De Montfort University Student Perceptions and Understanding of Open Education Resources and Open Practices
A Masters Dissertation by Libor Hurt
Part of the De Montfort UKOER Phase 3 Project HALSOER funded by Jisc and the HEA (2011-2012).
This blog article is a brief overview of Libor’s research looking at student awareness and attitudes to open educational resources (OERs). We always felt that despite students being the target end user of OER, there was surprisingly little research into their awareness and attitudes toward open education as a whole.
In one major report reviewing learner use of online resources, Bacsich and colleagues (2011) highlighted the need for research into learner experiences and learner use of OER across the education spectrum, and the need for good quality studies of uniform methodology to build up a robust picture of research into the subject. They recommended that institutions should understand student views and experiences of OER and online resources to inform strategies and policies.
The aim of Libor’s dissertation was to establish the student perceptions and understanding of OERs, their use and knowledge of them, and to look at student learning habits and sharing cultures that exist in their academic circles. In light of Bacsich et al’s recommendations, we aimed to conduct a robust study using mixed methodology (questionnaires and interviews) for harvesting opinion. In response to the idea of providing a uniform approach, all our questionnaires and interview guides are shared as OERs, and indeed, have been requested for use several times by other researchers. (See Research Pack).
In Libor’s work he uses the UNESCO definition of OER:
“Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution.” (UNESCO 2013)
They key point to OER is they are licensed openly for free use, and it is important to convey this notion to students in their participation in this research. Otherwise the research would relate to student use of online resources in general and miss the nuances of “open”. The other difficulty in researching “open” is the many formats and file types available. As part of Libor’s work, he made no assumption as to what types of resources were OER – only the fact that they were freely and openly licensed on the internet.
A number of past studies had looked at staff attitudes and awareness of OER. De Montfort staff for example at the start of the UKOER programme (2009) had little awareness of the term “open educational resources”, but as the programme matured by 2012 half the staff responding to a survey were familiar with OER. (Refs). Central to the success of OER being embraced by individuals and organisations is the notion of sharing – willingness to share your own work and use the work of others by varying degrees. Interestingly in both these surveys, staff attitudes toward sharing did not change – people were willing to share with close academic colleagues but not further even to similar courses within the faculty, and were even less likely to place materials on the internet. Conversely, staff were readily using materials from the web. So it is likely that as with the results of the staff survey, Libor’s results were going to reflect the deeply entrenched cultures and practices specific to one higher education institution.
A questionnaire was developed and distributed online using SurveyMonkey and was also available in paper copy. Students participated voluntarily. Semi-structured interviews were carried out in teaching sessions, again on a voluntary basis. Fuller methods will be available in the final dissertation. A “Research Pack” is available for anyone wishing to conduct similar research, hopefully improving on our approaches!