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ABC Curriculum design: An openly licensed tool for universities

- April 28, 2016 in featured, oer

How can time-pressured academics design effective blended and online courses aligned to the Connected Curriculum? Dr Clive Young and Nataša Perović describe ABC curriculum design: a quick way to (re)design programmes and modules through a hands-on workshop where academic teams discuss and create storyboards of students’ activities.

abc cards

ABC (Arena, Blended, Connected) curriculum design, created by UCL Digital Education, is an effective and engaging hands-on 90-minute workshop where academic teams work together to create a visual ‘storyboard’ outlining the type and sequence of learning activities (both online and offline) required to meet the course’s learning outcomes.

ABC is an openly-licensed tool that was initially created for new programmes and modules or for those changing to a more online or blended format. However it has also proved remarkably effective simply to review current programmes. So far, over 60 modules have been re(designed) using the ABC method at UCL and in addition, the ABC materials have been used successfully in two other UK universities.


The ABC builds on Viewpoints, a well-received 2012 JISC project that used a card-based method for curriculum design. The UCL ABC method cards integrate the powerful concept of learning types derived from the Conversational Framework model of Professor Diana Laurillard (UCL Institute of Education). On one side of a card, a learning type is defined: such as acquisition, investigation, collaboration, discussion, practice and production). This is the principle. And on the other side conventional and digital learning activities (the practice) are detailed. As the workshop progresses these are sequenced into a large storyboard sheet representing the student journey.

Working together, module teams are first asked to write a “tweet-sized” description (140 character of fewer) of the module or programme, outlining the main outcome or unique selling point. This provides a sharp focus for the design and usually generates much lively debate. The participants also draw the shape of their course (as they envisage it at this time) on the learning types graph. They also consider the type of online and conventional learning mix.

The next step is to complete a draft storyboard of the module by sequencing and stacking six ‘learning types’ cards. This step encourages teams to deliberate the ways different learning types can be mixed together in variety of ways to reach the module’s learning outcomes.


Up to this point they are only looking at an overview of learning types. Once they have made a layout of the module (programme), they turn the cards over and look at the activities that are printed on the backside of the cards. They then select conventional and digital activities they want to use in their programme, by ticking them and by adding their own activities to the cards.

Once learning activities are chosen, the opportunities for formative and summative assessment of these activities are identified and marked by gold and silver stars. The final step is to review changes made and share with other module teams.

When the workshop is organised at a programme level this cross-module sharing using a common descriptive framework is remarkably powerful and can facilitate discussion of the integrative elements of the Connected Curriculum.

As one participant said: “This process was really useful. It helps us think about the modules in their entirety. It is really good how everything maps out in a clear framework like this.”

To learn more ABC curriculum design you can watch this video and look at the materials and tutorials here at ABC (Arena Blended Connected) curriculum design and design workshop here

About the authors


Clive Young : Clive work at UCL and has worked as a learning technology consultant in several universities. He has led several UK and international projects on the pedagogic design of video and was an e-learning project evaluator for the European Commission. Clive is also an associate lecturer at the Open University tutoring on their MA in Online and Distance Education.




Nataša Perović: Nataša has been working on e-learning development in medical, nursing and allied health sciences in higher education since 2006. Particular interests: blended learning, open educational resources, online videos in medical education, digital literacies and instructional design. Nataša has a background in science, web development and teaching and works at UCL with the School of Life and Medical Sciences Faculties (Brain Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences an Population Health Sciences).


OER Festival in Berlin – How An Open Event Inspires Open Educational Activities in Germany

- March 17, 2016 in events, featured, guestpost, oer

ber1Last week the OER community celebrated its first OER Festival in Berlin which consisted of an OER Camp and an OER conference/forum (here is the German website). After the successful OER13 and OER14 conferences in Germany, the goal was to broaden and intensify the debate about OER with relevant stakeholders. In this regard, two additional OER projects are worth mentioning as they are funded by the German government and targeted at “Mapping OER” and synthesising affordances and requirements for infrastructure on which OER-related systems can be built and integrated (feasibility study). These projects have then led to a call for proposals from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for (1) building and establishing a centre for information (and support) related to OER and (2) training for multipliers.

The OER Camp in Germany was based on an innovative format called BarCamps: these camps are participant-driven conferences, in which attendees share and learn in an open informal environment. Unlike traditional conferences that pre-schedule a programme, BarCamps rely on input from attendees to create the session programme on the spot and collaborate ad hoc on emerging topics.

Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “Jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Since 2012, several such camps have taken place in Bremen, Bielefeld and Berlin. On top of the ad hoc sessions, some workshops are offered by the members of the emerging OER Camp, who are practitioners and educators in media for education, adult educators, school teachers, researchers, policy-makers, educational publishers, and OER advocates.

The main goals of the OER Camp are to:

  • Network and connect stakeholders across diverse educational domains
  • Share knowledge and expertise on OER
  • Spread the word on existing as well as new initiatives
  • Promote open education among educational practitioners and to decision-makers and policy-makers

Why did we choose the initiative as good practice? 

The events are very participatory, incubate new ideas and attract attendees with diverse backgrounds.

OER Atlas 2016 - Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

OER Atlas 2016 – Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Also, the OER Camp has directly or indirectly produced the following outcomes (there are more that could have been selected):

  • The low threshold to initiate discussions and share knowledge has been the main driver of a growing OER grassroots community in the German-speaking countries. Several established educational platform providers for school education have started to license resources with Creative Commons.
  • The event built on and strengthened an existing community on OER which has had a major influence on the growing political support for the topic in Germany, e.g. the availability of national funding for awareness raising and further education measures.
  • A concise guide for teachers on the objectives behind OER, Creative Commons licenses and the main educational repositories/platforms has been developed by OER Camp participants from Austria and has been remixed and adapted to the German context
  • Plans to issue an OER award were discussed openly during the OER Camp 2015 and put into practice early 2016. Also as a result of the award plans the event grew into a 2-day BarCamp and a 1-day forum involving 7 partners, 30 supporters, 272 registrations, and 109 speakers.. The organisers presented all submissions in a CC-BY licensed publication that gives a good insight into the current OER landscape.
OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)

OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)

So it has been an exciting time and a great opportunity to talk about the latest developments of OER in Germany.

  • OER has been established as an important topic in contemporary education. After its slow uptake in German-speaking countries, OER has gained considerable momentum and more and more people from different sectors are now involved. What can be seen in this “OER-socialisation process” is that there is a set of shared beliefs about what OER should be, but less agreement on how we should bring about changes in the educational systems.
  • Although there is growing interest in OER, the discussion on procedures to mainstream OER is at the beginning. It is an interesting process to watch as arguments like “everything that is paid by the public/state should be OER” turn out to be much more complex than initially thought.
  • We are on the verge of reaching a next level as indicated by the afore-mentioned political initiatives.

Overall and to sum up this brief review, it was an inspiring OER event given the diversity of formats and the nicely orchestrated opportunities for discussions. There are exciting times ahead of us and it is in the hands of all of us to keep OER going.

About the authors

ACT Anne-Christin Tannhäuser is a project coordinator in technology-enhanced learning and open education programmes and a consultant on educational innovation. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Sciences and Linguistics from the University of Leipzig and she was trained at the Max Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin, in the use of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. In the past seven years she has managed and contributed to several TEL initiatives at national and European levels, including for the European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning, Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg, Knowledge Information Centre Malta, Wikimedia Germany, University of Applied Sciences Ruhrwest, Linnaeus University and the Institute of Prospective Technological Studies (European Commission) in the field of open education, recognition of open learning and evaluation/communication of R&D projects. She coordinated the Open Access journal INNOQUAL, the International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning, for two years. She is also an associate researcher at the Berlin campus of ESCP Europe, a private business school with six locations in the EU.

Dr. Markus Deimann

Dr. Markus Deimann, has since September 2013 been Assistant Professor (Akademischer Rat) in the Department of Instructional Technology and Media at FernUniversität Hagen. He completed his studies of Educational Sciences and Political Sciences at the University of Mannheim. Afterwards he worked as Research Assistant on the Project BMBF “Mulitmediales Fernstudium has been Medizinische Informatik (MEDIN)” (Multimedia-based Distance Study Medical Computer Science) at the Technische Universität Ilmenau (Ilmenau University of Technology) and at the University of Erfurt. Furthermore, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Florida State University, Tallahassee (USA) for one year. In 2011 he was a Scholarship Holder at the Open University (UK) for three months.

** (Part of this column was published in**

A Scuola di OpenCoesione: Using Open Data in schools for the development of civic awareness

- March 15, 2016 in data, featured, guestpost, mooc, OEP, oer, Open Educational Resources

A Scuola di OpenCoesione ( ASOC), from Italian, translates as Open Cohesion School. It can be understood as an educational challenge and a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) designed for students in Italian secondary schools. ASOC was launched in 2013 within the open government strategy on cohesion policy carried out by the National Government, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Representation Office of the European Commission in Italy; it is also supported by the European Commission’s network of “Europe Direct” Information Centres.

The third edition of ASOC was launched in November 2015. While you are reading this post, about 2800 students and 200 teachers are involved in a collective learning experience focused on civic monitoring of public funding through open data analysis, and also by visiting sites and conducting “data journalist” research.


The main objectives of ASOC are to engage participating schools in actively promoting the use and reuse of open data for the development of civic awareness and engagement with local communities in monitoring the effectiveness of public investment.

The participating students and teachers design their research using data from the 900,000 projects hosted on the national OpenCoesione portal in which everyone can find transparent information regarding the investment in projects funded by Cohesion Policies in Italy. The portal provides data including detailed information on the amount of funding, policy objectives, locations, involved subjects and completion times: so schools can select the data they want to use in their research, which can be related to their region or city.

ASOC’s Teaching and learning programme


The teaching and learning programme is designed in six main sessions. The first four sessions aim at developing innovative and interdisciplinary skills such as digital literacies and data analysis to support students to assess and critically understand the use of public money.

Students learn through a highly interactive process using policy analysis techniques, such as tackling policy rationales for interventions, as well as understanding results and performance. This process employs “civic” monitoring to work on real cases using data journalism and storytelling techniques.

During the fifth session, and based on their research projects on the information acquired, the students carry out on-site visits to the public works or services in their region or city which are financed by EU and national funds, and also they interview the key stakeholders involved in the projects’ implementation, the beneficiaries and other actors.

Finally, the sixth session is a final event where students meet with their local communities and with policy-makers to discuss their findings, with the ultimate goal to keep the administrators accountable and responsible for their decisions. Here you can find all the video sessions and exercises:

The teaching method combines asynchronous and synchronous learning. The asynchronous model is designed following a typical MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) style where participants learn through a series of activities. Teachers are trained by the central ASOC team through a series of webinars. The synchronous in-class sessions share a common structure: each class starts with one or more videos from the MOOC, followed by a group exercise where the participants get involved in teacher-led classroom activities. These activities are organised around the development of the research projects and reproduce a flipped classroom setting.

In between lessons, students work independently to prepare data analysis reports and original final projects. Also, in order to have an impact on local communities and institutions, the students are actively supported by local associations that contribute with specific expertise in the field of open data or on specific topics such as environmental issues, anti-mafia activities, local transportation, etc. Furthermore, the European Commission’s network of information centres “Europe Direct” (EDIC), is involved supporting the activities and disseminating the results. On ASOC’s website there is a blog dedicated to sharing and disseminating the students’ activities on social networks (see here ASOC in numbers).

ASOC’s pedagogical methodology is centred on specific goals, well-defined roles and decision-making. This has allowed students to independently manage every aspect of their project activities, from the choice of research methods to how to disseminate the results. On the other hand, the teachers are also involved in an intensive community experience that allows them to learn not only from their own students, but also from the local community and from their fellow teaching peers involved in the project.

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Ultimately, this takes the form of a collective civic adventure that improves the capacity to form effective social bonds and horizontal ties among the different stakeholders, actors of the local communities. In fact, detailed Open Data on specific public projects has enable new forms of analysis and storytelling focused on real cases developed in the students’ neighbourhoods. This, in turn, has the key goal of involving the policy-makers in a shared, participatory learning process, to improve both policy accountability and the capacity to respond to local needs.

Finally, ASOC’s key element is that the pedagogical methodology we have developed can be used as a learning pathway that can be adapted to different realities (e.g. different policy domains, from national to local, in different sectors) using different types of open data with comparable level of detail and granularity (e.g. detailed local budget data, performance data, research data, or any other type of data).

If you are interested in learning more from ASOC’s experience, you can read a case study which includes the results of the 2014-2015 edition on Ciociola, C., & Reggi, L. (2015). A Scuola di OpenCoesione: From Open Data to Civic Engagement. In J. Atenas & L. Havemann (Eds.), Open Data As Open Educational Resources: Case Studies of Emerging Practice.

You can also watch ASOC’s documentary video of the 2014-2015 edition here:

About the author

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 16.28.23

Chiara Ciociola Is the community manager of the project A Scuola di OpenCoesione at the Department for Cohesion Policies, Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers. She holds a BA in Political Science, with a focus on New Media and Journalism at University of Florence and a MA in Digital Storytelling at University of Turin. In 2013 she founded Monithon Italia, a civil society initiative for citizen monitoring of EU-funded projects. Since 2011 she is a contributor of Neural magazine, a critical digital culture and new media arts magazine.


**Part of this article was originally published in the Open Education Europe blog as “OpenCoesione School” – An example of scalable learning format using OpenData as Educational Resources. We thank Maria Perifanou for sharing this post with us**.

Edu-AREA: An Open Educational Resources Platform to Support Teaching Innovation

- February 23, 2016 in featured, guestpost, oer

Edu-AREA ( is an open educational resources platform to support teaching innovation developed at the University of Vigo in Spain. Its main goal is to promote teachers as innovators, developing their own lesson plans and contributing to the adoption of open movement in education.

Edu-AREA distinguishes among several types of open educational resources: Documents, Applications, Devices, Sites, Guests, Activities and Lesson Plans. The platform supports the creation of activities and lesson plans, where OER can be developed including links to externally hosted support OER.

In addition, any Documents, Applications, Devices, Sites and Guests virtual cards can be attached to indicate that such resources will be used during the activities as reusable building blocks; meanwhile the Lesson Plans may involve several Activities in a certain order. Teachers then can search for all these resources, register or create new ones, and classify them in virtual boards according with their own criteria.

Following the principles of the open movement, teachers are supported on the “5 R’s”: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute. Teachers can perform these actions in a straightforward way, without worrying about attribution or licencing issues because the platform takes care of everything. The license compatibility is checked taking into account the conditions for adaptation and combination. Another feature is that virtual cards contain the number of times resources have been retained, reused, revised, revised and redistributed. We plan to use this data as a source for quality indicators.

Beyond these functionalities and features we are working towards new ideas to engage with teachers: lesson plans as living entities, rapid prototyping and easy management while teaching. Therefore, teachers are supported on telling such stories by recording observations about what happens as pictures, videos, comments and any kind of document. In some way, this functionality is aligned to the ideas of action research.

As a result, the platform is becoming a kind of learning environment where learners can get access to the lesson plan and follow it.

In addition, an Android App (available in Google Play) has been developed to enable teachers and learners to get access to Edu-AREA functionalities from tablets, even in cases where Internet connection is not available. Using this app, teachers and learners can get access to the activity descriptions, view the resources attached, search for sites in a map, submit assignments and even to record observations for the lesson plan story.


Lesson Plans in Edu-AREA. Left: view of a lesson plan in the platform. Right: main components of a lesson plan.


Edu-AREA App screen showing observations


Edu-AREA App screen showing the signals related to the offline behavior and the synchronization status

For us, it is important to try ideas as soon as possible and to get feedback from others. In our case we have noticed that usually teachers are afraid of creating and sharing their lesson plans. Therefore, we invite teachers not to create lesson plans to be shared publicly, but to be used in their classrooms privately. Moreover, they do not need to create the lesson plan completely before starting, but they can begin with some initial part and work on it during development. Eventually, when the teacher finishes the educational task and is happy with the result, she can publish the lesson plan in a public way.

About the author:

Manuel_Caeiro_Rodriguez Manuel Caeiro RodriguezUniversity of Vigo, Vigo Computer Architecture, Computing in Mathematics, Natural Science, Engineering and Medicine, Distributed Computing. PhD in Telecommunications Engineering

Manuel Caeiro-Rodríguez received the M.Sc. degree in Telecommunication Engineering in 1999, and the Ph.D. degree in Telematics (European mention) in 2007; both at the University of Vigo, Spain. He has been assistant professor during the period 2002-2008 at the ETSI de Telecomunicaciones (Higher Technical School of Telecommunications Engineering) in the University of Vigo, Spain. He is currently an associate professor at the Department of Telematic Engineering at the same university.

Manuel has participated in several R&D projects in the areas of e-learning, middleware and Web engineering, and has published more than one hundred papers in international refereed journals and conference proceedings. His research interests include autonomous agents and multi-agent systems, distributed optimization and telematic services. He has been a visiting researcher at the University of Coimbra (Portugal), IRISA in Rennes (France) and SZTAKI in Budapest (Hungary).

His specialties are: E-learning, IMS-LD, EMLs, Process-based languages, Workflow, E-learning standards

the Open Educators Factory (OEF) project

- February 23, 2016 in communication, featured, guestpost, oer

This post introduces the Open Educators Factory (OEF) project, a research effort aiming to explore how to transform university teachers from “agents of resistance” into “agents of change” for openness in education. The project, led by Fabio Nascimbeni, is funded by the Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR) and is part of the work of the TELSOCK Research Team within UNIR Research.

The starting assumption of the project is that true progress in terms of openness in higher education (as well as in other educational sectors) requires a major cultural change in the mindset of all stakeholders from public policy makers to institutional leaders, to teachers and researchers, to students and parents. As rightly stated by the recent report Foundations for OER Strategy Development  it is fundamental to work on the OER Ecosystem in order to successfully develop sustainable strategies for openness in education. Within this ecosystem, the OEF project believes that the cornerstones for change to happen are educators. University educators (meant as professors, lecturers and tutors) represent in fact the biggest “resistance” to the Open Education revolution – mainly because they typically fear that their role might be undermined by open approaches and because they do not have a full understanding of the potential of Open Education – and at the same time they are the ones that could contribute the most to the adoption of Open Education practices from a genuine bottom up perspective.

Following a phase of literature review and a number of interviews(1), the project has developed an original definition of Open Educator, aiming to help decision makers at different institutional and policy levels as well as the HE teaching population to have a clear “development target” towards which to work. Interestingly, while definitions of OER and Open Education are abundant in scientific literature as well as in practice, a definition that encompasses openness within all dimensions of teachers’ activities does not seem to exist: literature seems in fact to be focusing mostly on the “objects” of Open Education, namely Open Educational Resources and more recently MOOCs, or on its “practices”, such as Open Educational Practices, Open Pedagogy, Open Design, Open Scholarship. To fill this gap, we have worked out a definition which takes into account both the “objects” (teaching content and tools) and the practices (learning design, pedagogical and assessment approaches) of teachers’ activities.

Our definition of the Open Educator is the following:


An Open Educator is a teacher/lecturer/tutor who choses to use open approaches, when possible and appropriate, with the aim to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning. She/he works through an open online identity and relies on online social networking to enrich and implement his/her work, understanding that collaboration bears a responsibility towards the work of others.

An Open Educator implements openness by working across four activity areas. He/she: 

  1. Implements Open Learning Design, by openly sharing ideas and plans about her/his teaching activities with experts and with past and potential students, incorporating inputs and critics and transparently leaving a trace of the development process.
  1. Uses open educational content, by releasing his/her teaching resources through open licenses, by facilitating sharing of his/her resources through OER repositories and other means, and by adapting, assembling and using OERs produced by others in his/her teaching.
  1. Adopts Open Pedagogies, fostering co-creation of knowledge by students through online and offline collaboration, allowing learners to contribute to public knowledge resources such as Wikipedia.
  1. Adopts open assessment practices such as peer assessment, open badges or e-portfolios.

Starting from the four areas presented in the definition, we have developed a framework for teachers self-assessment and professional development, where the columns represent the four areas of activity of our Open Educator definition (learning design, content, teaching and assessment), and the rows indicate – with a necessary degree of generalisation – the different typologies of educators with respect to openness within each activity area. Starting from the bottom, for each column we have defined three levels of openness that an educator typically reaches once she/he goes through some transition phases that are transversal to all four components. The first transition phase has to do with being aware of open approaches, and represents still today the main obstacle for the teaching populations to opt for openness, while the second transition phase deals with becoming “fluent” with openness: once gone though this transition, an educator is expected to adopt open approaches as default in her/his work.

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The definition and the framework are fully open for critics and suggestions: specifically until the end of February 2015 we are seeking contributions and comments to validate the work before starting with the pilot phase, when the framework will be tested in a number of universities. Please comment directly on the project wiki or by contacting

(1): We would like to thank the experts who have contributed to the above work through interviews: Martin Weller, The Open University, UK; Wayne Mackintosh, OER-F, New Zealand; Rory McGreal, Athabasca University, Canada; Chrissi Nerantzi, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK; Antonio Texeira, Universidade Aberta de Portugal, Portugal; and Daniel Burgos, Universidad Internacional de la Rioja, Spain.

About the author:

FabioNFabio Nascimbeni works as assistant professor in the International University of La Rioja, and is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), where he collaborates with the CEST – Centro de Estudos sobre Tecnologia e Sociedade. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the European Distance and eLearning Network (EDEN), of the Editorial Board of the EURODL Journal, as well as of a number of Scientific Committees in the field of learning innovation. He has been active in the field of innovation and ICT for learning since 1998, by designing and coordinating more than 40 research and innovation projects in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia. His main research interests are open education, learning innovation, e-learning, digital literacy, social and digital inclusion, social networking.


Mapping OER. Analysis of the current state of open educational resources (OER) in Germany

- October 21, 2015 in adulteducation, oer, world

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 11.38.24

An interesting report about the landscape of open educational resources in Germany has been recently published. It can be translated as “Mapping OER. Analysis of the current state of open educational resources (OER) in Germany. The situation of open educational resources (OER) in Germany in schools, universities, vocational education and training in June 2015.

Wikimedia Germany led on compiling this report, with funds provided by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, thus showcasing an interesting cooperation. The report aims to analyse the reach and the role of OER at different educational levels (School, University, Hochschule (Other Tertiary Education Providers) and Vocational education) emphasising and addressing four key aspects: Quality assurance, Licensing and legal certainty, qualification models and business models.

This report is one of the outcomes of the “Mapping OER” project, which allowed the exploration of the use and production of OER in Germany, considering that there has been a systematic growth in the development, creation and usage of OER in the last years in Germany.

One of the interesting aspects of this report is that it highlights the positive potential impact of OER, on individual and collective learning approaches and activities, and relates its success in ensuring a more effective organisation of teaching by sharing the production of teaching and learning resources; however, the report also presents a series of challenges, concerns and questions regarding quality assurance, though intending to address these by proposing sustainable solutions.

Also, this report reflects, within the German context, on issues regarding technical requirements for OER development and support, showcasing best practices and considering in its analysis more traditional education materials such as textbooks, thus describing and debating the current situation of OER in a comprehensive manner.

The report can be accessed from

We welcome comments from experts and practitioners in Germany.

A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post- secondary student

- October 12, 2015 in featured

BöckerAn interesting study was shared in the OKFN edu mailing list by Nicole Allen (@txtbks) Director of Open Education for ‪@SPARC_NA, regarding the real value of open textbooks and the real costs of traditional textbooks. The study referred by Nicole is a multi-institutional study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University looks at the academic outcomes of students assigned free, openly-licensed textbooks versus those assigned traditionally-published textbooks.

The study titled A multi-institutional study of the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post- secondary student looks at a sample of more than 16,000 students across 10 institutions, comparing several measures of student academic success between those using open textbooks and those using traditional textbooks.

What the study finds is the opposite of what folk wisdom tells us: expensive textbooks are not superior to free ones. In fact, the results show a striking trend that students assigned free, open textbooks do as well or better than their peers in terms of grades, course completion, and other measures of academic success. Here are some of the key points:

  • Course completion: In all of the courses studied, students who were assigned open textbooks were as likely or more likely to complete their course than those assigned traditional textbooks. In one course, the completion rate was remarkably 15 percentage points higher for students using open textbooks.
  • Grades: Students who were assigned open textbooks tended to have final grades equivalent to or better than those assigned traditional textbooks. In more than a quarter of the courses, students using open textbooks achieved higher grades, and only one course using open textbooks showed lower grades (which is at least partially explained by the course’s significantly higher completion rate, which includes the grades of students who would have otherwise dropped out).
  • Credit load: Students who were assigned open textbooks took approximately 2 credits more both in the semester of the study and in the following semester. This is a sign that students are reinvesting money saved on textbooks into more courses, which can accelerate graduation times and potentially reduce debt.
  • Overall success: Overall, students in more than half of the courses that used open textbooks did better according to at least one academic measure used in the study, and students in 93% of these courses did at least as well by all of the measures.

Nicole wrote up a longer blog post about the study for the Huffington Post here.

Also, Nicole, recommends to have a look to the Review Project, which collects peer reviewed research on OER impacts.