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Digital Frontiers: SHSU Online's Trailblazing Role in the OERTX Initiative for Educational Innovation

In the summer of 2023, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) contracted with Sam Houston State University's SHSU Online department to design and build the Digital Instruction Hub for the statewide Open Educational Resources Texas Repository (OERTX). The OERTX initiative and platform aims to provide free, openly licensed educational materials to reduce the cost of higher education for Texas students and educators.

A screenshot of the OERTX Digital Instruction Hub website

The THECB chose SHSU Online for their role as a pioneer in online learning and digital instruction. The Digital Instruction Hub launched by SHSU Online now includes 100+ OER (Open Education Resources) components available for download. A video tour of the hub is provided.

The OER movement has demonstrated potential in enhancing student learning, minimizing educational debt, and fostering student success. Research at Virginia State University showed that students in courses using OER had better grades and lower failure and withdrawal rates compared to courses that did not use OER. This suggests that OER can play a crucial role in improving academic performance.

A key component of the use of OER centers on student perceptions of its impact on their academic experience. Research from the same source demonstrates that of 315 students surveyed about their perspective on the shift to OER in college-level courses, almost 95% strongly agreed or agreed that OER were easy to use. 78% of students in the study noted that OER provided access to more up-to-date material than would be available in printed textbooks. Approximately two-thirds of students strongly agreed or agreed that digital OER were more useful overall than traditional textbooks (Feldstein et al., 2012).

In a separate, large-scale study involving 21,822 students, the adoption of OER was shown to improve end-of-course grades and decrease DFW (D, F, and Withdrawal letter grades) rates for higher education students. This was particularly evident among Pell Grant recipients, part-time students, and historically underserved populations (Colvard et al., 2018). This holds tremendous promise for students in Texas, as well as SHSU learners. In AY23, over 7,200 SHSU students qualified for the Pell Grant, while 52% were considered first-generation, and 60% were considered “at risk” (SHSU Fact Book, 2023).

OER has not only been shown to support academic student success, but it can also be an instrumental tool for breaking down barriers of affordability and accessibility (Feldstein et al., 2012). The cost of textbooks is a significant burden for students, often leading them to avoid purchasing the required materials for their courses.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 in 10 students have not purchased a textbook due to its prohibitive cost, and 60% of students have delayed purchasing textbooks until they receive financial aid (Redden, 2011). By providing free, openly licensed educational materials, OER initiatives like OERTX help alleviate this financial strain. By disseminating its expertise in digital pedagogy across Texas via OERTX, SHSU Online is helping expand access to the latest instructional strategies and increase affordability and access to higher education.

The OERTX initiative demonstrates the tremendous potential of open educational resources to enhance student success while making higher education more affordable. By implementing a centralized platform of high-quality, openly licensed materials, OERTX takes a crucial step toward democratizing access to education across Texas.

The research clearly shows that utilization of OER leads to better academic outcomes, especially for underserved students. SHSU Online’s design and launch of the user-friendly Digital Instruction Hub paves the way for wider adoption of these critical resources. By continuing to contribute engaging, pedagogically sound open educational resources to OERTX, SHSU Online can play a significant role in working toward a successful future for higher education in Texas.


Colvard, N. B., Watson, C. E., & Park, H. (2018). The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276.

Feldstein, A., Martin, M., Hudson, A., Warren, K., Hilton, J., III, & Wiley, D. (2012). Open Textbooks and Increased Student Access and Outcomes. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, (2). Retrieved from

Redden, M. (2011). 7 in 10 Students Have Skipped Buying a Textbook Because of Its Cost, Survey Finds. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Sam Houston State University. (2023). Factbook. Retrieved from