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Monday, November 3, 2014

Faculty Still Not Sold on Digital

Two recent surveys of faculty members found that many instructors aren’t buying into online courses as an effective method of learning and aren’t really sure what open educational resources (OER) are.

The first report, Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, found that 52% of responding faculty members said online courses produce inferior results when compared to in-person courses. The survey of 2,799 faculty members and 288 academic technology administrators was conducted by Gallup in August and September.

Humanities instructors disapproved of online courses the most (54%), but 51% of social sciences teachers and 46% of engineering, biological, and physical sciences instructors agreed with them. In addition, just 18% of faculty who had taught an online course thought they outperformed in-person classes, while 71% said online courses provided lower-quality interaction with students.

“My general reaction is that the data show that the more exposure a faculty member has had to online or blended learning, the more positive their view,” Ronald Legon, executive director of the Quality Matters Program, told Inside Higher Education. “But clearly, not all faculty have seen the potential of online learning to match and even exceed the effectiveness of face-to-face learning because they have not had the opportunity to become familiar with best practices and research-driven course design and delivery.”

The second study, to find out if faculty are using OER, reported that nearly two-thirds said they were unaware of open educational resources, even though about half reported using them. More than 2,100 faculty members responded to the survey, conducted by Babson Survey Research Group.

“The answer appears to have two causes,” authors of the report wrote. “The [lack of] faculty understanding of the term of ‘open educational resources,’ and the fact that faculty often make resource choices without consideration to the licensing of that resource.”

The report noted that the most popular types of open content were images (89%) and videos (87%). Nearly 75% of respondents said the quality of OER materials was the same as or better than traditional resources. That quality was one of the most important considerations for faculty members who used OER, but 85% rated OER superior to traditional materials when it came to cost for students.

A major problem is the availability of OER. Faculty members cited lack of a comprehensive catalog as the largest barrier to using OER, followed by difficulty in finding the resources and concerns about licensing.

“While awareness of OER remains low among teaching faculty, it is not the critical barrier to wider adoption,” said Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “The time and effort required to find, evaluate, and adopt these materials is the critical factor for faculty.”

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