Sunday, June 10, 2012

Obstacles to Faculty Adoption of OER and Open Textbooks

TUESDAY, MAY 15 2012

It's certainly interesting to note the effect that e-books and self-publishing have had on the trade fiction industry. The digital evolution has resulted in an overhaul of publishing processes, an upheaval of traditional supply chain roles, and a complete change in value and pricing.


The results of self-publishing and lower pricing models in the trade e-book market have led many people to ask me why we haven't seen/aren't seeing the same type of changes in education related to OERs and open textbooks. It's a good question and one I want to address briefly in this post. I'll start by listing the differences between the two markets that are inhibiting the same sort of disruption, and then I will offer some suggestions about what it will take to facilitate faculty adoption of OERs and open textbooks on a broad scale.

Primary Differences between E-textbook and Trade E-book Models

Let's start out by defining key market differences that make it more difficult for self-published and/or open content in education to gain the same kind of recognition and adoption levels (and production enthusiasm) that we have seen in trade fiction.


There are too many distribution channels in education -- Of course, the reality is that even when we do create great OER and open textbooks the multitude of distribution channels in education make it incredibly difficult to market or find content effectively. [snip].

The penetration of digital is education lags behind the trade market -- For those who have read my different reports or my book on the growth of digital textbooks in education, you know that digital content is indeed increasing rapidly in terms of usage. Still, the market for digital in education lags considerably behind the trade fiction market. [snip].

Generally speaking, OER and open textbooks are not as competitive as the commercial alternatives -- I know that foundations like Gates, Hewlett, and 20 Million Minds have poured significant funding into the OER/open textbook movement, and we are seeing high quality, compelling resources as a result. The problem is that, while good as individual resources, the content and product being developed by these initiatives is not competitive with similar products being created by commercial publishers. This is because open content lacks the platforms that provide the type of differentiated learning experiences offered by MyLabs and MindTap. These platforms are big advantages for the major publishers and add perceived value to their content that open content groups cannot currently match.

Use and re-use of OER and open textbooks is too difficult -- I have said this many times before but it bears repeating. If I want to use a commercial content product, the publisher or provider makes it extremely easy for me to evaluate the product and then to use it within my teaching world. [snip].

What Will It Take to Drive Faculty Adoption of OER and Open Textbooks?

There are some fairly obvious answers to this question in the previous section, but I would like to point to a couple of specific areas where OER and open textbook initiatives need to improve in order to gain broad faculty adoption.

Discovery -- Commercial publishers use the distribution channel chaos of educational content to their advantage while, for OER creators this noise means that no one can really find anything easily. Commercial publishers have nice portals for content discovery and purchase, and these are easy to find or be guided to by Google. [snip]. By comparison, OER and open content has no analogous portal(s) for easy discovery and information (and certainly not any that an average faculty member would be able to find). There are no materials to explain advantages of products and there is no one to help me get information or make a decision.

If organizations hope to drive broad faculty adoption, discovery -- at the same level provided by commercial publishers -- must become a key priority.

Ease of Use and Differentiated Learning Experiences -- If we're really serious about faculty adopting and using OER and open textbooks, we must become competitive with regards to ease of use and differentiated learning experiences. [snip].

Marketing -- But even ease of discovery and use alone won't lead to the wide adoption of OER and open textbooks by faculty. For that to happen, OER and open textbook organizations will have to market their products to faculty in ways that will reach that constituency effectively. [snip]

If I haven't made it clear yet, I believe that OER and open textbook organizations/providers must act competitive with commercial content providers in order to become competitive for faculty adoptions. [snip]


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