Leveraging Analytics to Reduce College Costs, Boost Student Success

Colleges and universities need to do more to bring down the total cost of higher education. They need to look at the total picture including living expenses, textbooks and other areas in order to help students when they are making their decision about where to attend.

In fact, according to a recent study on higher education expectations, college savings, and student debt, four in ten college students rated ‘cost’ as the most important factor they take into account when choosing where and how to pursue their education. 

This important issue has been widely acknowledged by colleges and universities, which are actively looking for affordable alternatives to traditional textbooks as a way of responding to students’ concerns. By introducing additional open educational resources (OERs) not only institutions can help students to reduce costs but can potentially boost student engagement as well as improving resource usage. 

For one, South Piedmont Community College (SPCC) recently implemented a Universal Learning solution as a way of providing affordable e-textbooks while boosting student engagement and improving resource usage. SPCC chose BibliU, a learning enablement platform that empowers higher education institutions to streamline their textbook and courseware workflows to achieve greater student outcomes, affordability, and social mobility. By introducing OERs, the college saw a 41 percent increase in their use as an alternative to traditional, costly curriculum. 

The platform gives SPCC access to data on total material costs, overall student success, and engagement with course material for the first time. This allows SPCC to leverage the analytics in order to evaluate if resources are serving students in the best possible way. After faculty and staff evaluated every single piece of course material from every class offered, SPCC brought BibliU on board as part of the college’s new Learning Reimagined initiative. This initiative builds courses for their part-time students providing affordable course materials that improve student engagement and ensure academic success.  

The initiative holistically reimagined the entire learning experience, implementing a new learning management system (LMS) as well as streamlining measures to mitigate access issues.

“Recognizing that affordability and access continued to be a challenge for most of our students, in December 2021, we embarked on a journey to [provide]dramatic change to course content,” said Dr. Maria Pharr, SPCC President.

Following the implementation, open educational resources used at the college are growing exponentially. During the spring semester 2022, only 14.7 percent of courses were employing OERs. In contrast, as of fall 2022, 35.5 percent of course sections and 20 percent of courses are using OERs; this represents a 41.7 percent increase in total courses using OERs from the previous semester.  

“As an institution that prepares students to transfer to a four-year institution or enter the workplace, we are helping students craft skills and core competencies to help them achieve their goals,” said Dr. Malinda Daniel, SPCC Executive Director of Learning Innovation.