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Innovation and Incubator Grants from the University System of Georgia

Flipping with OERs: Increasing Learning and Engagement While Decreasing Costs

University of Georgia


Grant Type: 
Project Lead: 
C. Edward Watson, Ph.D.
Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Georgia
Other team members: 
  • Sherry Clouser, Ed.D., Assistant Director of Learning Technologies, UGA,
  • Denise Domizi, Ph.D., Coordinator of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, UGA,
  • Chase Hagood, Ph.D., Coordinator of Faculty Development and Recognition, UGA,
Project Overview: 

This project seeks to improve the quality of education in a large enrollment first or second year course while simultaneously reducing the costs students pay to participate in that course. We propose intertwining two new models to maximize learning and cost savings. "Flipping the classroom" and the adoption of free, open textbooks will be jointly integrated into this project, maximizing the synergies of co-engagement in these activities. The open textbook adoption process requires significant course redesign, and our redesign will focus on the integration of a pervasive flipped model across the entirety of the course.

Project Description: 

Impact on Completion:

Reducing costs and improving learning has the potential to positively impact matriculation and graduation rates. Student savings resulting from OER adoption could approach $200,000 every academic year, and a well-designed flipped model will increase student engagement and cognitive processing, resulting in significant learning gains.

Potential Lessons Learned:

The key expected lesson is that OER textbook adoption offers an exceptional opportunity to rethink traditional pedagogical models. Flipped classroom course development best practices will result, and a better understanding of the learning gains associated with these pedagogical practices will emerge. Savings from OER textbook adoption will be documented.

Concept Description


Our proposal targets two important themes present in the University of Georgia's Complete College Plan: the need to enhance instructional delivery and the cost of higher education. We propose a solution that intertwines two new models for learning in a way in which student learning will be maximized and student costs will be decreased, ultimately positively impacting retention and graduation rates.

First, we propose an approach that takes advantage of emerging practices commonly known as "flipping the classroom." Enhanced instructional delivery is articulated as an overt strategy in the University of Georgia's Complete College Plan, and the integration of technology-rich instructional approaches offers an opportunity to put what we empirically know about learning into practice to achieve this goal. The research question regarding active versus passive learning was answered long ago (McKeachie, Pintrich, Lin, & Smith, 1987). We know that active learning strategies produce greater learning gains, and the flipped classroom model, posited by José Bowen and others, offers pedagogy that maximizes opportunities for active learning through the innovative integration of technology and the enhancement of instructor presence throughout a course (Bowen, 2012).

From a structural perspective, flipping the classroom takes advantage of content that is openly available on the Internet, created by the instructor, and/or available through traditional channels (such as the library, readings, etc.), to provide students with opportunities to gain knowledge and increase comprehension prior to class. Class time is then freed from lecturing and is spent applying new knowledge in meaningful, active ways. One of the challenges to the flipped model is how to ensure students complete out of class content/homework engagement prior to class; however, pre-class quizzes that carry points toward the final course grade have been found to be effective motivators (Bowen, 2012). Flipping maximizes the value of class time by replacing traditional lecturing with active learning strategies that have been proven to positively impact student learning outcomes (Raths, 2014). Problem-based learning, the Socratic Method, and group learning are among the in-class pedagogical strategies available to those who have adopted this model. Flipping will be a cornerstone of our approach; however, we also envision strategies that emphasize the use of open education resources (OERs).
The narratives behind increases in the costs of higher education are well documented (CBS MoneyWatch, 2012). These increases are resulting in fiscal burdens for students that challenge their progression toward graduation. As reported in the University of Georgia's Complete College Plan, more than one-third of students who responded to the National Survey of Student Engagement in 2011 at UGA indicated that "after all financial aid is taken into consideration, [they] still have unmet financial need that makes pursuing a degree difficult." Such statistics highlight the scope of the financial challenges students collectively face. As we seek to improve graduation rates, it is imperative that colleges and universities consider a portfolio of strategies that have significant potential to positively impact the financial challenges of students. Free, open textbooks are one such option.

Our proposal, then, is to provide a single faculty member who teaches high enrollment courses with resources and incentives to support the transition from an expensive textbook to a freetextbook and other OER resources. The focus on high enrollment courses maximizes the potential collective savings available for students. As an example, a new, introductory textbook in many science courses costs approximately $150. If a single faculty member teaches two sections of 300 students in a given semester (600 students total), the potential collective cost saving for those students in a single semester is $90,000. These savings would multiply in each subsequent semester with a potential yearly savings of $180,000 for students with no additional investment of resources after the funding period concludes.

The redesign process that results from any new textbook adoption typically requires a significant restructuring of course content. Our proposal will respond to the pedagogical opportunities that are inherent to the restructuring needs required of OER textbook adoption by developing a fully instituted flipped pedagogical model practiced throughout the entirety of the course. Beyond the selection of the free, open textbook, course redesign will focus on three overarching questions: What are the out-of-class "flipped" activities/assignments? How do you motivate students to engage with / complete those activities? What are the new in-class activities that result from reclaimed class time? Through this process, the course itself will be wholly transformed, and lecturing will be minimized. Due to the number of students impacted by the selected high enrollment course, this course will significantly transform the educational experience of a large number of students each year as well.

As proposed, the budget for this project has the potential for a seven-to-one return on investment for students over the span of the first year of implementation with approximately $180,000 saved by students in textbook costs for a single high enrollment course that is offered in Fall and Spring semesters. The resulting course materials and pedagogies, as well as OER/flipped course development processes and resources, would then be shared with other institutions around the USG system. Such an approach would help further the goals of Complete College Georgia and also benefit the USG system as a whole.

Bowen, J. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
CBS MoneyWatch (2012, September 21). Why college tuition keeps rising. Retrieved from
McKeachie, W.J., Pintrich, P.R., Lin, Y., & Smith, D.A.F. (1987). Teaching and learning in the college classroom: A review of the research literature. Ann Arbor, MI: National Center for Research to Improve Post-secondary Teaching and Learning.
Raths, D. (2014, January 15). How to make the most of the flipped classroom. Campus Technology. Retrieved from Make-the-Most-of-the-Flipped-Classroom.aspx?p=1

Goals and objectives

  • Decrease financial burden on students by adapting quality OERs instead of costly
  • textbooks
  • Transform large enrollment course from a lecture model to a flipped model
  • Evaluate student learning in the flipped course
  • Develop resources to assist faculty in adapting OERs to their own needs
  • Provide an exemplary flipped OER-based course and materials for use by faculty at other USG institutions
  • Provide an evidenced-based design process that addresses active learning and OER for USG institutions for the development of OER-based courses
  • By the end of fall 2014, pre and post data will reveal student learning gains in the targeted course. Attitudinal survey results will reveal student opinions of OERs and flipped pedagogy. Within 12 months from the start of the project, we will be able to present our findings with regards to student costs/savings, learning outcomes, and faculty and student perceptions.


Project Plan


Project Plan - Major Project Phases, Activities, and Milestones
April 30th

  • Select a faculty member who is willing to both adopt a free textbook and incorporate a flipped model in fall 2014.

May 13th

  • Complete the GA hiring process for FY15.

June 30th

  • The selection of the free OER textbook will be completed.
  • Finalized course design approach (based on Fink and Bowen)
  • Submit IRB for data collection in the fall and spring

July 1st – August 8th

  • Selected faculty member works with UGA CTL team to begin the process of course redesign. Faculty member works closely with project team to choose and customize materials; update instructional approaches; refine assessments; and re-conceptualize the instructional activities within the course

Fall 2014

  • Faculty member develops and teaches flipped course in collaboration with the CTL and the GA assigned to the project
  • Project team and faculty gather data throughout semester on student performance and satisfaction

Spring 2015

  • OER adoption complete – traditional textbook no longer part of the course
  • Course revision process commences based on evaluation data
  • Second round of evaluation data collected with new student population
  • Analyze data, present findings at USG Teaching and Learning Conference
  • Make course materials available to USG system


Logic Model





Short-Term Outcomes

Long-Term Outcomes

  • Faculty member assigned to teach a large class (~300 students)
  • UGA CTL Staff members (specialists in pedagogy and methodology; learning technologies; and the scholarship of teaching and learning)
  • Doctoral student in Instructional Design program at UGA dedicated to the course redesign project
  • Free resources available online
  • Faculty member meets with CTL staff members and dedicated doctoral student to review appropriate OERs and engage in course redesign tasks, including:
  • Develop timeline for treatment of content;
  • Explore instructional methods to encourage active learning;
  • Create authentic, engaging in-class activities based on out-of-class experiences;
  • Develop, post, and organize online instructional materials;
  • Design meaningful formative and summative assessments to measure student performance in the course.


  • Newly designed course using the flipped model and incorporating the use of OERs
  • Implementation and ongoing revision /development of course throughout Fall 2014
  • Development of resources to assist faculty at UGA and beyond in the adoption and integration of OERs and flipped teaching/learning methodologies.
  • Generation of a bank of best practices for course redesign using pedagogies designed to engender active learning using the flipped classroom model and OERs.


  • Engage students with active learning methods that will positively impact their learning in the course.
  • Provide students with OERs for increased cost savings in the course.


  • Through the use of active, engaged learning methodologies employed through the flipped classroom model, provide students with optimal learning strategies that impact their scholarly habits and academic success, leading to increased retention and graduation rates.
  • Through the use of OERs, provide students with considerable cost savings, which will reduce their financial load and positively impact both retention and graduation rates.


Project Budget and Evaluation Plan


Project Budget and Evaluation

Projected budget and brief justification

20 hr/wk graduate student on assistantship (2014-2015)


July 2014 stipend for selected faculty member





The UGA CTL project staff will provide their time, leadership, and expertise as in-kind contributions to this project. Course redesign support and assistance is the key variable of success for our proposal. The majority of our funding would go to a doctoral student in instructional design at the University of Georgia. This graduate student will work closely with CTL staff and the faculty member to timeline and achieve various course development tasks, including online development, posting, and organizing of instructional materials and other course production tasks. The July 2014 stipend for the targeted faculty member is to incentivize early engagement in the course redesign process. Given the funding cycle, it is estimated that our redesign schedule will stay approximately four weeks ahead of the in-class delivery schedule during the fall. This requires that we begin work on the course at the beginning of July to build out the first few weeks of the semester to maintain our production timeline and to allow for flexibility for the faculty member during course delivery in the semester.

Consideration of potential measures or data sources for evaluation

  • Measures of cost savings for each student, for each class, and for the semester across participating classes
  • Student assessment data when using OERs compared against previous semesters/other classes not using OERs
  • Pre and post assessments to determine learning gains resulting from the instituted flipped model
  • Interviews/focus groups/surveys with students regarding their opinions of OERs and flipped pedagogy
  • Interviews with the faculty member teaching with OERs and the flipped model, gathered at various points throughout the project (development, delivery, and afterwards)