As part of the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025 to increase student success across the CSUs, the Affordable Learning Solutions program encourages faculty to use Open Educational Resources (OERs) to provide equity in access to free learning materials and remove financial barriers for students.
“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions” (UNESCO).
High textbook costs is a growing barrier to student learning, retention, and educational equity. Reducing costs not only addresses student debt concerns but also improves end-of-course grades and reduces DFW rates especially for students from historically underserved populations (Hilton, 2016). The high cost of textbooks further disproportionately affects historically marginalized student populations who are often already disadvantaged students struggling to meet Basic Needs. Basic needs include, Food, Housing, Mental Health, Transportation, Hygiene, and Financial Wellness (Wood & Ingram, 2020).
But this is beyond an affordability and cost issue. Open Educational Resources need to be social justice aligned to ensure access to an equitable education. As instructors, we should leverage CRT and OER to promote student success and equity. McCullough & Sebastian (2021) describe that "With culturally responsive teaching and open educational resources, we can open the door for more inclusive, relevant, and impactful learning" and providing an environment of learning that "...go[es] beyond the structural norms and dominant perspectives which have perpetuated inequities for decades."
"Success of social justice aligned [OER] programs can be measured not by any particular technical feature or format, but instead by the extent to which they enact redistributive justice, recognitive justice and/or representational justice" (Lambert, 2018).
The University Libraries, the Affordable Learning Subcommittee of CIC, the CSU-wide AL$ Strategy, and various partners across campus including the Pioneer Bookstore and the Office of the Online Campus, are working together to increase faculty awareness and adoption of open resources and tools (i.e. Open Access, Open Data, Open Education, Open Pedagogy). These efforts are part of ongoing campus and state efforts on affordability and access issues of course materials at CSU (i.e. Free Textbooks for New Freshmen, ASI Senate Resolution for the Encouragement of Affordable Learning Course Materials, CA Assembly Bill No.798, CA Senate Bill No. 1359).
Reducing textbooks costs improves student learning and equity. Studies show that “OER adoption does much more than simply save students money and address student debt concerns. OER improve end-of-course grades and decrease DFW (D, F, and Withdrawal letter grades) rates for all students.” (Colvard et al., 2018).
“There is strong evidence that OERs benefit learners’ engagement, as formal learners rank ‘increased interest in the subjects taught’ as the biggest impact that OER have on their learning (61.9%, n=720), followed by ‘increased enthusiasm for future study’ (60.4%, n=702); and ‘becoming interested in a wider range of subjects than before I used these resources’ (54.7%, n=637)” (Weller et al., 2015).
This directly supports the goals outlined in Cal State East Bay's Strategic Plan for Equitable Student Success, 2020-2024 for 'Persistence and Retention.' This work also aligns with CSU-wide Graduation Initiative 2025.