Open Educational Resources In The Running For The Hearts & Minds Of American Faculty But Challenges Ahead, According To Study

Open Educational Resources In The Running For The Hearts & Minds Of American Faculty But Challenges Ahead, According To Study

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How is the current penetration of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the US higher education market? Which factors influence faculty choice of required course materials? What have been successful and unsuccessful strategies to increase OER penetration in campuses across America?

Write down your answers before you continue reading.

In “Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2015-16“, researchers I. Elaine Allen, Ph.D., and Jeff Seaman, Ph.D., report on the results of a 3,000 respondents survey on consumption and use of educational resources by US faculty.

Here is a list of notable takeaways from the study:

  • 90% of faculty adds new or revised material to their syllabus at least every two years.
  • 98% of courses demand a specific textbook or material to follow along. Printed material is 69% more likely to be requested.
  • Copyright-licensed content takes up 97.3% of required textbooks when they are printed, and 80.9% when digital.
  • Cost to the students is the main criteria in material selection, followed by comprehensiveness and access. This holds across all higher education levels.
  • 5.3% of courses use material with open licensing. This doubles for large enrollment introductory undergraduate courses.
  • 42% of faculty reports being at least “somewhat aware” of OER, up 8 points from a year before.
  • Most cited barriers to OER implementation are availability for a given subject, difficulty to find, lack of a comprehensive catalog and low use by peers.
  • Factors associated with material satisfaction are publisher familiarity (brand recognition), easiness to find, LMS compatibility and recommendations by peers.
  • Reported access and use of materials for copyrighted materials by traditional users is 63.2% “easy” or “very easy”, compared to 32.4% for OER.
  • 31.3% of faculty “will consider” use of OER in the future.

A section talks about OpenStax College, the Rice University OER publisher in business since 2012. Faculty aware of OpenStax are more likely to use this and other OER collections, pointing at adoption strategies to explore further. Likewise, opinions on the quality of OER, availability and modification\reuse options turn more favorable towards OER if the responden knows of OpenStax. This is compatible with the finding that branding is an important factor in material selection, independently of its license.

The study does not offer information on OER satisfaction.

Method for the study included a sample of 3,006 respondents made of higher education faculty from a commercial database by Market Data Retrieval, owners of All respondents had at least one year of teaching experience and at least half their teaching time involves in-person teaching, as opposed to online or blended offerings. The study was commissioned by Babson Survey Research Group.

The full report includes text responses by faculty and detailed charts, tables and method details. Read the 75 pages here. Or access the HTML version here.

And find earlier research in

What does this study suggest about the future of Open Source and Open Resources? Share your take in the comments!

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