Open Educational Resources Adopted Slowly, Report Shows

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

A recently-released report from Cengage Learning has examined open educational resources (OER) within higher education, including who makes use of the resources and why, as well as what the future holds for OER.

The report, “Open Educational Resources (OER) and the Evolving Higher Education Landscape,” interviewed over 500 OER primary adopters, supplemental adopters, and non-adopters.  Study results found that just 4% of higher education respondents use OER as primary materials.  The majority of this use is within the topic of math with 13% and computing at 11%.  Meanwhile, the lowest was found in English at 2% and psychology at 1%.

In terms of supplemental material, OER is used by 5% of respondents overall.  This includes 18% in computing, 13% in math, 8% in English, and 4% in psychology.

Survey results also suggest OER could increase to make up 12% of the primary courseware market and 19% of the supplemental adoption market within five years.

Similar results were found in a previous study from Babson Survey Research Group in 2014, which looked at the use of OER among teaching faculty.  The majority of faculty members who were not currently making use of OER, 77.5%, reported that they either expected to be using OER within the next three years or would consider using it.

Study authors state that some of this interest can be attributed to instructors who are open to the idea of using new material for course content and are willing to adopt OER in order to do so.  In addition, money from major foundations has been found to be placed in support of OER initiatives.  For example, the Hewitt Foundation has backed a total of 177 OER-related projects in K-12 as well as higher education since 2002.

The report goes on to say that institutional administrations are continuously facing pressure to decrease the cost of higher education through the adoption of OER in place of traditional published textbooks.  Recent federal and state government grants have even included requirements that state any material created with grant money needs to be open licensed.  In fact, over 35 states have already introduced grants or policy that support OER creation and implementation within higher education.

Despite this, a separate survey sponsored by the Independent College Bookstore Association found 39% of participants stating they were unaware what OER is, with another 36% admitting they knew very little about OER and had never used it.  Meanwhile, 10% had reviewed OER but decided not to use it in their classrooms, while 11% were using OER materials, and 4% were not only using OER in their classrooms but also making their own course materials available as OER.

The authors state that in order for OER to become more mainstream, it will need to be integrated with personalized and adaptive learning technologies such as assessment and analytics.  They say that content must include an instructionally designed framework in order to offer an effective learning experience.

The report continues to discuss a new offering from Cengage Learning, the MindTap online learning platform, which they say has been shown to improve student engagement and learning outcomes through various studies.  The platform is expected to offer more than 800 courses by the end of the year to offer users the ability to add any content to the existing content.