The number of higher education faculty aware of open educational resources (OER) has risen 5 percent since last year, but is still at a disappointingly low 25 percent, according to a survey of over 3,000 U.S. faculty conducted by Babson College's Survey Research Group. Babson is a 3,000-student college in suburban Boston renowned for entrepreneurship education.
OERs are course materials that are part of the public domain or have a license that allows for free use and repurposing. Generally, OER materials exist online, but students can print them so that they function just like a textbook.
On OER Commons, a library and network of educational resources, instructors can use tools to create documents and interactive modules. Creative Commons, another popular OER site, allows creators to select a type of license that allows others to freely use their work — or even modify it.
“For the first time in human history we have the tools to enable everyone to attain all the education they desire. And best of all this education is available at almost no cost,” the report states.
However, more than half the instructors surveyed by Babson say they either weren’t aware of OER options or had heard of the options but didn’t know specifics. The professors that were aware of open resources weren’t choosing those options because they either weren’t able to find enough resources for their particular topics (49 percent) or it was too difficult to find what they needed (48 percent).
Babson reports that it’s likely those teachers just don’t have the experience searching for OER materials.
Though only 5.3 percent of all instructors — and 10 percent of those who teach large, undergraduate introductory courses — are currently using an openly licensed textbook, there was some promising news: The Babson report did find that 31 percent of teachers said they’d consider using OER in the future.
This shouldn’t be surprising. In its research, Babson College found that the biggest factor that faculty considered when choosing course material was cost to students. However, a huge discrepancy exists:
“Faculty are least satisfied with the cost of textbooks, yet that is the most commonly listed factor for resource selections,” writes the Babson research group.
Saving money always seems to be on the minds of college students. A report from the Student Public Interest Research Groups finds that using an openly licensed textbook could save students an average of $128 per course.
Nationwide, higher education faculty may not be utilizing this cost effective resource, but some stellar schools have been using these innovations for a few years.