Opening the Textbook

Posted by: on October 6, 2016   |Comments (0)|Open Educational Resources


A research report was released by the Babson Survey Research Group on July 26, 2016: “Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in Higher Education, 2015-2016.” Using responses from 3,000 U.S. faculty, the report provides a snapshot of faculty awareness, use and attitudes toward open textbooks. The study seeks to better understand the selection process by faculty for educational materials that they employ in their courses.


Most higher education faculty are unaware of open educational resources (OER) – but they are interested and some are willing to give it a try. Survey results, using responses of over 3,000 U.S. faculty, show that OER is not a driving force in the selection of materials – with the most significant barrier being the effort required to find and evaluate such materials. Use of open resources is low overall, but somewhat higher for large enrollment introductory-level courses.

Selecting Teaching Resources:

  • Almost all (90%) of teaching faculty selected new or revised educational materials for at least one course over the previous two years.
  • The most common activity was changing required materials for an existing course (74%), followed by substantially modifying a course (65%). Creating a new course was the least common activity (48%).
  • The most common factor cited by faculty when selecting educational resources was the cost to the students. After cost, the next most common was the comprehensiveness of the resource, followed by how easy it was to find.
  • There is a serious disconnect between how many faculty include a factor in selecting educational resources and how satisfied they are with the state of that factor. For example, faculty are least satisfied with the cost of textbooks, yet that is the most commonly listed factor for resource selections.

Required Textbooks:

  • Virtually all courses (98%) require a textbook or other non-textbook material as part of their suite of required resources.
  • Required textbooks are more likely to be in printed form (69%) than digital. Faculty require digital textbooks in conjunction with a printed textbook more often than using only digital textbooks.
  • Only 5.3% of courses are using an openly licensed (Creative Commons or public domain) required textbook.
  • For large enrollment introductory undergraduate courses openly licensed OpenStax College textbooks are adopted at twice the rate (10%) as open licensed textbooks among all courses.


  • There has been very little change in the past year in the proportion of faculty who report that they are aware of copyright status of classroom content.
  • Awareness of public domain licensing and Creative Commons licensing has remained steady.
  • Faculty continue to have a much greater level of awareness of the type of licensing often used for OER (Creative Commons) than they do of OER itself, and it is clear that they do not always associate this licensing with OER.

Open Educational Resources:

  • Faculty awareness of OER has increased in the last year, but remains low. Only 6.6% of faculty reported that they were “Very aware” of open educational resources, with around three times that many (19%) saying that they were “Aware”.
  • The level of faculty awareness of open textbooks (a specific type of OER) was somewhat lower than that for open educational resources; only 34% of faculty claimed some level of awareness.

Barriers to OER Adoption:

  • The barriers to adopting OER most often cited by faculty are that “there are not enough resources for my subject” (49%), it is “too hard to find what I need” (48%) and “there is no comprehensive catalog of resources” (45%).
  • There has been a decrease in faculty concerns about permission to use or change OER materials, and increases in concerns about the quality of OER and that it is timely and up-to-date.
  • Most faculty do not have experience searching for OER materials and cannot compare the ease of finding OER with traditional materials. Only 2.5% thought that it was easier to search for OER.


  • The number of faculty claiming that they would use OER in the future (6.9%) is of the same order of magnitude of those already using open resources (5.3%). A larger group (31.3%) reports that they will consider future OER use.

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Posted by: on October 6, 2016   |Comments (0)|Open Educational Resources