Save Students $1 Billion

As the Open Education Conference approaches this October, it’s time to look back and respond to the challenge we issued five years ago: has the OER movement saved students more than $1 billion worldwide? Read on for how to participate!

At the 2013 Open Education Conference in Park City, Utah, a dozen leaders of OER projects got up on stage to announce the movement had collectively saved students $100 million. We then issued a bold challenge to make that $1 billion in student savings by 2018.

As the Open Education Conference approaches this October, it’s time to look back and respond to the challenge we issued five years ago: has the OER movement saved students more than $1 billion worldwide?

SPARC is spearheading an effort to document enrollment data for OER use in place of traditional textbooks over time, with the goal of showing $1 billion saved.

We are calling on open education practitioners from all fields—professors, librarians, content creators, and administrators—to report information for this project. Read on for more information!

Explainer Icon

Can we track $1 billion in savings?

In 2013, we issued a challenge to save students $1 billion by 2018. Now we're seeking the OER community's help to document cases where OER is used in place of traditional textbook to prove we've done it. Read on for more information on how to be a part of this important effort!

Submit Data

  • Everyone: Anyone who is interested in contributing OER enrollment data to this project can sign up using this form. We’ll follow up with more details on how to submit your data and, if relevant, how to represent the savings given your context. The deadline to submit data is September 20.
  • Connect OER Participants: If your institution participates in SPARC’s Connect OER platform, student savings data for this project can be submitted through the Annual Impact Report function. For more information on how to get started, please visit the relevant section of our FAQ.

Who Can Help?

Deadline: September 20

  • Educators: Individual educators are welcome to report student enrollment data based on their own teaching. Please provide the total number of student enrollments in courses where you assigned OER in place of a traditional textbook, broken down by academic year (and institution, if multiple).
  • Institutions: If you have data on OER use at a specific institution or group of institutions you work with, we welcome you to report the top-level data of the total number of student enrollments in courses where you assigned OER in place of a traditional textbook, broken down by academic year and institution. We do not need more granular data up front, but may follow up with you to identify potential areas of duplication if we receive multiple reports from your institution. We’ve created a sample tracking form.
  • Content Providers: OER content providers often have data on where their resources have been used, which can be very valuable for this type of project. Please contact us to discuss what kind of data you have, and under what terms you would be willing to share it with SPARC for the purposes of this project. The basic data we need are student enrollments in courses using OER in place of traditional textbooks broken down by institution and academic year. More granular data would be helpful for identifying duplicates, but not required.
  • Other: None of the categories above describe you but you would be interested in contributing to this effort, please contact us! We’d be happy to discuss ways to get involved.

Methodology

The goal of this project is to collect documentation of $1 billion in student savings through the use of OER worldwide. While we believe the actual total of student savings is well above $1 billion, estimating the exact total would be difficult given the widespread use of OER. Instead, our mission is to gather data to show that at least $1 billion has been saved.

We are seeking help from the community to collect information on OER use in their context. Specifically, we are looking to track the number of student enrollments who have been assigned OER in place of traditional textbooks oveer time. Put more precisely, we are looking for the sum total of the enrollment in courses that — in a world where OER did not exist — would have been using a taditional textbook.

Example: A professor switched to OER five years ago in a class that has enrolled 100 students per semester since then, then the total student enrollments would total 1,000 (100 students x 2 semesters per year x 5 years).

To calculate savings, we will multiply the enrollment data by a standard average student savings number for each country and education sector converted to U.S. Dollars. In 2013, the majority of the student enrollments documented were in North American higher education, and we used a standard average savings of U.S. $100. We will use an updated figure this year. For OER used outside North American higher education, we will work with each source of data to establish a locally relevant standard savings estimate (and recognize in some contexts savings may accrue to those purchasing materials on behalf of students, such as taxpayers or parents).

We will collect data on OER enrollment nationally and internationally, broken down by institution or school and academic year. We will not require participants to submit granular data on specific courses, except in cases where we receive multiple reports for a single institution in order to eliminate potential duplication. Where it is not possible to rule out potential duplication, we will take the highest number reported for each institution.

Click here to sign up to submit data. Data can also be submitted through SPARC’s Connect OER platform for participating institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

What Counts As Using OER?

The goal of this project is to document $1 billion in student savings through the use of OER worldwide. The data we are looking to collect is the enrollment numbers over time for courses that use OER instead of traditional textbooks. Student enrollments will then be multiplied by average savings estimates to produce a total savings number.

For the purposes of this project, we define “courses using OER instead of traditional textbooks” as courses (at any level of education) where students are assigned OER as the primary instructional material and which—in a world where OER did not exist—would have likely been assigned a traditional textbook instead. In most cases, this will simply be courses where the professor or school has switched from traditional textbooks to OER.

  • Include all classes that use OER as the primary instructional material, including if there are non-open resources assigned so long as OER is the primary material. For example, include cases where there are compilations of resources that include free and library licensed resources, so long as OER makes up the majority. Also include cases where there is OER assigned alongside other supplemental resources such as homework software (including proprietary or paid resources), so long as the OER would be considered the primary instructional material for the course.
  • Exclude classes that use OER as only a secondary or optional instructional material. This would mean excluding cases where compilations of resources include only a small amount of OER (even if the end result is free to students), or if OER is provided as an optional alternative to a traditionally published resource. Also exclude courses that do not assign any materials at all, or that are known not to have assigned any materials before starting to use OER.

If you have questions about what to include or exclude, feel free to contact us. We understand that campuses may track their numbers differently locally, including the methodology for calculating savings. The data we are collecting is not meant to replace local efforts, but simply provide a way of tracking impact apples-to-apples.

Contact

Mo Nyamweya, Open Education Coordinator
mo@sparcopen.org

Learn more about our work