Use this play to:

Develop a plan for how you will measure progress towards goals, informed by existing tools like the OER Adoption Research Guidebook to ensure you’re measuring in ways that help you understand overall impact.

Note: Asterisk denotes this is a proven, high-impact play.

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Running the Play

This play is meant to spur ideas for how individual faculty members and those who support them (e.g., librarians, instructional designers, etc.) can research the effect of their adoption of open educational resources (OER). Clearly educational research is a challenging enterprise; this guidebook is not meant to replace the substantive courses and experiences that a PhD in educational research would provide. Rather, our hope is to provide some straightforward suggestions that could be implemented by OER adopters so as to help them identify what has happened as a result of their OER adoption.

The Open Education Group has devised a helpful framework for distilling some of the most effective characteristics for measuring OER impact. They constitute the COUP framework (Costs, Outcomes, Uses, and Perceptions). Consider these when designing your research project:

Costs. One of the principle reasons for adopting OER is that it saves students—and those who support them—a considerable amount of money. The following two approaches can help you measure the amount of money saved by your OER adoption. Research questions to consider:

  • How much money was saved by this OER adoption?

Outcomes. While saving money is important, the majority of teachers are most concerned about the educational outcomes attained by their students. In this section we outline three studies you could do to measure the impact of OER adoption on student outcomes. Research questions to consider:

  • How do students’ final grades differ when faculty assign OER instead of commercial textbooks?
  • How do Course Throughput Rates change when faculty assign OER instead of commercial textbooks or digital content as the required materials for a course?
  • How do students’ enrollment intensity (number of credits taken) and semester-to-semester persistence change when faculty assign OER instead of commercial textbooks or digital content as the required materials for a course?

Uses. Historically the “use” aspect of OER has been the least studied. “Use” has at least two meanings. First, it can be viewed how students use the OER. Is student use of OER different than that of traditional materials? A second aspect of use concerns how students and teachers utilize the additional legal freedoms that OER provides. For example, OER allow teachers to remix two different pieces of OER to create a new and improved resource. Do teachers actually “use” this right? These are the types of issues that we now examine. Research questions to consider:

  • How does student use of resources differ between traditional learning resources and OER?
  • To what extent (if any) are faculty and students utilizing the legal permissions facilitated by OER?

Perceptions. Measuring student and teacher perceptions of OER is relatively straightforward and valuable. Those who actively use OER may be in the best position to judge its value. The following four approaches can help you measure how students and faculty perceive the OER that they have utilized. Research questions to consider:

  • How do students perceive the quality of the OER?
  • How do faculty perceive the quality of the OER?
  • How do faculty perceive the OER?

There are far more details available in the OER Research Guide. There are also survey instruments and other tools freely available and openly licensed on the Open Education Group’s website. Additionally, the Open Education Group is also happy to partner with you on your OER research projects. Please contact them at if we can be of service.

Helpful Resources

    • Helpful research toolkit outlining research approaches, design and methodology, and tools developed by the Open Education Group to measure effectiveness and outcomes of OER adoption
      • A guidebook full of ideas for how faculty and researchers can measure and quantify the effectiveness of OER adoption

Attributions: Photo by Robert Wiedemann on Unsplash