Campus Support for OER is Growing, Survey Finds

Digital Learning

Campus Support for OER is Growing, Survey Finds

By Jeffrey R. Young     Oct 30, 2018

Campus Support for OER is Growing, Survey Finds

The number of colleges running efforts to help professors shift from published textbooks to low-cost online materials known as OER is growing rapidly.

That was one key finding in the latest Campus Computing Survey, one of the largest annual surveys of college technology leaders in the U.S., which was released today.

Nearly two thirds of colleges in the survey—64 percent—reported campus programs to “encourage faculty to use OER content for their courses.” That was up from 34 percent in 2014.

“That’s a huge change,” said Casey Green, director of the survey, in an interview. “This is no longer an intellectual argument on the part of the [OER] evangelists.”

Fifty-two percent of campus tech leaders said their colleges go even further, supporting efforts to build home-grown OER materials. OER stands for open educational resources, and they are meant to provide a lower cost option than traditional textbooks, and they also provide more permissive licenses that let professors remix and customize them.

Those same tech leaders, however, said that not all faculty are sold on the approach. Only 38 percent agreed or strongly agreed that “faculty at my campus believe that the quality of OER course materials is about the same as comparable commercial products.”

As Green put it: “There’s a huge set of concerns about quality of OER by faculty.”

The survey is now in its 29th year, and many of the metrics show little change from year to year, charting gradual change in what campuses use and which issues loom largest.

Another area where attitudes of college tech leaders seem to be changing is artificial intelligence. A growing number of college technology leaders believe that artificial intelligence will play an increasing role in decision-making systems in higher education in coming years. But IT leaders give relatively low marks to the effectiveness of their current analytics systems. Less than a fifth—19 percent—rated investments in data analytics as “very effective.”

“There’s ‘analytics angst’—a disillusionment with big data,” said Green.

This was the first year the survey asked about blockchain, the latest buzzword in tech.

Forty-one percent of participants agree or strongly agree that Blockchain technology will play an increasingly important role in their campus culture, and forty-five percent agreed or strongly agreed that the technology will “dramatically transform” how institutions manage student data and transcripts.

Green said that it is too soon to tell whether blockchain will impact higher education, and that if it does, it will likely be led by companies and players outside of higher education rather than led by colleges themselves.

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