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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Open High School of Utah Policy

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

Excerpted from Tonks, T., Weston, S., Wiley, D., & Barbour, M. (2013). “Opening” a New Kind of School: The Story of the Open High School of UtahInternational Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning14(1).

OHSU was founded by Dr. David Wiley and approved for charter by the Utah State Office of Education in 2007. OHSU opened its virtual doors in 2009 and completed its inaugural year with 125 9th grade students. Currently the school serves 350 full-time 9-12th grade students and 50 part-time students who take up to two credits online as part of a statewide policy initiative to allow broader access to educational options. Over the next few years, OHSU is poised to offer 9th-12th grade courses to potentially 1,500 students throughout Utah.

A policy commitment to OER was written into the school’s charter documents – the contract with the state of Utah under which the school operates:

Open High School of Utah is an online charter high school that is 100% committed to the use of open educational resources (OERs). This approach allows unprecedented levels of individualized instruction with a highly responsive curriculum.

The core philosophy of the Open High School of Utah is that education is a universal human right and that the most effective education is hands-on, service-oriented, and available to anyone. Because of this philosophy, OHSU is committed to using open educational resources – educational materials that can be freely and legally copied, changed, and shared.

Open educational resources enable our educational mission by providing the greatest pedagogical flexibility possible to OHSU students, parents, and teachers. Open educational resources enable our service mission by providing the greatest number of opportunities to improve our communities and revolutionize schooling around the world.

Most explicitly of all, the charter includes an effectiveness goal regarding OER which states, “All courses will be made accessible free of charge on the Internet”.

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Reasons for OER choice, OER4Adults supplementary poll

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

Isobel Falconer, Allison Littlejohn, Lou McGill, Eleni Boursinou are the authors of the OER4Adults report.  As part of supplementary research for this project the team commissioned an open survey of lifelong learners and adult educators to gather data on indicators for selecting OER.

The results suggest that lifelong learners and adult educators find free (no cost) resources using  Google (100%), online repositories such as flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia (70%), repositories of learning resources (25%) or asking a friend (25%) […]

In quality terms, their primary reason for choosing a resource is that it comes from an organisation they trust (65%), or that it comes near the top of the search engine results (53%); only 27% were directed to resources by a teacher. For only 30% is viewing the resource and evaluating its quality a major criterion, suggesting that organisational brand is more important in learner choice than is the quality of particular resources.

Finding OER
‘How do you discover learning materials? Select the 3 most important’ (n=86)
'Which of these influences your choice of learning materials?'
‘Which of these influences your choice of learning materials?’ (n=86)



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OER encourage teacher collaboration and professional development

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Reflective practice | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

Reflecting on outcomes from collaborative production of Math OER at Scottsdale Community College (AZ), Prof. Donna Gaudet argues that use of OER improves faculty collaboration and raises the quality of learning materials.

Most definitely. it’s one thing to put together some OER stuff for your own class and know you are never going to share it with anyone. It’s another thing to raise the bar and create materials that you know at a minimum are being used by 30 or 40 people in your department. This act of sharing within a department puts faculty under a microscope, and academics have recognised the need to present their material professionally. OER production has both necessitated and enabled the department to work together, and this collaboration has led to great satisfaction.

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Impact of CC licensing, North American Network of Science Labs Online

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

A case study of The North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO) published by Creative Commons identifies a number of ways in which open licensing makes a difference to sharing:

Open licensing has made it easier to get partnerships on the road,” said Albert Balbon, Supervisor of Distributed Learning, North Island College, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, and one of the NANSLO leadership team. “There are no roadblocks to us sharing, and nothing stopping other institutions from joining us and feeling more a part of the overall project.

A persistent barrier for low-income, first-generation college students has been cost. “One of the main benefits of open licensing is that we don’t have to pass any costs for licensing content to students,” said Albert. While some of the software is proprietary, all of the curriculum and code written by NANSLO to enable remote access to their servers is open and free.

Daniel Branan, from the Colorado Community College System and NANSLO Lab Director, agrees. “Having this project openly licensed as an upfront condition takes the stress off of all of us. It sets the stage nicely so that everyone knows that everything will be open for sharing. That lowers a lot of barriers.

According to Daniel, “All of the curriculum that references remote lab activities is licensed with a Creative Commons CC BY license. While we write it for our labs, it provides useful content that anyone can use for free.

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African Health OER Network case study claims high impact on students

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

Student focus groups at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology showed support for OER and students expressed satisfaction both with OER as an approach and with the resources available to them.

Students mainly addressed the question of whether OER presented what had to be learnt in a more accessible form, and in a way that made for better understanding and use of knowledge. In this sense, learning was closely connected with assessment. Success in ‘the exams’ was a powerful consideration. Theirs was not a purely instrumental position, however. They were keenly aware of how OER can lead to more independent student learning; and they were also attuned to the potential of OER in their ongoing professional development…

The important conclusion is that from the distinctive perspectives of these three sets of key role‐players [students, educators and managers] OER had achieved high impact. OER experiences had created a ‘win‐win’ situation in terms of belief in, and commitment to, OER practices that met core needs.

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National uptake of Siyavula textbooks in South Africa

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

A notable shift in the mainstreaming of OER has been a decision in late 2011by the Department of Basic Education (which is responsible for schools) to adopt open science and maths books for countrywide distribution to all schools. This means the distribution of millions of print books and the availability an online version of the text plus additional resources under open licences. Mark Horner, Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and the brain behind Siyavula and Free High School Science Textbooks blogged in late 2011 in a state of justified excitement:

‘Openly-licensed, Siyavula textbooks are being printed and distributed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for all learners taking Physical Science and/or Mathematics in Grades 10-12 in the whole country for 2012! I don’t know of any country doing anything like this before.’

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Indications of direct and indirect savings, African Health OER Network

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

From the 2012 African Health Network OER Impact Study:

It is not possible to cite conclusive statistical evidence to show that financial savings are being achieved through the use of OER. However, the cumulative weight of evidence from the accounts and experiences of academics strongly suggests that direct and indirect forms of financial savings are being realized. Evidence of direct savings is strongest in the case of complete sets of learning materials or textbooks that students would otherwise be required to buy. OER video productions that are ‘enhancements’ or supplementary to the normal lecture programme are self‐evidently less likely to result in direct financial savings […] There were several indications that OER achieve significant indirect forms of savings through interrelated combinations of the following:

a) Savings in time.
b) Improved quality/effectiveness of learning.
c) Enabling teaching on topics that might otherwise not be covered.
d) Fostering collaboration between academics.

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College educators support for OER as driver of student retention

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

The idea that affordable textbooks can allay these concerns and encourage students to stay in school  is supported by research from OER Research Hub.  A survey of college educators in community colleges (n=136) showed that more than 1/3 believe that OER use promotes student retention.

  • 60% of those questioned believed that the reduced cost of study materials could promote student retention rates.
  • 57% believe that the ease of access of OER can promote student retention
  • 36% stated that the use of OER to improve study skills can help students to stay in school.

See slides 34-37:

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