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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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Improved quality of teaching materials, University of Cape Town

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

A case study at The University of Cape Town found that greater sharing of teaching materials under open licence led to higher quality materials as a result of greater focus on quality.

There is awareness among faculty that teaching materials shared under an open licence will be subject to far greater scrutiny than those created only for use within the relative privacy of the classroom. This realization has encouraged faculty to focus more on the overall quality of the finished OER.

A number of other benefits are identified, including:

  • Increased visibility for the authors and their institutions
  • Greater collegiate collaboration
  • Greater awareness of OER from elsewhere
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Interview based study finds support for motivation through badging

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Open assessment | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

Qualitative data gathered from interviews with faculty and focus groups with students at City University London suggests that both may have reservations about open badging.  For example, it was found that students with high intrinsic motivation can find badges patronising.

However, there was some support for the idea that badging could motivate – largely based around the exclusivity of the award.

  • Students want ‘special badges’ which would only be awarded to high achievers as this would be a way to stand out from their peers
  • There were suggestions that badges would act as an extrinsic motivator, creating healthy competition within a cohort.
  • Both staff and students felt it was important that major employers were aware of this badge initiative, in order to increase the credibility of badges.
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OER projects in Ghana lead to policy at KNUST

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

The report details the policy at KNUST (KWAME NKRUMAH UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY) and states “This policy is a natural evolution of the development of OERs at KNUST (and at the University of Ghana).”

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Correlation between open textbooks and student grades

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

A 2010 study identified a correlation between higher student grades and courses that used open textbooks.  While there remain (some understandable) issues around isolating the particular influence of openness they found that students in courses that used open textbooks tended to have higher grades and lower failing and withdrawal rates than those in courses that did not use open texts.

This study reports findings from a year-long pilot study during which 991 students in 9 core courses in the Virginia State University School of Business replaced traditional textbooks with openly licensed books and other digital content. The university made a deliberate decision to use open textbooks that were copyrighted under the Creative Commons license. This decision was based on the accessibility and flexibility in the delivery of course content provided by open textbooks. More students accessed digital open textbooks than had previously purchased hard copies of textbooks. Higher grades were correlated with courses that used open textbooks.

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Lab skills OERs boost confidence for biomedical students

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

110 first year undergraduates studying Biomedical Science and Medical Science (BSc Honours) at De Montfort University accessed VAL system, an OER designed to enable undergraduate students to build a foundation of basic laboratory skills and knowledge before they enter the bioscience laboratory.

The OER were evaluated in two ways.  First, they were asked about their perceptions of elements of the service with the responses recorded on a Likert scale.

In addition to expressing support for the service and the impact on their study, it was also found that those students without prior laboratory experience who only used the VAL system performed equally as well as those with experience.

It was interesting to see that although all the students just averaged a pass (40% overall) in the laboratory test, those students with no prior experience who had only used the VAL to obtain any laboratory knowledge performed EQUALLY as well as those with prior laboratory experience, with no signficiant difference in test scores (p>0.05). Both groups claimed to be equally confident in their laboratory skills (p>0.05). Comparing the 2008 group of studnets with no prior experience to those in 2007, there was a significant increase in their perceived confidence levels (2008, mean Likert score 3.65 versus 2007, 3.13, p<0.05).

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Amarillo Independent School District moves towards OER adoption

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

Following on from early adoption of OER by faculty willing to experiment with new technologies, Amarillo Independent School District has introduced a number of schemes in support of OER practice.

This transition to OER is two-fold:  in addition to adoption of open textbooks and other freely available resources the Amarillo Area Center for Advanced Learning is investing in tablet computers that help faculty understand student use of digital texts.

Early adopters demonstrate the technologies to other faculty at “‘Appy Hours” which are sessions intended to support peer learning among teaching staff.  This has become a recognised part of professional development.

Further support is provided by a content management system called Net Texts which comprises an app for students as well as provision for remixing open content from a range of sources.

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Siyavula: A Case Study of Open Textbook Adoption By Three South African Teachers

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

A case study conducted by ISKME in 2011 interviewed three teachers who had adopted Siyavula‘s open textbooks, and specifically how they used the open textbooks in the classroom. The three teachers were from Andersburg School, in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Although this is a limited, single study, it provides insight into how these teachers have drawn on the benefits of the open license of these maths and science textbooks.

All three teachers saw the benefits in the open license of the content. Firstly, the teachers recognised that a free textbook would be attractive to their students and families, of which many battled to pay the tuition fees alone. Although the teachers knew there would be some cost in printing the books, they decided to do this to get a material into every learner’s hands, which would otherwise “have been impossible due to the school’s limited number of computers and spotty internet access.” This highlights the benefit of an open license to allow for printing to overcome physical barriers to resources, such as limitations in computer and internet facilities. The school also organised a deal with the local printer to print the books as cheaply as possible.

As one teachers noted “With [a commercial textbook] you cannot make printed copies of it….But with this, I’m at liberty to make copies and give it to my learners…so I [like] the fact that it’s so easy to reproduce and that there are no restrictions.”

The fact that learners could easily afford their textbooks, also now meant that they could “afford not to resell them”, meaning they could make their own notes in the books. This aids learning, allowing learners to come back to their notes when studying for examinations. when learners  adding to their learning and studying. One teacher also commented how the cost saving allowed students to hold onto their books over the years, which is important as “Andersburg teaches a three-year course of study in the sciences, meaning that students in grades 11 and 12 often have to return to material they began studying in grade 10.

The teachers noted that Siyavula’s open license meant that they and their students “could modify the textbooks to suit their purposes.” One teacher even commented that he could send editorial suggestions directly to the Siyavula team, and while he considered the quality to be of a very high standard, he enjoyed the interaction with the authors, and the fact that he could make a contribution by pointing out small errors to be fixed in future revisions.

As a whole, the Andersburg teachers found the various printing options available due to Siyavula’s open license to be a significant factor in their adoption of open textbooks, specifically as it allowed them to use free, online (digital) materials, even though they had technological limitations.

As the ISKME researchers point out, this study highlights the benefit of open licenses, but also that resources need to be localized by adaptations to local constraints to overcome technological barriers to OER.





Citation: sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v17n2/addressing-local-localization-case-study-open-textbook-adoption-three-south-african-teach
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Widening access through the African Virtual Campus

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

Bakary Diallo has described at some length the African Virtual University initiative, a group of (mainly sub-Saharan) African nations who are widening access to university through open and distance learning.  53 partner institutions – mostly universities – are involved and approximately 43,000 students and academics have benefited from learning through AVU over the last 15 years.  The project has established 10 centres for open and distance learning, developed 86 modules, and built a repository for course material in a number of different languages.

In August 2011, AVU won a prize for these open education resources from the United States-based Education Portal for Best Open Courseware (OCW) Emerging Initiative.

The use of open educational resources is crucial to our overall work. For example, the focus on math and science is very important for a continent like Africa. We need engineers and we need scientists. This is strategic for AVU, for the countries of Africa and for our donors. We set out to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the schools through the use of ICTs; increase the number of mathematics, science and ICT basic skills teachers; develop and promote research in teacher education to inform future curriculum reform; and establish and strengthen relevant partnerships with other teacher education initiatives in Africa.

Diallo, 2013:23

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$5.5 million of student savings through Open Course Library

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

Research by Student PIRGs found that students who take Open Course Library courses save $96 on average per course over using an expensive, traditional textbook. The total student savings are more than triple the original $1.8 million investment in the project which came from the Washington State Legislature and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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