Just one year after the University of Missouri System reaffirmed its commitment to lowering student costs through its Affordable and Open Educational Resources (A&OER) Initiative, it has been selected as one of only nine institutions for the 2018-2019 OpenStax OER Institutional Partnership Program.
The UM System was chosen to participate in this national strategic partnership after a rigorous application process that included a demonstrated willingness to increase the use of open educational resources — low-cost or free textbooks and other educational materials. It will receive individualized consulting from OpenStax, a nonprofit educational-technology program based out of Rice University, and join a nationwide cohort of innovative institutions advocating the widespread use of OER at their schools. The 2016-2017 cohort of OpenStax Program partner schools saw a 150 percent increase in student use of OER throughout the 2017-2018 academic year, saving an additional 50,000 students $4.9 million.
Last year, and to increase the use of open educational resources, the System partnered with McGraw-Hill Education, whose extensive electronic materials have helped expand what’s available to both students and faculty. It also created a faculty-first grant program to help support the adoption or development of affordable & open educational resource materials system-wide. Through the OpenStax Program, the UM System will now have the support and guidance it needs to drive adoption of the A&OER Initiative even more.
Students across the UM System’s campuses are already seeing the real dollars the A&OER Initiative saves, which Nathan Willett, president of the Missouri Student Association at MU, calls “a win for students.” At Missouri S&T, Dr. Cesar Mendoza, associate professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, went from using a $145 textbook in his Civil Engineering 3330 class to a $35 textbook, saving his roughly 210 students per year a total of about $23,000. At UMKC, Lara Mabry, an adjunct instructor who teaches an online introduction to biology course, uses a range of OER materials in her class, including an online textbook available through OpenStax.
“Using multiple resources from videos, text-based documents, lectures and interactive learning objects to teach the course content improves the universal design of the course and ultimately enhances student learning,” says Mabry.
Not only impacting students’ ability to afford college, the UM System’s A&OER Initiative also impacts students’ ability to continue and complete coursework. UMSL has created a website that helps students and faculty understand the comprehensive value of OER and navigate their options. Beyond cost, for example, a major benefit of open educational resources is that they allow unrestricted, immediate access to learning materials, increasing the likelihood for students to complete their courses successfully. Bethany Stone, associate teaching professor in MU’s Division of Biological Sciences, says, “Students start the semester with instant access to the book, so there is no delay in learning as they purchase supplies.”
Given that traditional textbooks average somewhere between $600 and $1,400 per student each year, according to studies by the National Association of College Stores (NACS) and the College Board, expanding the use of the A&OER Initiative is one more step toward increasing accessibility and student success. The OpenStax Institutional Partnership Program will help the System meet that charge. And with its selection only one year after implementing its A&OER Initiative, the University of Missouri System proves it’s once again a national model for high quality, affordable and innovative education.