The reason sports teams switch sides at half-time has to do with ensuring both teams have an equal advantage in the event one side of the field has a higher slope than the other, or one team maybe faces the sun, or runs against the wind, and so on. This is why it is necessary to “level the playing field”.
For many low-income, minority, and part-time students the playing field may not be all that level. The cost of attending college takes a larger bite out of the low-income household budget and includes more than tuition, fees, and textbooks. Attending school part-time may mean fewer hours available for employment, increased transportation costs, child-care expenses, and more.
A recent study at the University of Georgia, Athens (UGA) looked at outcomes for students taking courses using traditional commercial textbooks versus open educational resources (OER). The study considered student income, ethnicity, gender, and full vs part-time status.
This research suggests OER is an equity strategy for higher education: providing all students with access to course materials on the first day of class serves to level the academic playing field in course settings. – Covert & Watson
Researchers, Nicholas B. Colvard (University of Georgia) and C. Edward Watson (American Association of Colleges and Universities) looked at learning outcomes for 21,822 UGA students with 10,141 enrolled in courses using OER and 11,681 using traditional commercial textbooks. While previous studies have investigated OER and student achievement, they did not break out the results by household income, ethnicity, or part-time status.
For the purposes of the UGA study, income status was described as Pell-eligible. Results of the study found students enrolled in OER sections (both Pell and non-Pell eligible students) earned significantly higher final grades. For Pell-eligible students enrolled in OER courses, however, the average final grade was significantly higher than for non-Pell in non-OER courses. Similar results were found in regards to course withdrawal and failure rates (DFW). Both Pell and non-Pell student groups using OER experienced lower DFW rates than those using commercial texts.
Both white and non-white student groups enrolled in courses using OER saw improved grades and lower DFW rates. However, in the case of part-time vs full-time, those students enrolled in OER courses showed significantly more improvement in both final grade and DFW rates than their full-time counterparts.
Admittedly, the results of this study, completed at a large research university, are not generalizable for the average community college. Nevertheless, the demographics of the students most benefiting from the use of OER in this study, matches a large percentage of the community college student demographic. These results hold promise that OER may help to level the playing field for many underrepresented students.
Covard, N. B. & Watson, C.E. (2018). The impact of Open Educational Resources on various student success metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Vol 30 No 2. http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/pdf/IJTLHE3386.pdf