This post follows the release last week of our data report focusing on informal learners’ use of OER.

To recap:

In 2013 the Hewlett-funded OER Research Hub Project created a bank of survey questions to test eleven hypotheses related to the impact of OER use on teaching and learning. In the two years that followed, a number of bespoke surveys were designed and administered in collaboration with the Flipped Learning NetworkVital Signs, the Community Colleges Consortium for Open Educational ResourcesOpenLearnSaylor AcademyOpenStaxBCcampusSiyavulaSchool of Open-P2PU and CoPILOT. Responses from each survey were then combined into a larger dataset to allow for comparison and in-depth examination. The final dataset is comprised of 7,498 cases –44.4% informal learners, 28.4% formal learners, 24.3% educators and 2.9% librarians.

The current report, second in a series of three, presents a frequencies analysis of responses from formal learners, i.e. those learners registered on a course of study at an educational institution.

Some key findings:

  • Cost (88%) and ease of access (79%) are the most important factors influencing formal learners’ decision to use OER
  • 32% of formal learners say that their use of open content influenced their decision to register for their course of study
  • Biggest impact of OER use not on grades but on increased interest in the subject, satisfaction with the learning experience and enthusiasm for future study
  • Relevance, reputation and clear learning objectives guide formal learners’ selection of OER
  • Discoverability of resources is a barrier to OER adoption by formal learners

Please note potential bias in the high percentage of formal learners reporting use of open textbooks; our collaboration with OpenStax and BCcampus targeted users of this particular type of OER.


The full dataset has been anonymised and is available for download under a CC BY license here.

We hope these findings and this format will be useful and of interest to those in the OER field, and would welcome any feedback. A third report, focusing on OER use by educators, will follow shortly.

Featured Image by justgrimes CC BY-SA 2.0