That itself suggests however that the expensive publishers text did no better (or worse) than the OpenStax however the students saved substantially.  It shows to me that they really don't need the expensive publisher's texts for these courses.

i. have you informed other faculty about OER and your experience.

Yes, other members of our Biology department are also switching over to OpenStax materials.

Estimated student savings: $13,000


Biology: Cecilia Vigil

a.     what materials you selected to replace a textbook

Through the use of the open stax and the tablet provided I was able to create:

·       Power points or amend those provided by Open Stax

·       Lab exercises

·       Study guides / questionnaires

·       Supportive materials: voiced over lecture power points; in-class supportive exercises

b. # of students who utilized the substitute materials

·       32 students (unfortunately I had to cancel one class) – next semester I will teach two BIOL 100, where I will continue to develop OPEN STAX materials

c. # of class sections and specific classes

·       One section of BIOL 100

d. estimated student savings by using OER

·       Approximately $250.00 -$300.00 per students – since most study materials are provided on-line.These means savings in text and printing.

e. student attitudes toward OER

·       Extremely positive. The book has not only saved them funds, it has been a great resource for not only the concepts covered during the course, but also for study materials.

f. your evaluation of the selected material

·       I am positively impressed with text, faculty and student resources. The tablet has been a technology that has facilitated the pedagogy and time and effort involved in preparing course.

g. whether you would use the current resources or seek other resources

·       It is a great reference for the students. Good visuals and solid scientifically sourced study materials – definitely will continue utilizing!

·       I would also like next semester to experiment with on-line assessments/evaluations which Open Stax also provides.

h. any change in student performance due to OER

·       Anecdotally I have to say yes. The accessibility of the text and provided materials in a time were students are accustomed to streaming movies, music, books, makes sense.

·       The group also participated in a grant that a colleague and I are working on, related to regional milkweed - their distribution and seed characteristics. This was facilitated given that having many of the materials of the course available on-line, has assisted in flipping the course, where the students come into the prepared to discuss, enhancing their understanding of competencies to be met during the course, which means they are are successful in the course; but also, to have more time to participate in extracurricular activities as is this grant.

·       I will have a survey at the end of the semester to draw more empirical data as to students performance (beyond grades), and hope to work with chair and other faculty in biology department so that we can statistically analyze OER courses versus course utilizing the traditional printed texts.

i. have you informed other faculty about OER and your experience

·       The chair of the biology department is aware; and yes, I have shared with other faculty (full and part-time) of the benefits of utilizing OER.

Estimated student savings: $8,800


Biology: Megan Lahti

a. what materials you selected to replace a textbook: We are using the OpenStax A&P textbook and the Lrnr platform for homework/quiz questions relating to the lecture material.

b. # of students who utilized the substitute materials: This fall semester, there are 57 students

c. # of class sections and specific classes: I am teaching 2 sections of BIOL 223 (Anatomy & Physiology I) this semester

d. estimated student savings by using OER: Assuming they purchase the Department adopted textbook, the savings for the 57 students range from $3,078 ($54/semester to rent) to $15,846 ($278 to purchase the text new).

e. student attitudes toward OER: Students were and are very happy to not spend money on a textbook, and they have provided very positive feedback regarding the quality of material in the OpenStax textbook.

f. your evaluation of the selected material: I too am very happy with the OpenStax text, in both the financial savings it affords students, but also the quality of the material and ease of use for students.

g. whether you would use the current resources or seek other resources: I plan on continuing use of the OpenStax A&P textbook next semester, and likely thereafter.

h. any change in student performance due to OER: I cannot specifically attribute student performance to the textbook itself, since I've overhauled many other aspects of the course, but students are maintaining engagement with the textbook as the semester progresses.

i. have you informed other faculty about OER and your experience: I am not the first in our Department to adopt an OER textbook for A&P but I have shared my use of and experience with the OpenStax book with others in the Department, for several of our courses.

Estimated student savings between owning and renting: $8,000


Dan Hooper – Math

a. MyOpenMath (free online homework system) with a free textbook

b.  between 99-132 students

c. 3-4 classes of math 126

d.  $182.75 per student  

e. Students are appreciative that I use OER. I have heard no complaints. When I had been using expensive materials, I always had 1-2 students tell me they can not afford the materials. It's nice to know that I am helping students out.

f. The material is good, but I found a better textbook for next semester. I will be adapting it for use with MyOpenMath.

g. I have already found another open source textbook that I believe is better. For the record, the one I am using is sufficient. I am confident that it provides a good-quality education.

h. Student performance seems a bit better this semester, but I'm not sure I can attribute it to OER.

i. I let my tenure committee and our chair know that I am using OER. People seem excited about it. I know that at least two other math faculty have recently adopted OER for the same course.

Estimated students savings using 120 students: $21,960


Jonathan Lam – Math

a. Calculus  1 textbook replacing the one by James Stewart

b. 60 students

c. 2 sections of Calculus: 181_1001, 181_1002

e. They like it, they said it saves them tons of money.

f. It is passable just like the other one we were using.

g. Yes I will keep using it.

h. No

i. Yes I have been.

d. estimated student savings $6,000


Corina Weidinger – Art History

a. what materials you selected to replace a textbook: mostly online websites and videos. Khan Academy is pretty good for Art History. So are some museum websites.

b. # of students who utilized the substitute materials: 90 this fall; 30 this winter; and so on

c. # of class sections and specific classes: ART 160 sections 1001, 3001, and 3002 (winter ART 160 1601)+more in spring

d. estimated student savings by using OER: the book we got rid of costs about $160

e. student attitudes toward OER: they're happy to not have to buy the book. Some said they would not have taken the class if they had to buy it.

f. your evaluation of the selected material: material was ok, not great. I could not find exactly what I wanted so I ended up writing detailed PPT files bringing all the information together.

g. whether you would use the current resources or seek other resources: Right now I would use what I found. I consider making videos of myself to add to what I currently have. I always check to see if more info is available on certain artists and works. There is no free online textbook I would use. There are some, but not good.

h. any change in student performance due to OER: can't tell yet. Performance definitely did not go down. But I need more grading to determine if it went up.

i. have you informed other faculty about OER and your experience: not as much. Haven't had the opportunity.

Estimated student savings: $19,200


Connie Stathes – Art History

a. videos on art media processes; videos on architecture, sculpture, and paintings, as well as individual reproductions; articles.

b.26 students

c.One section, Art 160 3002

d. From $176 used to $241 new.

e. very good

f.No book is perfect, and with OER, instructors can choose what they find to be the better materials. Also, OER allows instructors to change any material which students do not seem to understand as well as they might, and the change can be made the following semester, rather than having to keep a text for a year. wholesale change, but always looking for current material to add

h. this is the first semester using OER in art, but thus far,  it seems not

i. yes.

Estimated student savings: $5,421


Lenaya Andersen – English

a. I used the materials you sent me from the databases... ebooks, articles from ebsco, and a few jstor. I used the NBC assist, This American Life Podcast, documentaries from the Media Studies Collection, and Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.

b. 28 this semester, next semester it will be 56.

c. Eng 102.1008 this semester, two sections of Eng 102 next semester.

d. $96

e. They love it!

f. I will continue to use much of it, a small amount I did not love and will replace next semester

g.  A little bit of both

h. The wonderful thing about using OER is that I can tailor match the resources to the dynamic of the class. When I stumble upon a topic they seem to be particularly engaged in, I can change the readings to more appropriately match their interests. As a result, I do find increased student engagement and participation in discussions.

i. Yes, I have spoken with faculty in private conversations as well as in public, department meetings.

Estimated student savings: $2,688


Karen Wikander – English

a. materials selected to replace the publisher's textbook

27 readings: 1 JSTOR article, 4 New York Times articles, 22 short stories

b. # of students using the replacement material

10: Summer 2018; 56: Fall 2018

c. # of class sections and the specific classes

Three English 101 courses

d. estimated savings by using OER rather than publisher's text

$50 per student

e. student attitudes toward the OER resources

Students appreciate the free materials, and in the first few classes we address how to use all online resources. They have commented that it was nice to have the exact resources needed, rather than buying a textbook and not using most of it.

f. your evaluation of the materials

The material is exactly what I needed for the semester. I agree with the students that it was nice to not assign a textbook in which most of the material goes unused. The OER materials have also worked brilliantly given that I teach in the innovative classroom, so there are iPads that the students use, which means we can access the materials during class.

g. whether you would continue with the resource used this semester or seek other resources

I do plan on using most of the resources again in the spring semester, with some additions. I've been able to evaluate the student response to the material, and plan accordingly. I would like to add in some secondary resources from the library databases, to supplement the short stories.

h. any change in student performance as a result of using OER

The primary difference is that each semester I lost students because they couldn't afford the textbook. Many would need to delay textbook purchases while they waited for their finances to stabilize. By the time they could purchase the textbook, too much time had passed for them to succeed.

i. have you informed other faculty about OER and your experience.

I have talked about the success of OER at an English department meeting, and more informally with colleagues.

Estimated student savings: $3,300


Heather Graham Williams – Nutrition

  1. Selected textbook created by the Univ. of Hawaii
  2. 32 students
  3. Human Nutrition – Nutrition 121
  4. $100 purchase cost for publisher textbook
  5. Students were both positive and appreciative about escaping the textbook
  6. Most positive to the resource
  7. Will use again
  8. Used a blind test between OER and publisher text and there was no difference in grade performance except for cost to student

Estimated student savings: $3,200


Chanel Mathson – Marketing

16 students

$1,600 estimated savings


Total Estimated Student Savings: $93,169 on a $5,000 Foundation investment in our faculty to benefit our students. For every dollar the Foundation awarded to the OER grant the return was a $18.63 student savings. Wish my stocks performed as well.



On Tuesday, January 22, from 10 – 12, in a Sierra computer classroom many of the grant awardees will present further elaboration on how, or whether, free and open education resources, substituting for the publisher textbook, has benefitted our students.  Faculty involved in the grant commented that they will utilize free and open resources in future semesters and many have already advocated free and open resources to fellow faculty. 

In 2016 student government officers representing their respective populations petitioned the State Government to dedicate more resources and awareness to open education resource support.  Efforts made by the students failed to create a statewide synergy, thus stalling the transition that is sweeping colleges in our Northwest Accreditation region.  As such, efforts such as the funding of iPad and Notebook incentives for faculty involvement are paving the way to the eventuality for when widespread OER adoption/adaption/creation replaces the publisher textbook. 

At the panel forum to be held on January 22 faculty will be able to further elaborate upon: the percentage of students who utilized the open resources, their attitude toward these resources, and whether they performed as well as traditional textbooks.  To add further depth to the study, Admissions and Records may assist in creating data on whether students who participated in the Fall of 2018 OER award subsequently took more classes, earned higher grades and completed. 

There is much to examine nationwide as to the success of open education resource adoption and its benefits, process and enduring strength. This stage is just the beginning to a proactive engagement between librarians and faculty to accent student success measure across the campus with the hope that this grant will be funded once again in 2019.