The POERUP case study of OER policy in New Zealand concluded that, despite a number of OER initiatives, there was little indication of this translating into policy development.
Apart from OER u and some activity at the Open Polytechnic there is little organised large-scale OER activity in tertiary education. There is currently very little funding for developments related to e-learning at tertiary level.
There is no supervisory level between the ministry and each individual school and a recent tradition of autonomy among teachers. There is also a national curriculum oriented to broad outcomes rather than specific syllabi.
Both these factors could be argued to make it unlikely that OER will flourish or be cost-effective for government to develop.
Potentially interesting article on benefits and barriers for e-learning in tertiary education in New Zealand:
While some of the main proponents of MOOC learning have emphasized the potential for MOOC to improve access to education by lowering costs, recent research into the Coursera user base by the University of Pennsylvania found that many students already hold college degrees and are taking the courses primarily to advance in their jobs.
- An overwhelming 83 percent already have a two-year or four-year degree, and 44 percent have advanced degrees
- In Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa nearly 80 percent of MOOC users who live there were college graduates – compared with 6% of general population
- Nearly 57 percent of MOOC users were male and that 70 percent were employed
Hilton III, J. Gaudet, D. Clarke, P. Robinson, J. & Wiley, D. (2013) report on the impact on using a range of math OER with more than 2000 students during the Fall semester 2012. Although positive evidence regarding cost savings and satisfaction was noted, the piloting of math OER at Scottsdale Community College saw no change in student performance or retention when comparing data from Fall 2012 with data from Fall 2010 and Fall 2011.
“Our second research question asked if there were any changes in student success patterns or completion rates in the fall of 2012, the semester in which open educational resources were used. Student success patterns were measured by the rate at which students passed the math class with a C grade or better. The results for the fall semesters during years 2010 to 2012 are shown in Table 1 (we only compared fall numbers given that the student population in the courses shifts substantially between fall and spring semesters).
In order to examine whether the distribution of student success differed significantly from 2011 to 2012, we conducted a z-test for comparing proportions for each course. The results of these z-tests revealed no significant change in student success rates from 2011 to 2012, with one notable exception: The percentage of student success in Math 09X declined significantly to 51% in 2012 compared to percentages of 67% and 62% in the prior two years. This result was significant at the a= .05 level, z = -5.97, p < .001. Possible reasons for this change are included in the discussion section. Otherwise, it does not appear that student success rates significantly varied from the same rate in 2011.
A similar pattern was observed when examining the data for course completion rates in 2012 compared to previous years. The 2012 completion rate in Math 09X was significantly lower than the completion rate in the previous year, z = -6.11, p < .001. Again, possible explanations for this change will be subsequently discussed. There did not appear to be a drop in completion rate in other courses in the year that OER were adopted. Table 2 summarizes completion rates for the classes that were the focus of this study.”
“During the Fall 2005 and Spring 2006 studies, we collected empirical data about the instructional effectiveness of the OLI-Statistics course in stand-alone mode, as compared to traditional instruction. In both of these studies, in-class exam scores showed no significant difference between students in the stand-alone OLI-Statistics course and students in the traditional instructor-led course.”
A recent University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) study found that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user “engagement” falls off dramatically—especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course—and that few users persist to the course end. The Penn GSE study analyzed the movement of a million users through sixteen Coursera courses offered by the University of Pennsylvania from June 2012 to June 2013. They found that:
- Course completion rates are very low, averaging 4% across all courses and ranging from 2% to 14% depending on the course and measurement of completion.
- Across the 16 courses, completion rates are somewhat higher, on average, for courses with lower workloads for students and fewer homework assignments (about 6% versus 2.5%).
- Variations in completion rates based on other course characteristics (e.g., course length, availability of live chat) were not statistically significant.
- The total number of individuals accessing a course varied considerably across courses, ranging from more than 110,000 for “Introduction to Operations Management” to about 13,000 for “Rationing and Allocating Scarce Medical Resources.”
- Across all courses, about half of those who registered viewed at least one lecture within their selected course. The share of registrants viewing at least one lecture ranged from a low of 27% for “Rationing and Allocating Scarce Medical Resources” to a high of 68% for “Fundamentals of Pharmacology.”
It was reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education that a survey by the National Association of College Stores found a low rate of uptake for use of openly licensed textbooks in Washington.
“Of the 98,130 students enrolled in these 42 courses on the 25 campuses, only 2,386 were in sections that used the recommended OCL materials,” the report says, adding that just 75 of the 2,722 course sections that could have used the materials did so.
In 16 of the 75 sections, students paid nothing for the course materials. The average cost for the materials in the other 59 sections was $25.
“Given the possibility of such substantial savings, the question remains as to why so few of the sections for these 42 OCL courses actually used any of the free or lower-priced materials,” says the report. “Additional study would be needed to address this issue.”
A survey conducted by the OER Research Hub project provides evidence for the claim that OER is used predominantly by highly educated learners. In a survey of OpenLearn (“the home of free learning from The Open University”) users, when asked what their highest educational qualification is, 26% of respondents had an undergraduate degree, whilst 20% had post-graduate qualifications:
“However, the OpenLearn survey also provided evidence that the platform is largely being used by well-educated, well-qualified, employed informal and formal learners. For example, 26% of OpenLearn survey respondents indicated that they have undergraduate qualifications and a further 20% that they have postgraduate qualifications.”
In contrast to this, however, over 18% of survey respondents described themselves as having a disability and nearly 25% of respondents did not have English as their first language, with almost half of these learners making use of OpenLearn OER to improve their language skills.
In a report on OER policy in Romania, Valentina Pavel (ApTI) reports that:
“OER without even realizing it
didactic.ro is what I would have liked to refer to as a good practice example. The website (available in Romanian) is an online teacher’s community and the biggest Romanian portal with educational resources for all K12 classes, including technical and vocational education. There are nearly half a million registered members and around 190 000 available resources. Whether there are teaching plans, exercises, extra-curricular activities, literary comments or exam notes and materials, teachers, parents and pupils have the possibility to use, share, comment and benefit from the available resources. There’s only one catch here… what’s missing in this example is for the materials to have an open licence. Although nobody minds if the materials are used, distributed and remixed, it’s not exactly legal from the copyright law perspective…”
It has been reported that some major providers of open courses and MOOCs have been instructed to rescind access to countries which are currently undergoing forms of economic or political sanction. Countries that have undergone sanctions of this sort include Iran, Sudan, Cuba and Syria (although Coursera reinstated access to Syria as soon as they could).
Those countries which experienced sanction are often those with populations which could benefit the most from access to learning. The politicisation of open education can be seen to stand at odds with increasing participation among those groups who stand to gain most from improved opportunities.