Study Finds Ohio State Faculty, Students Pleased with Open Educational Resources

In the process of making learning affordable, how do we know we’re not sacrificing the quality of educational resources? Is there a way to get a general idea of how students perceive free or low-cost digital materials? A team of researchers at The Ohio State University wanted to find out.

Shanna Jaggars, Director of Student Success Research, and David Mullins, Evaluation and Feedback Lead from ODEE, teamed up with Amanda Folk, the Head of Teaching and Learning from University Libraries, to develop a method for assessing how students perceive the quality of open educational resources (OERs). They created a survey that asked instructors and students questions about quality, material integration and course experience, as well as student preferences for traditional textbooks vs. digital content.

The research suggests that:

  • Students and faculty are generally pleased with the quality and experience of using open and affordable digital materials.
  • Students who had a good experience with what they perceived to be high quality materials were generally more likely to opt for digital content in future courses instead of a traditional textbook.
  • The research identified some areas for improvement, including helping students shut out distractions while studying with digital content and improving note taking capabilities with digital content.

“Our research shows that quality matters, experience in the classroom matters,” said David Mullins. “The key to making learning affordable is focusing on high-quality OERs that enhance the educational experience for students in their courses.”

For a more in-depth look at this research, check out the full study, published in Performance Measurement and Metrics.

Instructors and students from 12 courses from autumn semester 2016 responded to the survey, and this group spanned a wide range of disciplines across Ohio State. These 12 courses were participants in the Affordable Learning Exchange (ALX), a program that funds and supports faculty members to curate and create affordable digital content to replace expensive textbooks in their courses.

Jaggars, Mullins and Folk are adding to the body of research on affordable learning. In fact, Jaggars has presented this assessment and the findings at a variety of conferences—from Oxford, UK, to Anaheim, CA! Going forward, Jaggars will be expanding this research across the state of Ohio at four more colleges.

“The ultimate purpose of these studies is to understand the barriers, costs and benefits of OER from both the faculty and student perspectives,” said Jaggars, “so that we can put processes and policies in place to reduce barriers and costs and maximize the benefits.”