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Two-Thirds of Faculty Unaware of Open Education Resources

Nearly two-thirds of faculty members in U.S. higher education are generally unaware of open educational resources (OER), according to a new study from Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson. Funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the project surveyed 2,144 faculty across a wide range of positions and institution types to explore the role of OER in higher ed.

Among faculty who are aware of OER, 79 percent reported that they use it in some capacity. But interestingly, overall respondents' OER awareness did not necessarily match up with their OER usage. According to the report, "While only about one-third of faculty members claim to be aware of open educational resources, nearly one-half report that they use OER. There are even some faculty who said that they were not at all aware of OER who report that they have used it once the concept is explained for them. How is it that there are more faculty who are using OER than there are who say that they are aware of what it is? The answer appears to have two causes: the (lack of) faculty understanding of the term of 'Open Educational Resources,' and the fact that faculty often make resource choices without any consideration to the licensing of that resource."

OER Types

Among faculty using OER, the most popular types of OER materials were images and videos (used by 89.3 percent and 87.8 percent, respectively), followed by video lectures/tutorials (59.7 percent) and homework exercises (55.8 percent). Slides and class presentations were the least likely resources to be used.

types of OER used

Quality and Cost

According to the survey, "proven efficacy" and "trusted quality" were the two criteria most important to faculty when selecting open education resources, while "cost," "faculty ratings" and "provided by my institution" were the least important considerations.

criteria for selecting oer

Nearly three-quarters of faculty reported that the quality of open educational resources is the same as or better than that of traditional resources. In addition, cost was the one clear area where most faculty (85.7 percent) rated OER as superior to traditional materials.


The biggest deterrent to OER use is the lack of a comprehensive catalog of resources, according to the survey. Faculty also cited the difficulty of finding resources as a major barrier, as well as concerns about licensing. Most faculty had little concern about OER being up-to-date or easy to use.

deterrents to adopting OER

"While awareness of OER remains low among teaching faculty, it is not the critical barrier to wider adoption," said Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, in a press release. "The time and effort required to find, evaluate, and adopt these materials is the critical factor for faculty."


Among faculty members who are not current users of OER, 77.5 percent reported that they expected to use or would consider using OER in the next three years — a finding that was consistent across a range of academic disciplines.

projected OER use

The full report is available for download at the Babson site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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