Saturday, April 14, 2012

Examining the Reuse of Open Textbooks

John Hilton III and David A. Wiley  / Brigham Young University, USA ;  Neil Lutz  / Rutgers University, USA / April 2012


An important element of open educational resources (OER) is the permission to use the materials in new ways, including revising and remixing them. Prior research has shown that the revision and remix rates for OER are relatively low. In this study we examined the extent to which the openly licensed Flat World Knowledge textbooks were being revised and remixed. We found that the levels of revision and remix were similar to those of other OER collections. We discuss the possible significance and implication of these findings.
Limitations and Future Research
The primary limitation of the current study is that we only had access to modifications made within FWK’s editing program and could not examine “dark reuse” of FWK content. It is possible that people revised or remixed FWK books outside of this system. For example, one of the authors of this article is currently revising the FWK project management textbook to focus on project management in the instructional design field. Consequently, this study undercounts (potentially significantly) the amount of actual remix that has taken place. In addition, FWK has recently added a new feature to its system in which people who customize textbooks can make their revised version of a textbook available for sale and receive a portion of the profits from the sales of these remixed books. This incentive may encourage more professors to revise and remix textbook content.
Another limitation of this study is that it included only one collection of OER (those published by FWK). While our results are not significantly different from those found by Duncan (2009) and Petrides et al. (2008), additional research should examine other collections of OER to determine if these emerging trends in reuse, revision, and remixing hold in other venues.
Further work should be done not only to determine the extent to which OER are being remixed, but also how important this remixing is to OER in general. It may be that other outcomes of OER (simple reuse, decreased costs, increased access) overshadow the overall importance of how much remixing takes place.
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