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Who are the open learners? A comparative study profiling non-formal users of open educational resources

TitleWho are the open learners? A comparative study profiling non-formal users of open educational resources
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsFarrow, R., de los Arcos B., Pitt R., & Weller M.
PublisherEuropean Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning
Start Page50
Date Published12/2015
Keywordsdata, iTunesU, MOOC, non-formal learning, OER, OER case study, openlearn, Saylor

Open educational resources (OER) have been identified as having the potential to extend opportunities for learning to non-formal learners. However, little research has been conducted into the impact of OER on non-formal learners. This paper presents the results of a systematic survey of more than 3,000 users of open educational resources (OER). Data was collected between 2013 and 2014 on the demographics, attitudes and behaviours of users of three repositories. Questions included a particular focus on the behaviours of non-formal learners and the relationship between formal and non-formal study. Frequency analysis shows that there are marked differences in patterns of use, user profiles, attitudes towards OER, types of materials used and popularity of different subjects. The experience of using OER is fairly consistent across platforms in terms of satisfaction and impact on future behaviour. On the whole, non-formal learners surveyed were highly positive about their use of OER and believe they will continue to use them. With regards to this making formal study more likely some degree of polarization was observed: some believed formal study was now more likely, while others felt it made this less likely. On the whole, while non-formal learners are enthusiastic about using free and online resources, the language and concept of OER does not seem to be well understood in the groups surveyed. A range of findings relating to OER selection and use as well as differences between repositories are explored in the discussion.

Abstract in Spanish

A pesar del potencial de los recursos educativos abiertos (REA) a la hora de ampliar las oportunidades de aprendizaje, existe poca investigación sobre su impacto en el aprendizaje no formal. Este estudio presenta los resultados de una encuesta realizada entre 2013 y 2014 para recoger datos demográficos, de actitud y comportamiento de más de 3.000 usuarios de tres diferentes repositorios de REA, con especial atención a la relación entre el estudio formal y no formal. El análisis de frecuencias muestra marcadas diferencias en las pautas de uso, perfil del usuario, actitudes hacia los REA, tipos de recursos utilizados y popularidad de diferentes materias. Las distintas plataformas registran experiencias de uso de REA similares en lo que se refiere a satisfacción e impacto sobre comportamiento futuro. Aquellas personas que aprenden en un contexto no formal se muestran muy positivas acerca del uso de REA y manifiestan su intención de continuar usando estos recursos. La transición hacia el aprendizaje formal tras el uso no formal de REA se presenta, sin embargo, polarizada entre aquellos que perciben el estudio formal más probable y los que lo perciben menos probable. En general, mientras que las personas que aprenden en un contexto no formal se muestran entusiastas del uso de recursos gratuitos en la red, se observa la falta de entendimiento del concepto de REA entre los diferentes grupos encuestados. La última sección explora una serie de conclusiones entre las que se encuentran, entre otras, diferencias en la selección y uso de recursos en los repositorios estudiados.


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Refereed DesignationRefereed
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