The Growing Role Of OER In Higher Education: Past, Present, And Future

Concurrent Session 1
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Brief Abstract

This presentation examines the factors driving growth in awareness and adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER), how teaching during the pandemic changed these factors, and speculates on the immediate future of OER based on results from a decade of annual surveys of Higher Educational academic administrators and teaching faculty.



Dr. Jeff Seaman is Director of Bay Vie Analytics. He has worked in education information technology for over 20 years, and holds degrees in Demography/Statistics, Sociology, Electrical Engineering, and Housing, all from Cornell University. He has taught at several colleges and universities, including Cornell University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Babson College. Dr. Seaman created and ran the Computing Resource Center and served as Associate Vice Provost for Computing for the University of Pennsylvania and as Chief Information Officer for Lesley University. His industry experience includes serving as Chief Technology Officer at and as the Vice President of Engineering for Vista Associates. Dr. Seaman has been conducting research in the impact of technology on higher education and K-12 for over a decade, beginning with comprehensive national studies of technology use in U.S. Higher Education. Dr. Seaman has served on academic technology advisory boards for a number of information technology companies including Apple Computer, IBM, and Microsoft.

Extended Abstract

Bay View Analytics is partnering with the Online Learning Consortium to research the role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in higher education. Supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, this research has surveyed academic administrators and teaching faculty since 2012 to explore their awareness and adoption of OER. In addition, the project has examined the changing factors driving OER awareness and adoption across the respondents.

The project has produced nine reports to date, with three more scheduled through 2023.  All reports use responses from nationally-representative samples of higher education administrators and faculty members from all fifty states. The results represent tens of thousands of faculty and administrator responses from all types and sizes of degree-granting higher education institutions.

This presentation will cover the trends in US higher educational faculty and administration responses over the last 9 years, with a look at factors affecting the adoption of digital and OER curricula in courses. As expected, there were many pandemic-induced changes on curricula choices, as classes transitioned away from face-to-face instruction. While many aspects of teaching are expected to revert to their pre-pandemic status, the survey results suggest multiple aspects from the move to digital teaching will remain. The results will also review the effects on equity and inequality due to the variety of the aforementioned changes across institutions. This session will include audience polls around the issues presented and time for a Q&A.

The market for curricula materials — primarily textbooks — was undergoing rapid changes before the pandemic. The discovery and selection processes for course materials were changing, driven by growing concern for the cost to students, a desire by some faculty and administrators to move from print to digital, and faculty resentment towards publisher marketing practices. These factors led to new digital-first and "all you can eat" distribution plans from publishers.

Institutional and faculty experiences during the pandemic further altered the textbook selection landscape. Circumstances forced many faculty to switch to digital materials, resulting in a more positive view of non-print alternatives among faculty and administrators. Most faculty employed new teaching approaches, and included considerably more technology in their classes.

The study presents the trends in OER usage over the last decade at American higher educational institutions. Additionally, the study examines the initial impact of the forced transition to digital learning from the pandemic on OER usage and sentiments.  The result also highlights how the pandemic-induced changes varied by type of institution, with both positive and negative impacts on equity.

The results of the surveys highlight that there are multiple reasons faculty consider adopting OER materials over the years.  Specifically, OER adoption and growth has been impacted by:

  • Concerns about the cost of materials for students
  • Faculty attitudes and experience with digital materials
  • Professional development for faculty
  • Institutional investments in technology infrastructure and its support
  • Publisher adjustments to pandemic needs
  • Institutional initiatives around OER

The presentation will discuss the next steps in this multi-year project and what additional measures will be needed to understand the post-pandemic environment.