OpenEd21: OER Awareness and Adoption Trends in US Higher Education through COVID-19

5 min read

OpenEd21 is happening this week and instead of tweeting I am blogging from selected sessions I am attending. These notes may be rough as the intent is to try to follow the flow of the talk and publish as soon as possible.

Session Description

This presentation examines the changing nature of factors impacting OER awareness and adoption across US Higher Education, using data collected in Bay View Analytics surveys conducted in 2019, 2020, and 2021. The surveys include those conducted as part of our William and Flora Hewlett Foundation project tracking OER awareness and adoption, as well as several additional research efforts exploring changes to teaching and learning arising from the pandemic.

Presenter: Jeff Seaman, Julia Seaman (Bay View Analytics)

Full slides available (PDF)

Session Notes

Bay View Analytics has been conducting HE surveys on Open Education since 2009.

Today’s data is based on 26,000 respondents over 10 surveys since 2009.

Goal of the annual OER survey is to understand role of OER in HE and quantify perceptions and awareness of OER.

Survey sent to HE admins, faculty and chief academic officers.

National (US) representative and has used identical questions for the past 7 years to get longitudinal data.

OER awareness in 2020 (before the important qualifier noted in the paragraph under the slide)

However, this data is not accurate as there is a lot of confusion among respondents as to what OER is. Many confuse OER with things that are “free” or “open source” (I assume this is meant to be software and not educational resource by respondents?). So Bay View has added a second clarifying question to see if there is an awareness of Creative Commons licenses to verify the meaning of OER is accurate and to ensure that people truly understand what OER is. With that clarifying question, here is the adjusted data on OER awareness.

Longitudinally, here is the level of OER awareness year over year (with the addition of Creative Commons qualifier)

There has been a yearly increase in the use of OER materials in class

Some COVID-19 specific data

Only 15% of faculty taught face-to-face in Fall 2020 (US data), meaning 85% taught blended or online, many for the first time. This massive change in modalities had an impact on the types of learning materials used in the classroom, with 2/3 faculty said their course was moderately or considerably different than their face-to-face course. But the change from f2f to online/blended did not necessarily translate in a switch from commercial to open learning materials. Instead, the change seems to have been in the format of the materials – from print to digital. The actual source material never changed.

This slide is interesting as it shows on the left the factors that drive OER adoption in higher education vs the factors that were in play during the pandemic and how those pandemic factors may influence future trends in OER adoption.

My takeaway

US-centric, and OER-centric (not open pedagogy and that question came up in the Q&A if Bay View will be incorporating open pedagogy questions in future surveys. The short answer is yes, but it’s complicated as open pedagogy is not clearly defined). Still, useful observations that the pandemic did not significantly drive OER adoption, which make sense to me. Instructors may have shifted to online/blended in massive numbers, but that did not mean they threw out their old commercial teaching materials in favour of new OER teaching materials. Instead, any changes they made in learning materials were format type – from print to digital – and that alone might have been an overwhelming shift for many let alone fully redesigning from a commercial learning resource to an OER one. It was already overwhelming to go from f2f to online/blended. To shift their resources from commercial to open requires more work than many might have been willing to take on in a crisis.

The other takeaway here is that publishers responded to quickly make both digital versions of their materials and inclusive access deals more available, which (as pointed out in the session) might in the long run end up being a negative for OER adoption.

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