#openedMOOC Week 5: Research on OER Impact and Effectiveness

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I have not done any research into OER Impact and Effectiveness and I don’t, in my career as a teacher, remember ever heavily relying on a textbook that students would have to buy. I do remember having to buy them myself during my own undergraduate studies, but that was back in the mid 60s. When I was teaching in Higher Education at the end of the 90s, early 2000, we would recommend textbooks which the students could buy if they wished, or could take out of the library (we tried to ensure multiple copies were in the library), but mostly we wrote our own materials and gave students hand-outs in the sessions. I must have written many text-books worth of hand-outs during my career. It never occurred to us at that time to share these online, but even if we had wanted to it would not have been possible, because all the materials we produced belonged to the institution. Of course, we also referred students to open online sites where they could explore further materials and dig deeper. So I haven’t had a lot of experience of this heavy reliance on expensive text books for teaching, although I have in my own research had difficulty accessing materials behind paywalls (see below).

It seems that at least in the US, there is this reliance on expensive textbooks and that explains the push for further research that David Wiley talks about in this week’s video. He tells us that whereas in the early days of this research the focus was on surveys and finding out what OERs were being used, and what happens when you use OERs, there is now a need for more nuanced research into what difference they make to student outcomes. According to David Wiley research into OER adoption is still at an early stage and there is need for further research into how OERs are produced and used, and how they are used in teaching.

Stephen Downes in his video for this week once more gets to the nub of the issue when he questions what we mean by impact and effectiveness. He tells us that research has shown that the medium makes no difference to student outcomes, i.e. it makes no difference whether the student learning environment is open or closed. The obvious difference that OERs will make to the student is cost.

As an aside here, from my own perspective, I doubt I would be a researcher if there weren’t OERs. I remember when we submitted our first paper on CCK08 learner experience in 2009, the reviewers criticised the number of blog posts we referenced. There were two reasons we referenced blog posts, 1. At that time there were no research papers on MOOCs to reference 2. Even if there had been, if they were in closed journals (and there were not many open access journals back then), as independent researchers we would not have been able to access them. I still have these issues, particularly in relation to books, which I often cannot afford; there are not enough open access e-books.

Returning to Stephen’s video and the point where I think he really nails it is in his discussion of what we mean by impact. He thinks, and I agree, that impact is more than grades, graduation and course completion. For him we should be looking at a person’s ability to:

  • Play a role in society
  • Live a happy and productive life
  • Be healthy
  • Engage in positive relationships with others
  • Live meaningfully
  • Have a valuable impact as seen through their own eyes and through the eyes of society

He asks how does using open content change any of these. If OERs are only used by the teacher then there won’t be much change. He says open is how you do things, open is when you share how you work with other people, open is when you take responsibility for ensuring that knowledge is carried forward into the next generation. This is the long-term impact of your value and worth in society. Stephen asks where is the research on this – we need research on how open resources help society.  This seems to me like the big picture and quite a challenge for research.

#openedmooc participants have responded to this week’s resources in different ways.

Matthias Melcher has questioned what we mean by research effectiveness in his blog post for this week.

Geoff Cain also reminds us to not forget the role of Connectivism and the role of history in open education (See also  Martin Weller’s recent post. Katy Jordan has done some amazing work in relation to this. I wish I had her technical skills!).

Merle Hearns  has done a great job of commenting on this video A review of the Effectiveness & Perceptions of Open Educational Resources as Compared to Textbooks  and further discusses Martin Weller’s paper The openness-creativity cycle in education as well as sharing her own work.

Benjamin Stewart keeps plugging away asking for a more critical perspective, both in his tweets, e.g. https://twitter.com/bnleez/status/924735752336039936 and in his blog.

For more blog posts see the course site

Finally there are some great resources provided this week, which I have copied here for future reference. These are links to publication lists. For anyone doing research into OER, they would be a great help.

One thought on “#openedMOOC Week 5: Research on OER Impact and Effectiveness

  1. Stephen Downes November 5, 2017 / 12:02 am

    Again, such a useful post.

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