Faculty Survey Finds Awareness of Open Educational Resources Improving

Adoption levels of OER textbooks in high enrollment introductory level courses now rival that of commercial alternatives

Awareness of open educational resources (OER) among U.S. higher education teaching faculty continues to improve, but still remains less than a majority, according to a new report from the Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG).

The study, Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2017 was supported by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is based on responses of over 2,700 faculty, which shows incremental improvements in almost all measured OER awareness and adoption metrics.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Faculty awareness of OER has increased, with 30 percent of faculty reporting that they were “Aware” or “Very Aware” of open educational resources, up from 25 percent last year and 20 percent the year before.
  • Only 9 percent of courses are using open textbooks (includes public domain and Creative Commons licensed), but this is up from 5 percent last year.
  • A majority of faculty classify cost as "Very important" for their selection of required course materials. Faculty report that their required textbooks have an average price of $97, and only 22% say that they are "Very satisfied" with that cost.
  • Only a third of faculty report that 90% or more of their students have purchased the required textbook.
  • The barriers to adopting OER most often cited by faculty are that “there are not enough resources for my subject” (49 percent) and it is “too hard to find what I need” (50 percent).

The study also provides a detailed examination of textbook adoption among faculty teaching the largest enrollment introductory-level courses.  These faculty were provided with lists of textbooks, one of which was an open text from OpenStax (selected to provide a consistent open alternative for all courses).

  • Large enrollment introductory undergraduate courses have adopted openly licensed OpenStax textbooks at a rate (16.5 percent) equivalent to that of commercial publication adoption.
  • Faculty satisfaction with their choice is as high for OpenStax textbooks as it is for those adopting commercial textbooks.
  • Faculty teaching large enrollment introductory level courses who did not select an OpenStax textbook report an average cost of $125 for the required textbook, while those who did select an OpenStax text report an average cost of $31.
Awareness of OER

“The OpenStax results among large enrollment introductory-level courses shows that OER can be successful,” said Dr. Julia Seaman, Research Director for the Babson Survey Research Group. “OpenStax has been able to reach penetration levels equal to most of their commercial competitors, with equal levels of faculty satisfaction, in a very short time. A continuing concern on the part of faculty remains the limited nature of OER materials, particularly the lack of associated materials like tests, quizzes, and homework assignments that are typically provided by commercial alternatives."

The complete report, Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2017 is released under a Creative Commons license and is available for download at https://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/oer.html.

About Babson Survey Research Group

The Babson Survey Research Group at Babson College (https://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/) conducts regional, national, and international research projects, including survey design, sampling methodology, data integrity, statistical analyses and reporting.

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds®. The top-ranked college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value.

By Shannon Sweeny, ssweeny1@babson.edu, (781) 239-4621 | 12/19/2017 8:00 AM