The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether the adoption of Open Educational Resources had a significant effect on student learning outcomes in seven courses taught at seven post-secondary institutions. The use of open educational resources (OER) is increasing in the United States. Initiatives focusing on expanding the use of OER as a replacement for traditional textbooks at the post-secondary level include OpenStax, Project Kaleidoscope, Open Course Library, and others. While researchers have begun to explore OER, few have sought to evaluate the quality of OER as a function of student academic success. In this dissertation, I examined measures of student success in seven courses at seven different early-adopters of Project Kaleidoscope where faculty members chose to adopt OER to replace traditional textbooks. The sample for this study consisted of students using open textbooks in courses at seven Project Kaleidoscope post-secondary institutions, as well as a control group of students at those same institutions who used traditional textbooks in sections of the same courses. I used an ex-post-facto quasi-experimental design, in which I compared students using OER to students using traditional textbooks in comparable courses. In order to control for the threat of selection bias, I used propensity score matching (PSM) to match treatment and control groups on a set of demographic variables. After creating matched treatment and control groups, I used multiple regression and logistic regression to examine whether textbook selection predicts a measurable difference in student achievement after accounting for relevant covariates. I found that students using open textbooks earned, on average, lower grades than students who used traditional textbooks, after controlling for student-level and course-level covariates. Further analysis revealed that this negative differential was isolated to students in business and psychology classes. I also found that students who used open textbooks enrolled in more credits than students using traditional textbooks, controlling for relevant covariates. Because of the finding of a variation in textbook effect from course to course, future studies may seek to understand the effects of particular OER adoption instances rather than the global effect of OER adoption.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation



Date Submitted


Document Type





open educational resources, open textbooks, post-secondary education