The COUP Framework

The COUP Framework is the Open Education Group’s approach to studying the impact of open educational resources (like open textbooks) and open pedagogy in secondary and post-secondary education. COUP stands for:

  • Cost
  • Outcomes
  • Usage
  • Perceptions

Cost. The adoption of Open Educational Resources can impact a range of financial and cost metrics for students and institutions. Proponents of OER frequently claim that using these resources instead of traditional publisher textbooks or digital materials will save students money in the post-secondary context and will save organizations money in the K-12 context. There may also be other financial impacts, like changes in bookstore revenues and tuition revenues. The Cost strand of our work provides empirical evidence about the magnitude and direction of the financial impacts of OER adoption:

  • Costs of textbooks previous assigned
  • OER support fee models
  • Changes in campus bookstore revenue
  • Changes in tuition revenue due to changes in drop rates
  • Changes in tuition revenue due to changes in enrollment intensity
  • Changes in tuition revenue due to changes in persistence
  • Changes in access to performance-based funding due to changes in drop, enrollment intensity, and persistence

Outcomes. Given the folk wisdom that “you get what you pay for,” some individuals and organizations worry that student learning will necessarily suffer when students use freely available, openly licensed resources instead of $200 textbooks. OER proponents claim that using these resources instead of traditional publisher textbooks or digital materials increases student access to critical learning materials and expands faculty’s academic freedom, consequently improving student learning outcomes. The Outcomes strand of our work provides empirical evidence about the magnitude and direction of the learning impacts of OER adoption:

  • Changes in the percentage of students receiving a C or better
  • Changes in rates of completion
  • Changes in drop rates
  • Changes in enrollment intensity
  • Changes in persistence
  • Changes in attainment of progress milestones (e.g., first 15 credits)
  • Changes in graduation rates

Usage. The permissions provided by open licenses allow students to use OER in a range of novel ways – for example, updating a history textbook based on recent events. Likewise, the permissions provided by open licenses allow teachers to engage in new pedagogical practices. Proponents of OER frequently claim that improvements in student learning outcomes will be highly correlated with the degree to which students and faculty exercise the permissions offered by OER. The Usage strand of our work provides empirical evidence about the ways faculty and students use OER and the the degree to which impacts on learning outcomes covary with these uses. We operationalize the idea of ‘exercising the permissions granted by open licenses’ by determining the degree to which students and faculty engage in activities described in the DIME model of OER adaptation:

  • Deleting material from the OER
  • Inserting other open material inside the OER
  • Moving material around within the OER
  • Editing material in the OER

Perceptions. What do faculty and students think about, and feel toward, Open Educational Resources? How do they judge their effectiveness relative to traditional textbooks? Their rigor and coverage? Do they find the formats, structures, and other design features easy to use? Frustrating? What about other stakeholders, like parents or policy makers – what are their thoughts and feelings toward OER? The Perceptions strand of our work provides empirical answers to these questions.