Student+Faculty Panel: Using OER with Digital Courseware to Break the Iron Triangle

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

n higher education, breaking the “iron triangle” means simultaneously reducing costs, improving the quality of learning, and operating effectively at scale. This multi-institutional panel shares perspectives from SUNY and CUNY students and faculty about using open educational resources (OER) with personalized learning courseware to break the proverbial iron triangle.


Sponsored By


Mark is currently the Library Senior Strategist in the Office of Library and Information Services at SUNY System Administration. Prior to working at the SUNY system level, Mark was Director of Library Services at Monroe Community College, and previously he worked in librarian positions at several other New York colleges and universities. Mark is an Open Education advocate and believes in the unfettered access to content for all learners. His research interests are in OER and the impact they have on learning.

Extended Abstract

The primary learning objective for this panel is to help session attendees understand how using OER with digital courseware can break the “iron triangle” of higher education and lead to a better quality of learning that is both extremely affordable and designed to operate well on a large scale. By sharing diverse perspectives from students and faculty, it will provide a nuanced understanding of how both of these stakeholders experience teaching and learning with digital courseware, and recommendations for others considering this implementation path.


Often referred to as the “iron triangle challenge” in higher education, attempts to simultaneously reduce costs while also improving the quality of student learning are often unsuccessful, particularly when implemented at scale. Combining open educational resources (OER) with next generation digital courseware holds the potential to break this iron triangle, allowing learning impact at scale, well beyond cost savings.


This panel discussion will ask faculty members and students similar questions to elicit their unique perspectives on the experience of using OER with digital courseware. The conversation centers around their use of the low-cost Waymaker OER courseware platform, which includes personalized learning tools that help students navigate OER content as they progress towards mastery. It also provides time-saving messaging tools to help faculty easily identify and help struggling students.


To provide context for the panel discussion, the moderator briefly introduces the concept of open educational resources and the learning design of Waymaker digital courseware students and faculty use to engage with OER content. Then the panel discussion asks faculty and students in turn to respond to questions such as:

  • What do you do differently to prepare for class when using digital courseware with OER?

  • How has using digital courseware designed with open educational resources (OER) impacted how you teach / learn?

  • What difference has it made to you to use affordable/low cost/free learning materials?  

  • In your experience, does this OER courseware lead to making better choices about your learning or a more effective learning experience overall? Why or why not?

  • What’s the biggest change you have noticed using this type of learning materials compared to what you’ve used in the past?

  • What advice or recommendations would you give to others who seeking approaches to help them break the iron triangle with solutions that are affordable, high quality, and work on a wide scale?

As part of the discussion, faculty panelists will incorporate results from their own research about cost savings and the impact on student success factors such as final course grades.  To further engage the audience, the moderator will open the floor for questions and discussion with panelists in dialogue about their experiences and what it means to break the iron triangle.