#OpenEd18: Retention and Completion: A Side-by-side Comparison of OER vs. Publisher Content in Four Courses

#OpenEd18: Retention and Completion: A Side-by-side Comparison of OER vs. Publisher Content in Four Courses

This was another research presentation. Diane Ryan, an academic dean from Tidewater Community College shared her dissertation results. It focused on the retention and completion results of four courses using open educational resources.

The study began with large sections of students for four different classes (Applied Calculus, Introduction to Psychology, Western Civilization, and Introduction to Communication). The sections were split into two sections each and students were randomly assigned. One section (treatment) used OER materials, the control section used non-OER materials. Non-OER students received the publisher access code for free as a way to control for a cost variable. The same instructor taught both sections of a course. All students completed a final exam for their course.


The OER courses had a lower drop and withdrawal rate compared to the non-OER courses. Additionally, the OER had a higher success rate than the non-OER courses at a “C” or better. This result was significant.


There were a number of themes that emerged from this research:

  • Even though students had access codes for publisher material, there was a problem with access.
  • Students preferred the OER material because the materials were streamlined. The materials did not have a lot of fluff.
  • The OER content was very flexible in that faculty could adjust it to make it more relevant to the students.
  • It took more time to prepare OER content for the course.
  • While commercial content is high quality, it is not very adaptable.

I enjoyed hearing about this study because the controls that were put in place. This demonstrated how OER content would compare to non-OER materials when costs were not a factor.

Additional Reading

Stan Skrabut, Ed.D.

Stan is Director of Technology-Enhanced Instruction. He has over 20 years experience working as an instructional technologist and trainer. He has a master’s degree in computing technology in education and a doctorate in education specializing in instructional technology.

Twitter LinkedIn Google+ YouTube Skype 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *