Khan Academy helps personalised instruction

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Student impact | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

A research report by SRI International on the use of Khan Academy in nine California schools during the school years 2011-12 and 2012-13 states that:

Eight in ten teachers also reported that Khan Academy increased their ability to monitor students’ knowledge and ability, thus helping to identify students who were struggling. Among teacher survey respondents, 82% reported that Khan Academy helped them identify students who were ahead of the rest of the class, 82% said it helped them expose advanced students to concepts beyond their grade level, and 65%, including 72% of teachers in schools serving low-income communities, said that Khan Academy increased their ability to help struggling students catch up. Slightly more than half the teachers (56%) reported that using Khan Academy helped them determine what content they needed to reteach or could skip, and 32% of teachers overall and 48% of teachers in schools serving low-income communities reported that Khan Academy helped them move more quickly through the curriculum.” (p. x-xi)

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Links between Khan Academy use and student outcomes

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Student impact | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

During the school years 2011-12 and 2012-2013 nine schools in California participated in a pilot study to find out about their use of Khan Academy and its potential benefits. A research report by SRI International reveals that:

Positive relationships were found between Khan Academy use and better-than-expected achievement and nonachievement outcomes, including level of math anxiety and confidence in one’s ability to do math.” (p. xi)

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Southampton MOOC attract students declaring disability

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Improving access | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

The report Engaged learning in MOOCs: a study using the UK Engagement Survey (UKES) published by the Higher Education Academy found that learners on two MOOC at The University of Southampton reported a higher proportion of students declaring a disability than national averages for higher education.  This supports the idea that open education may be more accessible for students with disability.  From p.22 of the report:

The generic survey reflects a lower proportion than the UKES of participants describing themselves as disabled. The latter reflects both the UK norm (16%)23 and the European average of one-sixth of working age people. Given that 20% of UKES participants are over 65 years of age, when disability increases to 45% of the UK population, this overall proportion seems low. Dyslexia alone is estimated to affect 10% of the population. However compared with disabled students in higher education, the proportions are relatively high. HESA (2013) found only 7% of students to be in receipt of disabled students’ allowance (DSA). Many disabled students do not register for or qualify for DSA, but even in terms of self-reporting only 8% report a disability on application.

However, this should be tempered by the fact that “the demographic profiles of learners resemble other MOOC cohorts; that is, an older and well-educated majority, with many working in education” (p.41).

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MOOC pilots fail to lead to significant policy change

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: OER policy change | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

At the MOOC Research Conference, December 5-6, 2013 in Texas, Arlington, Deborah Keyek-Franssen, associate vice president for digital education and engagement at the University of Colorado System outlined some of the results from MOOC pilots:

“I don’t see revenue, and we’re not going to see revenue in Colorado for … ever — or for a long time,” Keyek-Franssen said. “We are not ready for Signature Track…. We’re not ready for credit…. We will probably not license anyone else’s content.”

The university system has experimented with MOOCs through Canvas and Coursera, but the results have yet to provide a definite answer.

“What I’ve been trying to is reframe the question,” Keyek-Franssen said. “The question is: Is it worth it? Is it worth it to the faculty? Is it worth it the financial investment? Is it worth it to restructure our support units to be able to provide significant among of expertise that we currently don’t have in-house?”

Keyek-Franssen wasn’t asking the questions rhetorically. “For us, we’ll continue to do them because there are so many enthusiastic faculty members,” she said. “But we don’t have that [return on investment] piece, and without that, you can’t convince leadership or financial planners.”

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Only 3% of students in Kaleidoscope study believed open textbooks are inferior in quality

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Student impact | Sector: | Country:

The Kaleidoscope project implemented open textbooks for several thousand students between 2011 and 2012. This was in response to the perception that textbook costs were a barrier to student success, but also with the aspiration of building a community that could collaboratively build, evaluate and iteratively improve an open curriculum.

Upon evaluation, leaners overwhelmingly though that the open materials were at least as good as proprietary textbooks (97%) with 41% stating that the quality of the open version was in fact superior.

See slide 44 of the presentation by Ronda Dorsey.

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Pre-course availability of OERs could help to attract students to an institution

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Transition support | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

The HEA/NUS Study Students‟ views on learning methods and Open Educational Resources in higher education found evidence to support the view that availability of OER can help attract students to an institution.

A majority of both traditional and non-traditional students expected the use of OERs to increase during the rest of their course, approximately a fifth in each case thought it would increase “a lot”. Non-traditional learners were more likely to have accessed OERs from their university prior to starting their courses. In some cases, accessing OERs prior to starting had a strong, positive impact on their decision of where to study – this was more the case for non-traditional students than traditional. This finding suggests that pre-course availability of OERs could help to attract students to an institution.

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Students use many methods to find and select OER

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: OER choice | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

The HEA/NUS Study Students‟ views on learning methods and Open Educational Resources in higher education found that learners use a variety of methods to find and evaluate OER.

Students reported that they found out about OERs through a variety of means. There were some interesting differences between the traditional and non-traditional student groups, with non-traditional students more likely to be informed about OERs via the virtual learning environment (VLE) or website. Focus groups with traditional students revealed that many looked first to their lecturers to signpost OERs. There was also a sense that using OERs required different skills from those for using more traditional learning resources, so if universities were going to promote greater OER usage, there
was a need to ensure that all students were equipped with the necessary skills.


Students recognised that being able to search for resources was an important skill in order to succeed on their course. A number talked about how their knowledge of where and how to find relevant resources improved as they progressed through their course and they became more confident and knowledgeable


In general, however, many said they were overwhelmed by the quantity of results obtained when they searched on Google. Google Scholar was felt to be easy to use and produced relevant results, but was frequently frustrating when the resources identified were only available via subscription. Using library databases also presented problems as students were unsure which databases to use and struggled to understand how best to search various databases.

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Students able to identify features of OER

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Openness | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

The HEA/NUS Study Students‟ views on learning methods and Open Educational Resources in higher education found that students showed good awareness of the features of OER:

Most of the students surveyed (82% of traditional learners and 83% of non-traditionallearners) were able to identify at least some of the characteristic features of OERs; the principles of “openness” and “accessibility” featured most strongly. Conceptualisations of OERs that focus group participants offered included: accessibility, equality, sharing, choice, inspiration, freedom and change.

However, licensing did not feature strongly as a feature of OER.  The report continues:

A small number of students were aware of creative commons licences, usually in relation to Wikipedia or Flickr:

It is what the Wikipedia model is based on. It‟s the idea that you are free to edit, change or use the information, but if you have to change it then you have to make it your own, and it has to go back into the creative commons. (Participant 48, 20: 25–30)

Others mentioned intellectual property (IP) and copyright law. One student mentioned a difference between commercial and non-commercial use of images and another spoke about the need to seek permission from the copyright holder in some cases. A few others were aware of some differences between using resources for academic and commercial purposes.

Many students seemed to believe that OER was an agreement to share resources between institutions and were only available to registered students.  Reuse and repurposing of resources was another aspect of OERs which did not feature strongly, but was mentioned by a small number of participants.

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Australia: increasing monies being spent on funding open access

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: OER saves money | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

Under ‘gold’ standard open access publishing authors of academic articles (or their institutions) are required to ay a fee to the publisher in order for them to make their work available openly.

A recent article by the Australian Open Access Support Group found that, although data about the total amount of money spent on open access is not collected, with some extrapolation from publicly available figures it is possible to show that Australian researchers or their institutions potentially spent over US$9 million during 2013 on publication with the two main open access publishers.

These kinds of figures have implications funders of research who may well end up bearing the brunt of the costs, albeit indirectly.  For instance:

While bearing in mind that their policy states funded published work must be made available open access, and they provide funds for article processing charges, the Wellcome Trust’s expenditure in 2012/13 indicates the numbers are substantial. That year they spent over US$6.5million on OA publication fees. This paid for 2,127 articles, with an average cost of US$3,055 per article.

Central to the issue here is ‘double-dipping':  publishers continuing to charge subscribers for content while at the same time charging authors fees for publication – the article notes that subscriptions have remained constant while author fees have risen.

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Textbook Zero at Tidewater Community College

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Unassigned | Sector: | Country:

Beginning in Autumn/Fall 2013 a pilot initiative at Tidewater Community College (in conjunction with Lumen Learning)  aims to reduce textbook costs for college students.

For students who pursue the new “textbook-free” degree, the total cost for required textbooks will be zero. Instead, the program will use high quality open textbooks and other open educational resources, known as OER, which are freely accessible, openly licensed materials useful for teaching, learning, assessment and research. It is estimated that a TCC student who completes the degree through the textbook-free initiative might save one-third on the cost of college.

Although many colleges offer OER courses, TCC will be the first accredited institution in the United States to offer a degree in which students pay nothing for required textbooks.

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