New study explores how open educational resources transform teaching & learning

By Dr. Richard Sebastian, director of open & digital learning

Open educational resources (OER) are freely available, open-source learning materials that can be downloaded, edited, and shared to serve all students. Using OER in higher education makes college courses not only more affordable for students, but more personalized, dynamic, and responsive to their lived experiences.

Based on promising findings from the multiyear OER Degree Initiative, ATD and SRI Education have conducted a study to examine whether the use of OER can transform teaching and learning and how open content can enable more equitable, culturally responsive teaching practices.

Teaching and Learning with Open Educational Resources presents the findings from this study. It is the first report of its kind to look extensively at how instructors are using OER to advance equity in the classroom.

Download the report While a growing body of literature documents the benefits of converting courses to use OER, there is little research available that examines what teaching practice looks like in the OER classroom and how it affects students. Teaching and Learning with OER addresses the urgent need to better understand how the use of OER can support educational equity, particularly in educational settings that serve historically marginalized student populations.

The report identifies five dimensions of open education and culturally responsive teaching:

  • Study agency and ownership, or the extent to which the course and positions students as leaders of their learning
  • Inclusive content, or how the instructor brings in diverse perspectives and tailors the content to students’ backgrounds
  • Collaborative knowledge generation, or how students apply/develop new theories or contribute to “renewable” or generative assignments.
  • Critical consciousness, or how the instructor provides students with real-world assignments, decolonizes the curriculum, and addresses power imbalances
  • Classroom culture, or how the instructor cultivates strong relationships and an inclusive environment

The study is based on interviews with faculty and administrators, student focus groups and course observations at eight community colleges, and is a careful examination of teaching practice among committed OER users and technology-oriented faculty members. The report examines the extent to which these faculty members are addressing key domains of OER-based, student-centered, and culturally responsive teaching and what resources their home institutions provide to support them

This study also offers a framework to guide educators in operationalizing the dimensions of open and culturally relevant teaching practices to deepen student engagement and to improve student outcomes. As colleges seek to transform teaching in ways that will lead to more equitable outcomes for racially minoritized and poverty-impacted students, the Teaching and Learning with OER report aims to show that OER can be a powerful lever for transforming the classroom and the institution.

ATD also announced that it has received an additional OER grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for $800,000 to partner with SRI and the Tennessee Board of Regents to study open and culturally responsive teaching in the classrooms of OER grantees. This new study will allow ATD and SRI Education to develop a well-defined set of practices that help researchers analyze how culturally responsive teaching impacts students’ experiences in the classroom and their learning outcomes.

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