OER in Dual Enrollment

May 12, 2021

Blog written by: Jennifer Zinth, Zinth Consulting, LLC

The current reality in many states of flat K-12 funding – and flat (or reduced) higher education funding – poses challenges to state and local efforts to enhance dual enrollment equity, defined in Funding for Equity as when a state’s dual enrollment student population mirrors the demographic, socioeconomic and geographic diversity of the state’s overall K-12 population.

While Funding for Equity offers considerations for states to minimize (or eliminate) the equity barrier that dual enrollment tuition can create, another fiscal issue can present just as great an obstacle to equitable access and participation, even in states in which tuition is covered by an entity other than the student’s family – that of dual enrollment textbook costs.

Many states’ dual enrollment policies are silent on (or leave to local discretion) which party purchases dual enrollment textbooks – the district or high school, the postsecondary institution, the student’s family, or some combination thereof. Although passing on textbook costs to families understandably has the most direct detrimental impact on equitable dual enrollment participation, in the current fiscal environment, arrangements in which the K-12 or postsecondary partner covers textbook costs can culminate in other adverse equity implications downstream, such as reductions to the number of dual enrollment students who can be served in a given academic term, or on the number or type of dual enrollment course offerings. STEM dual enrollment course offerings may be particularly negatively impacted in today’s fiscal climate, given the data suggesting the cost of introductory textbooks in STEM disciplines typically far exceeds that of introductory textbooks for liberal arts courses.

As part of broader efforts to enhance dual enrollment equity, state and local stakeholders should explore ways to address the challenge that textbook costs pose. One potential solution, perhaps especially viable given the present economic circumstances, is the use of open educational resources (OER).

OER, openly licensed digital and other resources including college textbooks, are often available at little to no cost. While some state efforts such as Texas’ OERTX are making it easier than ever for postsecondary faculty to identify existing high-quality OER – or collaborate to develop or update OER for their courses – it’s unclear to what extent dual enrollment courses are using OER.

To explore ways of leveraging OER to enhance equity in dual enrollment access and participation, NACEP, the College in High School Alliance, the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the Open Education Network, the Southern Regional Education Board, and Zinth Consulting, LLC are partnering to develop a resource that we anticipate will serve two audiences – OER stakeholders presently not involved in dual enrollment, and dual enrollment stakeholders (including postsecondary administrators and faculty), who have not yet utilized OER in their course offerings. Our hope is that this resource will provide guidance and best practices to help dual enrollment partnerships determine whether using OER in their course offerings will broaden equitable access and participation while upholding program quality.

Join us May 26 at 2:00 pm EST for OER in Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Programs: Current Practice and Best Practice that will present early findings from a current study funded by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) to examine the current use of OERs in dual and concurrent enrollment courses, and best practices and lessons learned from states and dual enrollment partnerships pioneering these efforts.