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A new study shows that open educational resources can help students save money, which encourages them to enroll in more classes.

The report details the results of the Open Educational Resources Degree Initiative from Achieving the Dream, a network of 277 community colleges committed to student success.

Over three years, 38 colleges across 13 states offered 6,600 OER course sections. Nearly 600 courses were redesigned to use OERs. According to Achieving the Dream, it's the largest study of how using OERs impacts colleges.

SRI Education and rpk Group studied the outcomes of this initiative and released the results Wednesday at Achieving the Dream's annual national conference.

Most importantly, the initiative was coordinated across departments in each college, according to Karen Stout, president of Achieving the Dream. It was a "whole college transformation effort," she said.

Scaling OER won't happen through heroic individual efforts, said Rebecca Griffiths, principal education researcher at SRI Education.

"It needs to be institutional," she said.

The report found that students who enrolled in OER courses earned more credits than their peers who did not take OER courses. Students also saved $10.7 million on the cost of learning materials over the time of the initiative.

Colleges also saved money, the report found. Researchers looked at five institutions and estimated they would recover their investments in OER and, in some cases, generate new revenue from the efforts.

On average, colleges spent about $70 per student on developing OERs, which mostly went toward paying faculty to develop the courses. Researchers estimated there was an average of $1.03 in gross revenue generated for every dollar spent on redesigning courses.

Students also reported higher quality of learning in OER courses, and many rated those programs higher than traditional programs on aspects like student engagement.