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Faculty Awareness of OER Has Increased for 5 Years Straight, Yet Adoption Is Flat

faculty awareness of OER

In higher education, faculty awareness of open educational resources — course materials that are freely available for use, reuse, adaptation and sharing — has grown for the fifth straight year, according to a study by Bay View Analytics. The research firm, supported by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, surveyed 3,200 faculty and department chairs across the United States about how they selected and used their course materials during the 2019-2020 academic year.

While OER awareness went up, for the first time in the past decade, adoption of OER as required course materials did not increase. Why? The researchers hypothesized that with last year's pandemic-induced shift from face-to-face to online instruction, faculty time was monopolized by pedagogical concerns. "[Flat OER adoption rates] may have been the result of the considerable amounts of time faculty had to put into converting their courses, leaving them no time to invest in the exploration and evaluation of new materials," the report noted.

One bright spot in OER adoption was the supplementary use of those materials by faculty teaching introductory-level courses. Among that group, adoption rates of supplemental OER have increased steadily every year, from 20 percent in 2015-2016 to 28 percent in 2019-2020.

Additional survey findings include:

  • The majority of faculty — 58 percent — reported they are at least somewhat aware of OER. Of those, 17 percent considered themselves "very aware."
  • Faculty at minority-serving institutions reported greater levels of OER awareness, and were also more likely to have adopted OER both for required and supplemental materials, compared to faculty at other types of institutions.
  • Faculty who were aware of institutional or system-level OER initiatives were as much as four times as likely to adopt OER as those who did not know about those programs.
  • Faculty who had adopted OER considered the quality of those materials slightly superior to that of commercial alternatives.
  • Seventy-one percent of faculty taught an online course during Fall 2020 — more than double the share teaching online the previous year (34 percent). And in-person instruction dropped from 96 percent of faculty teaching at least one face-to-face course in 2019, to 14 percent in Fall 2020.
  • Sixty-eight percent of faculty modified their course for the Fall 2020 semester, and the vast majority attributed those changes to the need to convert the course for delivery during the pandemic.
  • While the majority of faculty continued using the same textbook as previous terms, some did make changes for Fall 2020. Fifty-five percent of faculty said they moved to a newer edition of the textbook, 32 percent added a digital option, and 10 percent switched to all-digital.

The full report, "Digital Texts in the Time of COVID: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2020," is available on the Bay View Analytics 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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