Open Educational Resources: What We Don’t Know
Regan A. R. Gurung November 14, 2018
One of the first reviews of OER efficacy tests included 16 studies (Hilton, 2016). The abstract stated that “ … students generally achieve the same learning outcomes when OER are utilized.”
All nine studies had major confounds such as method of instruction (e.g., comparing OER sections that were taught online or blended versus traditional texts used in a face-to-face class). Some studies switched exams between comparisons and some changed course design (e.g., went to a flipped model). Most study authors acknowledged that the type of textbook was not the only factor that changed.
There is promise in the use of OERs. Beyond the “as good as” findings, some studies suggest they could be beneficial. Jhangiani, Dastur, LeGrand and Penner (2018) found students using print OERs (versus digital) did better on one of three exams tested (no differences on the other two, still good news). Is the promise of OER fulfilled? There is not enough to know yet. We have to be tighter in how we assess the efficacy of such materials in particular and higher education innovation in general.
Methodological challenges abound in classroom research on teaching, as learning is complex. Many challenges can be overcome with strong research design. There are benchmarks for conducting research on teaching and learning (Felton, 2013; Wilson-Doenges and Gurung, 2013), and it would be prudent for more educational researchers to use them.
more on OER in this IMS blog