The core benefits of open educational resources (OER) are decreased costs for students, as well as increased access and engagement. These benefits address some of the central challenges facing higher education. So, why isn’t that translating into more widespread adoption of OER?
According to recent research from the Babson Research Group, the number of faculty members at two- and four-year institutions using OER as course materials has nearly doubled in the last year. However, that only equates to nine percent of faculty using OER during the 2016-17 academic year.
After thousands of conversations with faculty across the U.S., Barnes & Noble Education (BNED) has pinpointed three central concerns related to OER adoption: awareness, change and choice. The concerns are valid, but OER can provide meaningful answers and solutions for teaching and learning. To dispel some of the OER myths and questions that often arise, here are the realities, based on faculty feedback and results.
OER Awareness: Content and Value
Most faculty know about OER resources through providers such as OpenStax. However, there can be confusion over the use of “OER” to reference both stand-alone e-textbooks and the online learning platforms that match those e-textbooks with a complementary set of resources. It often leads to the question, “Why would I pay for something that’s free?” The answer is simple: a significant amount of effort and resources go into building advanced OER courses in a learning platform such as LoudCloud. The small fee associated with these digital courses covers the onboarding, training and deployment of the platform and the courses.
An e-textbook alone simply doesn’t meet the needs for today’s faculty and students. BNED Courseware, powered by LoudCloud, includes original content such as videos, PowerPoint lecture slides, activities, practice exercises and assessment that represents a complete courseware solution — all tied to learning objectives. Faculty and subject matter experts create and curate this content, ensuring that it’s accurate, up to date, and peer-reviewed where appropriate.
These OER courses offer significant value to the faculty and students who are searching for affordable digital courseware alternatives. BNED Courseware brings the best of both worlds: the embedded OER textbook and all the additional course resources to go along with it.
Perhaps even more importantly, BNED Courseware offers analytics and reports that give faculty insight to student performance. It’s a valuable tool in identifying students who are struggling and need early intervention to help them get back on track.
“With the analytics we’ve been experimenting with this year, we can, for the first time, take steps to help students succeed even before they have a poor performance on an exam to drag down their grade and, even better, before they even start the course,” said Dr. Dan Krane, Vice President of Faculty at Wright State University and Professor of Biological Sciences.
Changing to OER: User Experience
Faculty aren’t just advocates for what they need to be successful – they are tireless advocates for their students. If they’re going to make a change in how they teach, it must result in a positive experience for everyone. So, even faculty seeking more resources and support can be hesitant to add another online platform to the mix, especially when they’ve already invested so much time getting comfortable with their learning management system (LMS).
The advantage of BNED Courseware is that it fully integrates into the campus LMS. Students won’t even realize that they’re moving between platforms with the Single Sign On access to OER Courseware from their school’s LMS. The interface is clean and simple, and the platform is fully mobile. Students can easily read text and move through their learning path on their phones or tablets. It’s about simplicity and flexibility to work within their own preferences and schedules.
Faculty are often surprised by the amount of quality instructional support that is available with Courseware and how similar it is to other learning platforms in terms of functionality. The level of customer support available from BNED also surprises even the most experienced OER users. BNED Courseware is not just a platform, it’s a service — and it offers support that extends beyond the relationships faculty already find in their campus bookstores.
OER and Choice: Customization and Affordability
Simply put, everyone prefers having choices. Faculty invest significant time and energy into researching and selecting their course materials, so it’s not surprising that one hesitation they have about moving to OER and a new online learning platform is the fear of giving up those materials. Faculty want the ability to shape their own course experiences, and fortunately, they can have both the platform and the control.
BNED Courseware offers complete customization to faculty. They can still use the materials they have in their LMS and they can choose what they want to use from the platform’s library of e-textbooks and other resources. It’s just an additional layer of content that faculty don’t have to build out themselves. They can add, remove, rearrange and edit content as needed.
“I liked the flexibility of being able to move chapters around, re-ordering the content to the way I like to teach the course,” said Donya Waugh, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Cuyahoga Community College. “It gave my students resources for every chapter of the course book — quizzes and videos along with content that I could add myself.”
Of course, a key component of choice comes down to price. Faculty have prioritized affordability for their students, making e-textbooks and online learning resources a natural fit. BNED Courseware offers access to a fully embedded e-textbook and added instructional materials for a fraction of the cost of traditional print materials. In an environment where students can’t always afford to buy their course materials, this represents an affordable and accessible choice for many.
With an expanding focus on supporting student success and offering affordable course materials, OER will continue to represent a viable solution for many schools. As OER and online learning platforms like BNED Courseware become more widely used, the myths and misconceptions surrounding it will fade — expanding its benefits to more faculty and students over time.