Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative

The Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative seeks to boost college access and completion, particularly for underserved students, by engaging faculty in the redesign of courses and degree programs through the replacement of proprietary textbooks with open educational resources.  Over the next three years, the Open Educational Resources Degree Initiative will lay the groundwork for nationwide adoption of OER Degrees.

Recognizing the growing expertise and interest in developing OER degrees beyond US borders, the Open Educational Resources Degree Initiative invited two-year public higher education institutions and systems in the U.S. and Canada to apply for three-year grants to support the creation of new OER Degree programs.

The short term goal is to reduce costs for students and accelerate their progress through college, but an important secondary impact is to change the culture of institutions so that they create systems and structures for better connecting curriculum and pedagogy to updated student learning outcomes.

The work of selected colleges and state systems will be supported by a robust technical assistance component that will help faculty and staff re-design courses using open educational resources; opportunities to engage in a community of practice with OER experts, peers, and other resources; and research and evaluation aimed at establishing the impact of open educational resources degrees on institutions and students. The initiative provides a unique support system for colleges and faculty as they adopt a pathways approach to improving teaching and learning and seek to align curriculum and pedagogy with updated student learning outcomes.

Achieving the Dream will oversee and manage the initiative, working in partnership with several national partner organizations and a growing consortium of funders. Partners include Lumen Learning, the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER), and SRI International. 

Project Update

The project's final report March 5, 2020 webinar



The initiative—which involves 38 community colleges in 13 states —is designed to help remove financial roadblocks that can derail students’ progress and to spur other changes in teaching and learning and course design that will increase the likelihood of degree and certificate completion.Colleges and systems were selected through a competitive grant process based on their ability and capacity to implement OER degree programs, offer the full complement of degree courses quickly, or quickly scale the number of sections offered.

State Institutions
AZ (1)  Pima Community College 
CA (2)  Santa Ana College 
West Hills College Lemoore 
CT (1)  Housatonic Community College 
FL (2)  Broward College 
Florida State College at Jacksonville 
MA (1)  Bunker Hill Community College 
MD (1)  Montgomery College Foundation 
MI (1)  Bay College 
MN (3)  Distance Minnesota Consortium (Alexandria Technical and Community College, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Tech) 
NY (9)  CUNY Consortium (Borough of Manhattan Community College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College) 
SUNY Consortium (Clinton Community College, Herkimer Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, Monroe Community College, Tompkins Cortland Community College) 
NC (1)  Forsyth Technical Community College 
TX (8)  Odessa College 
Texas Consortium: Alamo Colleges (Northeast Lakeview College, Northwest Vista College, Palo Alto College, San Antonio College, St. Philip’s College), Austin Community College, San Jacinto Community College, El Paso Community College 
VA (6)  Virginia Community College Consortium (Central Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College, Lord Fairfax Community College, Mountain Empire Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, Tidewater Community College) 
WA (2)  Lake Washington Institute of Technology 
Pierce College 






















Open Educational Resources and Open Educational Resources Degrees Defined

Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

For the purposes of this initiative, Open Educational Resources Degrees are one-year or two-year postsecondary programs which are offered to students using openly licensed resources in place of proprietary textbooks.

General Information

Read the full press release here.

View the OER Degree initiative FAQs.

Lumen Learning has a new site specifically dedicated to OER Degrees. It includes links to Tidewater Community College and Northern Virginia Community Colleges' OER Degree programs, research on OER, and OER course availability about specific OER degrees.

Download a copy of the March 10 webinar slides.

Watch the March 10 webinar which reviewed expectations of participating institutions (or click on the below video).

Achieving the Dream contact for questions or general support, please email:



  • The research and evaluation of ATD’s OER Degree Initiative provided encouraging evidence regarding the academic outcomes of students who enrolled in multiple OER courses, the economic impacts for both students and institutions, and the experiences of key stakeholders. Students benefitted from unrestricted access to course content and improved course experiences, in addition to saving money that could be used towards other educational or personal expenses.

    Overall, the OER Degree Initiative offers an important demonstration of the opportunity, the task, and the challenges of a systemic approach to OER.

    View the March 5, 2020 webinar



    Resource Files

  • This report expands on last year’s report with updated course and enrollment data as well as new findings about students’ perceptions of their OER courses and the institutional costs and actual student savings of OER degree pathways. A final report in September 2019 will include findings on student and course outcome data. Here are several highlights from this report that caught our attention:

    • The Initiative has spurred significant expansion of OER courses and enrollments at participating colleges.
    • Students find OER materials more relevant, easier to navigate, and better aligned with learning objectives than traditional textbooks.
    • Faculty see increased student engagement with OER materials.
    • College leaders see OER degrees connected to other institutional strategic goals, including affordability, increased access and equity, decreased time to degree, and improved pedagogy.
    • Students realize significant savings from use of free and open course materials, savings that can help them with financial challenges that might interfere with their ability to continue and succeed in their program of study.

    Resource Files

  • This report shares findings from initial surveys and interviews, and describes emerging implications for the initiative going forward. It is intended to provide formative feedback for the OER degree grantees and to share early lessons learned with the broader community.

    The report begins with an overview of data collections conducted thus far. Findings and formative feedback follow, including: 

    • A snapshot of the early reach of the OER Degree Initiative, including a summary of participating colleges and degree plans;
    • A description of the ways in which OER programs at participating colleges have evolved leading up to the OER Degree Initiative and how they are positioned to move forward;
    • Characteristics of the first wave of instructors participating in initiative and how they got involved;
    • Data on “what it takes” to launch an OER degree pathway, looking at various steps required to facilitate course development and to put necessary supports and policies in place; and,
    • Sustainability data and observations about longer term challenges and ways in which grantees are addressing them.

    Finally, we conclude with a look ahead at upcoming research activities and the long-term goals of the OER Degree Initiative research and evaluation.

    Resource Files

    launching_oer_degree_pathways.pdf2.95 MB
  • The objective of this study is to better understand the process by which faculty members select the educational materials that they employ in their courses. The educational resource that people are most familiar with is the required textbook: faculty members select one or more books that all students are required to use through the duration of the course. Faculty also employ a wide range of other materials, some of which are supplemental or optional, and others that are required for all students. This study deals with only core (required) materials, using the following definition: Items listed in the course syllabus as required for all students, either acquired on their own or provided to all students through a materials fee; examples include printed or digital textbooks, other course-complete printed (course pack) or digital materials, or materials such as laboratory supplies In addition to examining the overall resource selection process, this study also explores two particular classes of educational materials: those classified as open educational resources (OER) and a sub-set of OER known as open textbooks.

    Most higher education faculty are unaware of open educational resources (OER) – but they are interested and some are willing to give it a try. Survey results, using responses of over 3,000 U.S. faculty, show that OER is not a driving force in the selection of materials – with the most significant barrier being the effort required to find and evaluate such materials. Use of open resources is low overall, but somewhat higher for large enrollment introductory-level courses.

    Topics covered:

    • Selecting Teaching Resources
    • Required textbooks
    • Licensing
    • Open Educational Resources
    • Barriers to OER Adoption
    • Future

    Resource Files

    openingthetextbook2016.pdf1.32 MB

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