by National University President Dr. David Andrews

Creating a variety of ways for students to learn a concept or master a skill is one of the core ideas behind Precision Education, a research-based initiative launched by National University. To do so, professors have to find multiple instructional resources, such as written texts, group activities, interactive games, graphical representations, videos, simulations, or others, to help students acquire the chunks of knowledge or skills that, when put together, constitute a course.

These resources are readily and freely available online, thanks to the ongoing development and increasing use of what are called Open Education Resources, or OER. The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation defines such resources as “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain, or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.” Those resources can include full courses or course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, or “any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

How Precision Education is Using Open Education Resources

As part of the Precision Education initiative, we are curating these tools and materials, identifying three to five for each “micro-competency” in a course. As of today, National University faculty already have curated more than 1,800 learning objects to teach 490 micro-competencies that will become components of 20 general education courses. The learning platform National University is creating will continuously evaluate the effectiveness of each resource in helping students reach mastery.

OER has several advantages. First, the resources are free, saving students money on textbooks. Second, they give professors more choices as to how best to teach, empowering them to edit, adapt, and customize learning materials to fit their students’ interests and needs. Third, it’s easy to eliminate learning objects that are not helpful, creating a cycle of continuous improvement.

Support for Open Education Resources

A recent survey of 400 professors at community colleges that are creating entire degree programs based on OER found strong support for the approach. Over 80 percent of those surveyed said students in OER-based classes were as engaged or more engaged, compared to those in classes taught traditionally. Seven in 10 survey respondents said they were likely to urge other faculty members to use OER. Other evidence suggests that OER leads to higher course completion rates and greater student success. Now, policy makers are taking notice. California has allocated $5 million to develop OER-based degrees. New York is investing millions as well.

It used to be that all of the content of a course was in a professor’s head or in thick textbooks. Now, content is likely to be digitized and freely available, but what is lacking is a coherent organization of these materials in ways that can enhance the student experience. Through Precision Education, we are exploring ways that students can benefit from the application of relevant OER combined with the guidance and expertise offered by faculty to create a truly personalized education experience.

Blog post written by Dr. David Andrews, President of National University. Precision Education at National University is a research-based initiative that is exploring new ways to leverage technology, open education resources, and predictive data analytics to adapt to student needs and guide them to successful completion of their academic and career goals. Learn more about precision education and the Precision Institute at National University at: https://www.nu.edu/precision