From The Digital Reader:
A recent study has found that college students who used open educational resources (OER) in their undergraduate courses performed as well or better than those assigned commercial textbooks, even though they were also taking a heavier course load.
Campus Technology reports that researchers at Brigham Young University worked with the Michigan State Department of Education and Lumen Learning, a not-for-profit focused on the use of open courseware, to run a massive field test which covered over 16,000 college students enrolled in 15 different undergraduate courses at ten colleges and universities around the US.
The study involved 5,000 students who used open source textbooks as well as a group of more than 11,000 students who served as a control group and used commercially available textbooks. The study focused on five measures of student success: course completion, final grade, final grade of C- or higher, course load during the study, and course load in the following semester.
According to CT, the OER textbooks proved the equal of commercially published textbooks:
In the area of course completion, the researchers found “almost no significant differences” between the two groups with a couple of exceptions. In Business 110 and Biology 111 students in the OER group showed higher rates of completion than students in the control. For example, in the business class, 21 percent of commercial textbook users withdrew; in the OER group only six percent withdrew.
In the area of student achievement (passing with a C- or better grade), the outcome was mixed. In nine courses researchers saw no significant differences. In five courses, the OER users were more likely to pass the course than those in the control group. In one course, Business 110, students in the control group surpassed students using OER.
The same kind of mix surfaced in course grades. In 10 courses, researchers found no significant difference. In four courses OER students achieved higher grades; in one course, Business 110, students using commercial textbooks did better.
But wait, it gets better. The researchers also noted that students in the test group tended to carry a heavier course load than students in the control group.
. . . .
In short, the money the students were saving on textbooks was immediately used to pay the tuition for additional courses which the students went on to finish with equal or better grades than if they had been required to use commercial textbooks.
In part that is due to the open textbooks being of a similar quality, but also that students stuck with the commercial textbooks often try to complete a class without buying the textbook at all, to often negative results.
Link to the rest at The Digital Reader
PG says, at a minimum, there is no reason why any required introductory course (think Econ 101) can’t use an open source textbook identical to the one used the previous year. The basics just don’t change that often. If something does change, it’s not likely to be in the core foundation principles of a given field of study.
Kudos to BYU and Michigan State. PG proposes that any professor who wants to use a textbook that’s not open source must justify the use of the book to the Dean of whatever school the class falls under plus insert a prominent warning about the high expense of the book in the course description.
PG still remembers the feeling of being ripped off at the student bookstore.