Chief academic officers (CAOs) at U.S. colleges and universities agree that open educational resources (OERs) offer the potential to reduce the cost of course development, especially for online courses, but concede it has been left to individual faculty members to decide whether to adopt OERs for their classes.
That’s among the findings in a new report, Growing theCurriculum: Open Education Resources in U.S. Higher Education, produced by the Babson Survey Research Group, Hewlett Foundation, and Pearson. The report is based on a series of surveys in 2009-11 with higher education faculty and academic technology administrators.
About half of the CAOs admitted none of the courses at their institutions used any OERs, at least to their knowledge. These CAOs were, overall, less aware of the range of open sources available to instructors; for instance, some defined “open source” as just the materials accessible in their school’s learning management system. Many expressed concerns about the amount of time and effort faculty had to expend in finding appropriate open resources.
Faculty respondents, on the other hand, view OERs in a much more optimistic light. Approximately 83% reported using some sort of openly available digital content for at least one of their class lectures, though most said this wasn’t a regular practice.
But professors do have their own concerns about OERs, including how faculty are compensated or acknowledged for their contributions to open-source content. Like CAOs, they are also wary of the amount of time it takes to find and vet content for courses.
Although faculty have been criticized in the past for choosing reading materials without regard for their students’ budgets or needs, in the Babson surveys faculty said their main criteria for selecting an online resource were ease of use and minimal or no cost.