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Open Educational Resources

Assessing Impact on Students

Before beginning the assessment of your OER, you should consider what factors you wish to study and what data collection method will be needed to assess those factors. For example, if your research question is...

  • How has the OER impacted student learning outcomes? Your assessment could entail pre- and post-testing of students using the OER and those using the traditional textbook and see how those compare. 
  • How has OER usage impacted student success? Your assessment could entail gathering and comparing grades from students in OER and non-OER classes. Alternatively, you could compare DFW (drop, fail, withdrawal) rates for OER and non-OER classes.
  • What do students think of the OER? How does their perception compare to commercial textbooks? Your assessment could entail a survey asking students about their perceptions of the resource.


If you are assessing your resource purely for your own purposes, you do not need to obtain IRB approval. However, if you are interested in publishing and/or presenting the outcomes of your assessment, you will likely need to apply for IRB approval. Contact VCU IRB for more information.

Assessment resources

Most research on OER impact assessed OER based on factors in the COUP Framework as set out by the Open Education Group: cost of education, student success outcomes, patterns of usage of OER, and perceptions of OER.

These resources can help faculty assess the impact of their OER usage: 

Examples of OER Research

Tracking Cost Savings

Cost savings is often an important part of calculating the impact of your resource. Cost savings, or cost avoidance, is the amount of money students will avoid spending by using your OER instead of a commercial textbook. 

To calculate cost savings, you will need to know: 

  • The number of sections using the resource
  • The number of students enrolled in those sections. Alternately, the number of students enrolled can replace these first two numbers.
  • The cost of the textbook that the OER originally replaced. Most often, the cost of purchasing a new book from the bookstore, or the list price on Amazon, is used. Some in the OER community use $100 as a standard amount for savings to account for the fact that even though a book might cost more than that, not all students would have purchased the title.


Cost Savings for 1 semester = (number of sections) x (average number of students per section) x (cost of book being replaced).


Cost Savings for 1 semester = (cost of students using the OER that semester) x (cost of book being replaced)


Add up each semester's savings for cumulative savings over time. You do not need to adjust the cost of the book, even though the price might change at the bookstore.

The OER Adoption Impact Calculator

The OER Adoption Impact Calculator allows users to estimate the impact of their OER use on both student cost savings and other relevant calculations such as course throughput rate and additional tuition revenue from increased enrollment intensity.