Open educational resources pilot saves Pacific students $110,000

Open educational resources pilot saves Pacific students $110,000

The rising cost of textbooks creates a significant additional financial burden for college students, with most textbooks averaging more than $100 per copy. At University of the Pacific, the estimated annual cost of books and supplies is over $1,900. Open Educational Resources (OER), which offer open source online textbooks and other teaching resources, either free or at a significantly reduced cost, can provide a more affordable solution for our students.

Pacific's first exploration of OER was in the form of a successful pilot study with 10 faculty members in summer 2017. With the help of $25,000 in grants from the Technology in Education Committee (TEC), and training provided by Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Library staff, participating faculty developed text and other materials during the summer and implemented them in courses during the subsequent fall and spring semesters.  

The 550 students enrolled in the courses adopting the OER materials saved a total of $110,000 on textbooks based on the cost of texts previously used in those courses. Participating faculty reported that the students were very satisfied with the materials and really appreciated the savings. Students will continue to save as the faculty continue using the OER in those courses, and two of those faculty members have since converted additional courses to OER.

Building on that success, the project was repeated in summer 2018 with 15 faculty members and an investment of $35,000 in OER grants from TEC. After just one semester, eight of the participating faculty have already reported student savings of $37,000.  

And OER offer more benefits than just savings on textbook costs. Recent studies, including a large-scale 2010-2016 study at the University of Georgia, found that OER improved end-of-course grades and decreased D, F and withdrawal rates for all students, especially among high-financial-need and underserved students. The study indicated students often would choose to take the courses without purchasing textbooks to save money, but not having adequate resources contributed to lower grades or resulted in them withdrawing from the courses.  

Another benefit is the ability of faculty members to customize materials to their desired curriculum and course sequence. Some of the Pacific faculty participating in the project indicated they often have difficulty finding texts that follow their sequence, or that are missing material they wish to cover or that have material they don't need, causing them to have to modify the materials to fit their course. Some faculty members stated there was no textbook for the course they were teaching.  

Outcomes from the pilot study varied from a completely new textbook to modular video lectures to modifications to a pre-existing open textbook to conform to the professor's style and syllabus. In some cases, the professors were able to identify open versions of a text already being used and create open syllabi with embedded course assignments. Faculty participants customized the content and sequence, adding material as needed and eliminating unused materials.  

As more faculty adopt OER for their courses, the Library is continuing to track the return on investment in the significant savings to our students, as well as to track improved academic performance. These results, along with having materials better adapted to the needs of the course, demonstrate the return on the investment of university resources and faculty time to develop and adapt materials. Providing students more affordable and appropriate textbook options supports the needs of our students and faculty and helps our students succeed.  

To find out more about the OER program at Pacific, please contact Michele Gibney ( or Tara Bunag (   

The OER Project staff would like to extend thanks to the faculty members participating in the project:  

2017 pilot group
Participants were Kenneth Day, communication; Helene Flohic and Elisa Toloba, physics; Marcos Gridi-Papp, Kirkwood Land, Geoff Lin-Cereghino and Douglas Risser, biological sciences; Jennifer Helgren, history; David Mueller, electrical and computer engineering; and Shadi Othman, bioengineering.    

2018 project participants
Participants in the second year included Gridi-Papp and Toloba, along with Sepehr Amir-Mohammadian, computer science; Laura Bathurst, anthropology; Karrigan Börk, geological and environmental sciences and law; Guillermo Barro Calvo, physics; Mary Kay Camarillo, civil engineering; Qingwen Dong, communication; Alex Dugas, mathematics; Shelly Gulati, bioengineering; Leslie Jacobs, law; Lara Killick, health, exercise and sport sciences; Cherian Mathews, electrical and computer engineering; and Ajna Rivera, biological sciences.