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1.2: Observations and Analysis

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    During our analysis of existing research on the effectiveness of OER, we came across intriguing themes. The following section will delve deeper into the key themes we observed.

    Cost-Saving Narrative

    One of the main observations from our research for this Guide is how the narrative surrounding OER efficacy is presented – the story of OER efficacy. Storytelling is a pivotal piece of OER efficacy research; how you discuss and describe your work is important, as it informs the decisions you make. As we mention in The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far), “Storytelling is a meaningful tool to help you communicate the people, purpose, and vision of your work. We subscribe to the idea that stories are a series of connections.”

    A large chunk of the articles we read tell a story of OER being effective in reducing costs for students, expanding access to materials, and perceptions of OER (both for faculty and students). This is definitely a big win in the broader fight to make education more accessible and affordable. Frameworks that highlight the role of OER in reducing costs to students and institutions sometimes fail to answer the question, “why does this matter?” In other words, what is the next chapter of the cost-savings story? What is the trickle-down impact or the snowball effect? What financial implications will this have over time?

    We ask similar questions in The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far): “given the care and thought to bring a student-centered and equity-based approach to OER creation, are there also ways to carry this forward to look at other measures of assessing student “success” beyond grades?” If you complete the narrative with the cost-savings lens, are there other protagonists who can tell the same story in a different voice and offer a more nuanced view?

    Pause for a moment and consider: Outside of student savings, why does the impact of OER matter? What material conditions change once we make the switch to OER? How can you dig deeper to understand the impact of OER?

    Lack of Social Justice Lens

    Not many articles were found to look at OER’s efficacy with a social justice lens.

    Lambert (2018), Colvard et al. (2018), Figlio, Rush, and Yin (2013), and Levy & Tila (2022) were some of the few that specifically focused on the impact of open educational resources on student impact.

    Levi & Tila (2022) noted that by disaggregating data, they found “the educational hardships posed by high textbook prices were even more significant, however, for historically underserved student groups – particularly in regard to stress, (first-day) access, class choice, and academic performance. Thus, the disproportionately negative effect of course material costs on historically underserved students reemphasizes textbook affordability as a redistributive social justice issue.” (pg. 10)

    If you are doing research around OER efficacy, pause for a moment. Are you looking at how OER impacts different demographics (race, disability, gender, socioeconomic status, immigration status, etc.) – why or why not?

    If you answered no, what can you do differently to incorporate this practice into your research? (If it’s a knowledge gap, consider seeking collaborations with members of the open community who have knowledge in these areas, in particular lived experience – however, you need to be mindful of labour and knowledge extraction – pay people equitably and uplift their voices rather than taking their knowledge and claiming it as your own.) As pointed out by Jenkins et al. (2018), “such a gap in OER literature not only perpetuates the higher education system’s neglect of historically underserved students, but also overlooks the potential for textbook affordability to promote social justice values.”

    In Using open educational resources to promote social justice, Ivory et al. (2022) offer an overview of some of the other social justice gaps outside of affordability and access. They point out that the open education field has been good at addressing access to educational materials, however, diverse participation and representation in OER have lagged behind. In addition, Ivory et al. (2022) make the observation that in the West, it’s common for us to think we possess unique knowledge and, as a result, we sometimes feel compelled to represent others instead of letting them express their own lived experiences and perspectives.

    Missing Worldviews

    The majority of the frameworks we researched had a decidedly North American focus. While North American studies often look at contexts in the Global North, there is a lot of insight, progress, and inspiration from OER work being done globally (specifically in Africa and Asia) that these studies tend to miss. This is unfortunate, because the expansive worldviews can help us:

    • Define OER and OER efficacy more consistently;
    • Better understand overlapping challenges and success;
    • Create a shared future of OER that decenter whiteness (both in content and practices) and advance equity for all.

    The Understanding the Impact of OER: Achievements and Challenges UNESCO report looks at the implementation and usage of OER in several countries around the world, highlighting both challenges and successes. To our surprise, many countries face similar challenges with regards to OER — meaning that shared conversations could lead to better problem-solving.

    Data from the surveyed countries indicate that OER is not widely accepted globally. Rather than being properly incorporated into educational systems, OER initiatives are frequently viewed as distinct enterprises. Instead of being a core component of a strategy for developing and using educational materials, OER initiatives frequently take the form of add-ons.

    Respondents noted there were several key research questions and issues that need to be explored regarding OER in their country. Suggested areas for further research included categories such as: educational effectiveness, understanding costs and developing viable OER models, policy development and implementation, and improving diversity of OER. Learning more about these different pieces could help paint a fuller picture of OER efficacy in these regions and therefore help us compare themes and patterns across regions.

    Considering the worldwide scope of open education, it is essential to connect and engage with international knowledge networks to expand our perspectives on education by examining, questioning, and enhancing them through the unique prisms of diverse cultures, religions, and regions. This helps expand the perspectives provided in educational materials, while allowing students (and educators, more broadly) to be represented in materials.

    If you are doing research around OER efficacy, pause for a moment. Are you looking at how OER impacts different regions and ways in which OER efficacy is looked at globally- why or why not?

    If you answered no, how might you be able to modify your approach to integrate this methodology into your research?

    This page titled 1.2: Observations and Analysis is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kaitlin Schilling (Rebus Community) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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