This blog post is Part 2 in a series about my research on the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance for Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) OER project as part of my work with Creative Commons on the OPEN project, and my fellowship with the OER Research Hub. You can find blog post Part 1 here.
In the last blog post, I looked at survey data about general awareness and experience of TAACCCT grantees from Rounds 1 and 2 (and some Round 3) involving Open Educational Resources (OER). Although more than half of the survey responses indicated that entire teams were aware of OER, the awareness levels of 1) open licensing as a key component of OER fell for all teams, as did 2) awareness of the CC BY requirement for TAACCCT. The data suggest that many members of TAACCCT project teams have general awareness that OER exist (in a curriculum or courseware format), but they are less aware of open licensing of OER, and of the grant requirement for licensing deliverables.
In this blog post (part 2 of 2) I’ll share findings around TAACCCT grantee perceptions of OER, and then look at their use and perceptions of proprietary content in TAACCCT course development. This will help identify knowledge and awareness levels, which can be contrasted against rates of OER content use to gain a better view of how both open and closed content types are involved in TAACCCT.
Four (4) primary themes of survey:
- Awareness of OER*
- Experience with OER*
- Use and perceptions of OER**
- Use and perceptions of proprietary content
*Topics covered in blog Post 1.
**Topic expanded to include use of OER.
3. Use and perceptions of OER
- Willingness to use or adapt non-TAACCCT OER
- Willingness to use or adapt TAACCCT OER
- Planned use of OER for TAACCCT course development
This section of the survey attempted to gauge grantee perceptions of OER, in terms of their willingness to use OER for TAACCCT program or course development, and their teams’ planned use of OER. The survey made a distinction between TAACCCT OER and non-TAACCCT OER, the latter described as OER that were not products of a TAACCCT project (think MIT OCW, OpenStax textbooks, etc). Grantee teams’ (N=44) willingness to use or adapt non-TAACCCT OER for curriculum development was distributed with 20.5% (n=9) of responses indicating being either “very hesitant” or “somewhat hesitant” to use or adapt non-TAACCCT OER. Of the remaining responses, 27.3% (n=12) reported moderate willingness, with 22.7% (n=10) being “somewhat willing” and 9.1% (n=4) being “very willing” to use or adapt OER for their TAACCCT projects.
The figure above represents project team willingness to use or adapt OER, separated into the two buckets: 1) TAACCCT OER, and 2) non-TAACCCT OER. Willingness to adapt TAACCCT OER for curriculum development (N=44) was distributed differently than with non-TAACCCT OER, the largest subgroup (36.4%) reporting moderate willingness (n=16). Portions reporting their teams to be “somewhat willing” or “very willing” made up 15.9% (n=7) of the sample, each. Groups reporting to be “somewhat hesitant” made up 27.3% (n=12), while those responding “very hesitant” were 4.5% (n=2). The data suggest that grantees are somewhat more willing to use TAACCCT OER than non-TAACCCT OER, which which is to be expected considering the obvious overlap in training/curriculum audience and education level. It will be interesting to see how this changes as more courseware become available at the conclusion of Round 1 TAACCCT projects, and it’s possible to search a single repository for highly relevant OER courseware.
The figure above shows an increase in planned OER use (vs. current use) in course development, with a marked shift from the lowest two use ranges (<25%, 25-50%) into the middle two ranges (25-50%, 50-75%). This alone may indicate that grantee project teams have increased confidence in using OER than in prior stages of the TAACCCT program, as an increase of confidence in using OER seems a prerequisite for a change in practice. In the next section, I will look at data surrounding use and perceptions of proprietary content, then compare these data to that from the OER use and perceptions portion of the survey to see how OER and proprietary content stack up against each other for grantees.
4. Use and perceptions of proprietary content
- Current use of proprietary content in TAACCCT project
- Planned use of proprietary content in TAACCCT project
- Willingness to use proprietary content
The purpose of this survey section was to gauge the project groups’ use of, and willingness to use proprietary content in TAACCCT program and course development. Responses (N=44) indicated that half (50.0%) of groups in the sample used proprietary content as less than twenty-five percent of course materials (n=18) to date (March 2014). Other responses indicating higher (see figure for scale) overall use of proprietary content were 19.4% (n=7) at twenty-five to fifty percent use, 16.7% (n=6) indicating fifty-one to seventy-five percent use, and 16.7% (n=6) indicating more than seventy-five percent proprietary content use.
The figure above shows a decrease in planned use of proprietary content among grantees (N=37, N=44), with 54.5% (n=24) of grantees indicating that their project teams plan to use less than twenty-five percent proprietary content in future course development. The sample (N) responses to these two survey items were not equal, with fewer responses to the question inquiring about current proprietary content use. As such, it is difficult to make a direct comparison between the responses, though the subgroup representing the highest usage level (>75%) for proprietary content declined in planned use (n=2) from current use, even in the larger sample of responses (N=44). Considered alongside the planned increase of OER reuse by project teams, OER are not only acting as supplementary materials, but are beginning to weave their way into course development.
With responses to a question concerning willingness to use proprietary content in future course development (N=44), 57.1% (n=24) of respondents anticipated less than twenty-five percent of content to be proprietary. Nearly one fourth of respondents (n=10, 23.8%) plan to use twenty-five to fifty percent proprietary content, while 14.3% (n=6) are planning for fifty-one to seventy-five percent use. Two responses (n=2) indicated planned use of more than seventy-five percent proprietary content. Willingness to adapt proprietary content for curriculum development was stronger than OER overall, with the largest group (27.3%) being somewhat willing (n=12). Portions reporting their teams to be “moderately willing” or “very willing” made up 15.9% (n=7) of the sample, each. Groups reporting to be “somewhat hesitant” made up 27.3% (n=12), while those responding “very hesitant” were 4.5% (n=2).
The figure above shows grant project teams’ willingness to use or adapt all three types of content from low to high, with the largest subgroups gathering in the moderate (2-4) levels. This figure is similar to the one shown earlier in this post display willingness to reuse the two types of OER, though this figure includes proprietary content, too. Representing the largest subgroup at the highest willingness level, there again appears to be greater confidence in proprietary content versus both OER types. For many, OER are not a plug-and-play solution when developing courseware. As mentioned above, additional data about grantee use and perceptions of different content types later in the TAACCCT program would be useful when building more understanding about how these change across the phases of TAACCCT.
Anecdotally, grantees have indicated that finding useful OER for course development has been challenging for many teams throughout the project. As part of the resources created on the OPEN project to assist grantees in locating existing OER, a curated list of OER repositories and referatories was constructed (credit: Paul Stacey), which remains a core piece of the OER-related resources available to grantees. Located at open4us.org/find-oer, links and short-form (2-3 sentence) descriptions are useful to have at the ready. Still, locating OER that is useful in a specific context, for a specific learner population, at the proper education level is not a simple task.
To explore this aspect of reusing OER, a question in the survey inquired about the project teams’ abilities to find OER useful to their course or program.
The figure above shows the distribution of response (N=42) indicating project teams’ experiences being able to locate OER that is relevant to their projects. The largest two subgroups indicated moderate (n=17, 40.5%) or somewhat difficult (n=11, 26.2%) experiences locating OER, which we can assume had some bearing on the amount of OER included in their course development. It may be some time before better OER search tools are available, though the planned centralized TAACCCT OER repository will certainly make it easier to search and find relevant OER for all TAACCCT projects going forward.
Use and perceptions of OER
- Grantees are moderately willing to reuse OER for TAACCCT course development, and are slightly more willing to reuse TAACCCT over other existing OER resources
- The overwhelming majority of TAACCCT projects currently use very little OER for course development, though many plan to involve more OER in course development than they have until now
- Locating OER to use in course development remains difficult for many, though some respondents indicated relative ease in the process
- Grantees are somewhat more willing to use proprietary content over OER (though were less likely to answer the appealing question on the survey)
- More proprietary content is being used than OER, though grantees plan to use less proprietary content in future course development
Construction of this survey was done in early 2014, and since then a beta version of the OER repository for TAACCCT has made a soft launch. Until this point in the project (November 2014), TAACCCT content has exclusively been hosted at project teams’ institutional (local) repositories or other shared/cloud storage, which potentially adds steps to the process of finding useful OER. As significant chunks of content are contributed to the central TAACCCT OER repository by Round 1 grantees over the next year (most Round 1 projects will complete in Summer 2014), the search process can only improve for grantees of the next rounds of TAACCCT. Need a community college course in mechatronics or electric vehicle technology? The National STEM Consortium has those done. What about environmental technology or food science? The Trac-7 Consortium has a nice set of those, too. With US$2b invested into this project, and more than 800 community colleges and technical schools working on this pool of workforce development programs, it’s worth paying attention to.
On the whole, we can see that involvement in a national OER project has impacted the general awareness of OER for thousands of faculty, instructional technologists, and administrators throughout the U.S. And because this project specifies that courseware are to be licensed CC BY, the content will be free and open for anyone to take a copy and retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute it. There’s no reason why this content couldn’t be translated and localized to any region of the world, which lowers the barriers to improving or bootstrapping workforce development programs across the globe. And if nothing more, the successes and lessons learned in this large-scale OER project can inform future projects of similar scale.
Graph icon in header image designed by Piotrek Chuchla from the Noun Project