Date of Award

Winter 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership

Committee Director

Chris R. Glass

Committee Member

George Fowler

Committee Member

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

W. Preston Davis


Open Educational Resources (OER) have the potential to bridge the gap for community college students not only because they are more affordable or provide access but also because they have the potential to make learning more meaningful for these same students. Although issues related to access and affordability have been extensively researched, less is known about the ways in which OER use may impact community college students’ deep approaches to learning. More qualitative research around OER efficacy from the student perspective is needed. The purpose of this study was to describe the ways students use OER and how students’ OER use may impact their deep approaches to learning.

This study employed qualitative research methods, collecting data from focus groups composed of community college students. The major findings indicated that students use OER to relieve some of the financial stress associated with being a community college student. Students often go outside of the class environment to find OER to help them address learning preferences, diagnose and accommodate learning disabilities, remediate weak skills areas, and learn more about topics of interest. These students benefit from and sometimes participate in Open Pedagogical practices and demonstrate deep approaches to learning when they access openly licensed and freely shared OER and use OER to collaborate, peer validate, and publish work outside the class environment.

Students also benefit from strong OER design. OER are often well-sequenced, using techniques like scaffolding and chunking to move learners through material at a manageable pace for optimal learning. OER are often interactive and make use of adaptive technologies to personalize instruction and engage learners.

Presenting the students’ perspective through qualitative research is a critical component to better understanding the efficacy of OER for student learning in community college. Faculty should continue to explore OER use in their courses and should widen their traditional circles of collaboration to design their courses using OER. Community college administrators should begin to explore OER as part of their strategic plans for decreasing the financial burden of attending college for students and for increasing student learning and success at their colleges.