In order to gauge student and faculty attitudes toward the integration of digital OER via the University’s virtual course management system, a lengthy questionnaire was developed and administered in Spring 2016 and will be redeployed at the end of this current Fall semester. Embedded within the 72-question survey are conceptual dimensions mining general student attitudes toward the use of OER, but also student ratings of effectiveness and quality of those same OER. Survey questions were made to align with the widely-held notion, prevalent in the scholarship on the subject, that utility is an important measure of quality in the integration of OER into existing curricula. With a response rate of 25%, initial findings suggest greater student satisfaction with the use of digital OER as compared to traditional textbooks, and also suggesting greater student engagement with their learning. It also shows, by a margin of 2 to 1, positive perceptions of the effectiveness and quality of the digital OER used. In another key dimension, students were asked to self-assess their progress in meeting course learning outcomes in light of OER usage, resulting in high positives. Students also showed dissatisfaction with levels of connectivity and infrastructure availability in general. Interestingly, a similarly designed survey to instructors of the course revealed a divergence of attitudes with regard to the same dimensions, a theme to be included in the paper.
As a longitudinal study, tracking student and faculty attitudes toward the use of OER is ongoing. This paper will present the findings of these student attitudes as we enter phase two of the piloting to see if higher student engagement levels made apparent in phase one continue as the use of OER becomes institutionalized. The paper will also discuss whether the initial divergence between instructors and students regarding digital OER is a continuing phenomenon and offer an explanation for this.
Finally, the paper will place the current initiative in the context of larger, national policies with regard not only to the use of OER but of E-learning generally. In a country lacking a national qualifications network (NQF) with regard to paradigm-shifting changes in the sphere of education, local initiatives such as the one described here raise important questions about the limits of educational reform, increased access, and student success in general. As our piloting moves from adoption of OER to adoption of open practices, one key question is whether the optimization of OER can be achieved beyond the adoption stage, absent sufficient national policies to support such changes.
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UNESCO (2012). 2012 Paris OER Declaration (Paris, UNESCO). Accessed October 14 2016 from http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/Events/Paris%20OER%20Declaration_01.pdf
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