School of Open Research Findings (Part I)

This is a repost from the OER Research Hub project, posted by the inimitable Beck Pitt at the Open University’s OER Research Hub. Read the original here


School of Open Logo (Source:

School of Open Logo (Source: CC-BY-SA

Ever wondered what it means to “be” open? Or what kind of practices could be considered open? School of Open (SOO) courses focus on a variety of aspects of openness (from understanding copyright in different contexts, to open licensing and what open science is) and offer the opportunity to share, participate and create in the open. In addition, participants can earn a badge to acknowledge contribution/course completion.

Over the last year Jane Park (Creative Commons) and I have been working together to find out more about those participating in SOO courses and what kinds of impact the courses are having. Our initial focus has been four facilitated courses, all of which award badges for different types of participation: Copyright for Educators (Australia), Copyright for Educators (US), Creative Commons (CC) for K12 Educators and Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics. You can find out more about the courses here.

Our research focused on four key areas: student satisfaction, use of OER and other online resources, what participants looked for when selecting OER, and whether informal means of assessment (such as the badges which featured in each of the four courses) motivated students to learn. As three of the courses were aimed at educators we also included questions specific to this category of respondent to see how/if they used OER within an educational context and whether participating in their chosen School of Open course impacted on their practice. We created two types of questionnaire, both of which contained demographic questions. The pre-course questionnaire aimed to find out more about participants, what kinds of OER they used, what challenges they had and what they looked for in an OER. This survey asked (as did the post-questionnaire) about what motivated participants to study. The post-course questionnaire was more evaluative, with questions ranging from asking participants about what their anticipated outcomes were and whether they were met, what kinds of behaviour/practice participants felt more able to do having taken the course, what kind of impact (if any) the course had and what participants felt about any badges they were awarded.

Course participants were invited to fill in the survey by course facilitators. Our total sample size for the pre-course survey was 29 respondents. The sample size for the post-course survey was 22 respondents. The breakdown per course is as follows:

Course No of weeks course running for Total No of participants who signed up No of responses to pre-course survey No of responses to post-course survey
Copyright for Educators (AUS) 7 39 7 20
Copyright for Educators (US) 6 47 12 0
Creative Commons (CC) for K12 Educators 7 39 3 2
Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics 6 88 7 0

Below are the preliminary results of the pre-course survey for last autumn’s cohorts. I will be blogging the post-course results later this week. Although the samples for both the pre- and post-courses are relatively small (N=29 and N=22 respectively) we’re currently running the same questionnaires (with a few minor tweaks) on the same four courses during Spring 2014. This should produce useful comparative/additional data. We’re also hoping to launch a non-facilitated course questionnaire for people who have participated in any of the School of Open courses. More to follow on our blog with a final co-authored report on all of the research we’ve carried out to be published later in the year.

School of Open Pre-Course Survey Results


A total of 29 participants from the four facilitated courses noted above responded to the pre-course questionnaire (breakdown by course shown in table above). Survey respondents were 50% male (n=14), 50 female (n=14) with just over three quarters of participants (75.9%, n=22) having English as their first spoken language. Only 3.4% (n=1) of the sample considered themselves to have a disability. The majority of participants were located in the USA (42.9%, n=12) or Australia (25.0%, n=7), reflecting (in part) the intended audience for at least two of the SOO courses surveyed.

Of particular note was that 53.8% (n=14) of SOO participants who responded to our survey have a Masters degree. Although our sample group was relatively small, it could still be tempting to think that the education level of this sample group offers (tentative) support for claims made about other open course user groups (e.g. research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania which reported that the majority of MOOC participants have at least one degree. See also Katy Jordan’s recent paper on MOOC enrolment and completion here). However, caution is needed on several counts. First, the target audience for three of the courses is educators. Second, as is noted below, over 70% of survey respondents reported working as an educator either full- or part-time. Third, within the context of both respondents’ reported location and any explicit country contexts associated with the courses themselves (e.g. the US and Australia) a certain level of education (e.g. a degree and further training) are required in order to become a teacher. Further work on the data gathered during Autumn 2013, and analysis of data forthcoming in Spring 2014, will be needed before we can make any solid claims regarding SOO course participants’ education levels in this respect.

Online Activity and Open Educational Resources (OER)

All survey respondents had accessed the internet at home using a broadband connection in the past three months (100%, n=29). Second and third most popular responses were: at work (79.3%, n=23) and via a tablet computer or iPad (75.9%, n=22)

56.0% (n=14) of respondents have adapted OER to fit their needs, 44.0% (n=11) have added resources to a repository and 36.0% (n=9) of survey respondents reported creating resources themselves and publishing them on a Creative Commons (CC) license.

The top three purposes for using OER were reported as being: 82.1% (n=23) Personal development, 50.0% (n=14) Study connected with employment and 46.4% (n=13) Training others at work.

When asked about what OER Repositories/Educational sites they had used 100% (n=27) of respondents reported using YouTube/YouTubeEdu/YouTubeSchool. 70.4% (n=19) had watched TED talks and (in joint third) 59.3% (n=16) had used Creative Commons and/or MOOCs (e.g. FutureLearn, MITx, Coursera).

When asked what they had done in the last year, it was of note that there was a high level of social, sharing online activity amongst survey respondents. 96.6% (n=28) had contributed to a social network (e.g. Facebook), 82.8% (n=24) respondents had shared an image online (e.g. Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest), 79.3% (n=23) had published a blog post (e.g. WordPress, Blogger) whilst just over three quarters of participants (75.9%, n=22) had posted on a microblogging platform (e.g. Twitter, Tumblr). In addition, 69.0% (n=20) reported contributing to an internet forum in the past year.

The biggest challenge in using OER for survey respondents was finding suitable resources in their subject area (70.8%, n=17).

The top three reasons for participating in their chosen SOO course were as follows: 87.5% (n=21) Professional development, 75.0% (n=18) Personal Interest and 66.7% (n=16) Study related to work or business. One course in particular (the Australian version of the Copyright course) was promoted and run by the National Copyright Unit (NCU) of Austraila which may have been a contributing factor (in addition to the educator target audience of most of the courses) to the high number of respondents citing “professional development” as a reason for taking part in the course (for more on this particular course see the blog post by Jessica Smith of NCU, co-facilitator of this course).

Open Licensing

It is clear that open licensing is important to a majority of pre-course survey respondents. Over three quarters of survey respondents (76.0%, n=19) reported that they were more likely to choose a resource with a Creative Commons (CC) license over another resource when searching for OER. This response was joint top choice along with a description of learning objectives or outcomes being provided (76.0%, n=19).  Similary, 68.0% (n=17) of respondents told us that they would look for a resource which had an open license allowing adaptation.

Motivating Features of OER

Although participants had not yet started their chosen SOO course, we did ask respondents about any previous use of OER and features (such as badging) that they might have encountered. Although further work is needed on these findings (such as the relation between encountering certain features and finding these features motivating), I can initially report that just over 60% of respondents said they found being able to work through a course with other people motivated them to study (60.9%, n=14). This was joint top choice alongside being presented with a series of challenges or tasks to complete in order to demonstrate skills development (60.9%, n=14). Being required to complete tasks where other students would give feedback and virtual seminars where students could interact with each other and an instructor came joint bottom choice, with just over a quarter of respondents reporting that they found this type of feature motivating (26.1%, n=6).

Educator Sample Group

As noted above, the SOO courses we were examining primarily targeted educators. The 71.4% (n=20) of respondents who reported working full- or part-time as a teacher were asked a series of questions regarding their use of OER (if any) in the classroom. 75.0% (n=9) of teachers described at least part of their role as that of a Classroom Teacher, with the second most popular response being Technology Integration Specialist (50.0%, n=6). 61.5% (n=8) of educators who participated in one of the facilitated SOO courses surveyed reported using OER in Computing and Information Science (with 53.8% of educators advising that they teach in this area, the most popular response choice (n=7)).

In this group of respondents, the top three types of OER used for teaching/training were reported as being: Images (93.3%, n=14), Videos (86.7%, n=13) and Lesson Plans (53.3%, n=8). Educators surveyed also told us that their main reason for using OER within the context of teaching/training was to get new ideas/inspiration (72.2%, n=13).

More preliminary results on SOO courses to come later in the week!

Back to Blog home