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Opening the textbook: Educational resources in U.S. higher education, 2017

TitleOpening the textbook: Educational resources in U.S. higher education, 2017
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsSeaman, J. E., & Seaman J.
PublisherBabson Survey Research Group
Date Published12/2017
Keywordsdecision process, digital vs. print, OER awareness, OER barriers, open textbooks, selecting resources

Responses from over 2,700 U.S. faculty paint both a "Good news" and a "Bad news" picture for the role of open educational resources (OER) in U.S. higher education. Levels of awareness of OER, the licensing tied to it, and overall adoption of OER materials, remains low. Only 10% of faculty reported that they were “Very aware” of open educational resources, with 20% saying that they were “Aware.” Awareness of Creative Commons licensing also remains low, with only 19% of faculty reporting that they are "Very aware." Faculty continue to report significant barriers to OER adoption. The most serious issues continue to be the effort needed to find and evaluate suitable material. Nearly one-half of all faulty report that “there are not enough resources for my subject” (47%) and it is “too hard to find what I need” (50%). In light of this, the reported level of adoption of open-licensed textbooks (defined as either public domain or Creative Commons) of only 9% is not a surprise. Many faculty members also voice concerns about the long-term viability of open educational resources, and worry about who will keep the materials current. That said, there is also considerable cause for optimism among those who support OER. The awareness and adoption levels may be low, but they also show steady year-to-year improvements. OER also addresses a key concern of many faculty - the cost of materials. A majority of faculty classify cost as "Very important" for their selection of required course materials. A particular area of OER success is among large enrollment introductory-level courses. These courses touch the largest numbers of students, are often taught in multiple sections (66%), and are typically required for some subset of students (79%). Faculty teaching these courses were presented with a list of the most commonly used commercial textbooks (up to twelve) for their specific course, along with an open text alternative from OpenStax, a non-profit OER publisher based out of Rice University. The rate of adoption of OpenStax textbooks among faculty teaching large enrollment courses is now at 16.5% - a rate which rivals that of most commercial textbooks. This is a substantial increase over the rate observed last year (10.8%). Users of OpenStax textbooks also had levels of satisfaction equal to their peers teaching introductory level courses who had selected commercial textbooks. These adoptions address concerns about cost as well: faculty who did not select an OpenStax textbook reported an average cost of $125 for the required textbook, while those who did select an OpenStax text reported an average cost of $31.


Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Refereed DesignationDoes Not Apply
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