OER Awareness: A National Survey

Posted by: Kate Forrester

The Babson Survey Research Group’s recent report on the understanding and awareness of OER among faculty makes for some eye-opening reading.

In this survey of over 2,000 instructors across the country, only 2.7% reported “student cost” as an important consideration when choosing educational materials. Instead, “proven efficacy”(59.6%) and “trusted quality” (50.1%) vastly overshadow the student’s bank account.

Babson Survey_1

Equally concerning is the finding that almost two thirds of faculty are either completely unaware of OER, or have heard of it but don’t know too much about its meaning. The report highlights an ongoing ambiguity surrounding how faculty understand, define and interpret the term “Open Educational Resources.” This indicates that while faculty understand and appreciate the concepts of OER (such as open licensing, free reuse and remixing) there is a fundamental disconnect between these attributes and the actual term “OER.”

The perceived barriers to adopting OER remain consistent with earlier findings. The time and effort needed to find and evaluate resources is cited as the biggest issue, with a lack of coherent catalogs making OER discoverability the prime deterrent for many. Yet this does come with the caveat that faculty see substantial barriers in adopting any new teaching resource into the curriculum, whether it’s OER or a more traditional textbook.

 Among faculty who reported an awareness of OER, an encouraging 79% said they use it in some capacity, and surprisingly one third of faculty who initially claimed to be unaware of OER also reported using it. This mystifying statistic once again underlines a sense of faculty uncertainty regarding what “OER” actually means.

In terms of the perceived quality of open material, there were more positive findings. Among faculty able to judge OER against traditional resources, almost three-quarters considered OER to be either the same or of better quality.

Babson_OER quality

As the survey draws to a close, there is a promising indication that the use of OER has the potential to expand greatly over the next three years. When faculty members not currently using open educational resources were asked if they expected to use them within this time frame, a majority of 77.5% reported that they either expected to or would consider the possibility.

The findings of this report reveal precisely where OER advocates need to focus their attention. Primarily, there needs to be a greater consciousness of student cost when faculty are in the process of making decisions about adopting new course material. Coupled with this, the survey suggests an immediate need to both address the ongoing concerns surrounding OER discoverability, and to make a clear effort in cultivating and disseminating a more comprehensive understanding of the term “OER.”