Today we are excited to announce that Ithaka S+R is embarking on a one-year research project, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, to assess the impact and implementation of open educational resources (OER) programs at public institutions of higher education. Through the project, we will develop a framework to guide sustainable OER adoption and implementation.

At their core, OER initiatives aim to increase student learning outcomes by reducing costs. Our project aims to explore how OER strategies have evolved to meet the needs of faculty and students. In particular, we will develop a holistic framework to assess the impact of OER programs and the challenges they face, paying particular attention to faculty perspectives, student learning outcomes, and equity and digital equity.

Drawing on lessons from the broader literature on teaching and learning initiatives in higher education, the project is guided by the following research questions:

  • To what extent are postsecondary higher education institutions concerned with sustaining open education initiatives?
  • What attributes do successful OER initiatives share?
  • How can institutions move from pilot to wider adoption?
  • What factors contribute to or inhibit the sustainability of new initiatives in postsecondary institutions?

We are starting our research with a review of the literature about the implementation and sustainability of OER programs and initiatives. We will also investigate specific examples of OER initiatives in North America—and whether or not they have achieved sustainability—within individual institutions. In order to identify both the contextual differences and the commonalities across initiatives, we will also conduct in-depth case studies of four post-secondary institutions and/or public systems and carry out interviews with their key OER stakeholders.

We look forward to sharing our findings and case studies in the summer of 2024.