Open Education Resources Available, But Profs Don’t Know


A new report discusses the awareness and adoption of open educational resources and finds that few teacher and professors use free curriculum.

The report, “Opening the Curriculum: Open Education Resources in US Higher Education, 2014” discusses the use of open educational resources (OER) among faculty members of higher education institutions, discovering that most faculty either do not know about OER, or do not consider it when making decisions pertaining to educational materials.  Encouragingly, 75% of those who were familiar with OER rated it as being on par with or better than traditional materials.

Open educational resources are documents and other media used for teaching that are freely accessible.  Although it is typical for OER to be in an open file format, it is not a requirement.

The Hewlett Foundation defines OER as:

“Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge”

According to key findings from the report from Babson Survey Research Group, almost 75% of faculty members describe themselves as being unaware pertaining to OER.  However, after being provided with information about OER, most faculty members were willing to give it a try, meaning that it is not approached with strong opposition.

The report discovered that although a high number of faculty report being unaware, a large portion of these faculty members are actually using OER without having knowledge of doing so.  Decisions on resource adoption are made through a variety of factors, which typically do not include having prior knowledge of the licensing of the materials.

The top three barriers to OER adoption reported by faculty include the discovery and evaluation of materials, including a comprehensive catalog not being available, that material needed was too hard to find, and that not enough resources made available for each subject.  Faculty members felt that finding OER resources was “too difficult” (38%).  Similar sentiments were reported of traditional materials however, with 28% stating these were also “too difficult.”

Faculty members were also reported by chief academic officers to hold the most influence in deciding on OER adoption.  Faculty members overwhelmingly agree with this sentiment, with 91.8% saying they were the decision-makers for the use of OER in their courses.  The sentiment is also mirrored at two-year institutions, although not as highly, with only 80.5% agreeing that they are in charge of the adoption of OER.

Report authors suggest that future use of OER will increase in the next few years based on the results of the survey, with 77.5% of faculty members reporting that they either plan on using OER or are willing to consider using it in the next three years.

The survey was completed by 2,144 faculty members throughout all types of higher education institutions, including two and four-year schools, public, private non-profit, and for-profit, as well as all types of faculty (part time, full time, tenured and not).