Learning Technology

It turns out that students do use OER and it does save time

3 February 8th, 2011 at 11:02

In November 2010, the case study ‘A la mode: setting a fashion for practical re-use’ was submitted by the Open Nottingham team for consideration as part of the HEFCE/JISC/Higher Education Academy OER Phase 2 case study call. The case outlined the re-use of a handout for the statistical package SPSS which resulted in time savings for the academic concerned. The original handout was created by Dr Richard Bryant, University of Southampton. The adapted handout was repurposed by Dr Richard Field, University of Nottingham. This post presents supporting information for the case study gathered by the Open Nottingham team.

A survey was carried out with 51 undergraduate students who had used the repurposed handout as part of the ‘Interpreting Geographical Data’ module offered by the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham. This included capturing both quantitative and qualitative data.

A telephone interview was also carried out with an academic from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham who is using the handout as part of a module on research methods in ergonomics.

Impressions of the users regarding the quality of the handout (Q1 to Q4)


Free Text Analysis

Two distinct themes were identified when analysing free text comments made by the students:

(1)    The clear and concise nature of the text

Comments in this area (27 positive and 1 negative) included:

  • “The information was succinct and to the point”
  • “Clear and concise”
  • “Good clarity”
  • “Precise and clear”

The clarity and concise nature of the original handout had already been highlighted in the case study before the survey was carried out. It was also the principal theme in the free text section of the survey. The academic who repurposed the handout made improvements in this area. He both amended some of the instructions, and changed the English to suit his context and personal preferences. He also changed the font to what he considered a more accessible font. This is supported by 94% of respondents reporting that they found the instructions for using SPSS clear.   

(2)    The use of screenshots

Comments in this area (8 positive and 0 negative) included:

  • “It was of high quality due to the screen shots which made it very clear how to use the program”
  • “Visual aids such as the diagrams were really helpful”
  • “The images helped”
  • “Images helped in explanation”

The Nottingham academic who re-used the handout had limited time and had he not found a suitable open resource would have created a handout, but included far fewer screen shots (excellent for instruction but time-consuming to produce). This shows how the students benefitted directly from the time taken by the original author to include the screen shots.  Taken as a whole, therefore, the students benefitted from the work done by both original author and the re-contextualisation done by the Nottingham academic. This ‘building blocks’ approach demonstrates the potential for open resources to not only save time and reduce costs, but to also improve the student experience.

Student use of OER (Q5 to Q7)

Before reviewing the results in this section it is important to note that although the respondents were provided with a definition of OER and were given an explanation of the difference between ‘web based’ and ‘openly licensed web based’ resources, no validation of their understanding of the difference was obtained.

Potential Future Study

Due to the limited time available to survey the students (during an examples class) and the aim being to gather impressions about the quality of the handout, the survey was kept short and specific OER questions were kept to a minimum. The potential for further data capture with the respondents who reported previous use of OER is being investigated and would make for interesting study. It would be useful to explore a number of areas, including:

  • If students are using OER (35% of all respondents said they had) what are they using and where are they accessing it?
  • If lecturers are guiding students to OER (12% of all respondents said they had) how do they locate the resources themselves?
  • If lecturers are guiding students to OER (12% of all respondents said they had) what are they guiding them to and what guidance is being given?
  • Are the lecturers that are guiding students to OER using/re-using them in their own teaching materials?
  • If students are using OER to understand a topic (24% of all respondents said they had) and to revise (20% of all respondents said they had) how effective did they find them?
  • If students are citing OER in assignments (16% of all respondents said they had) how is this being received by the markers of the work and are students attributing in line with licence conditions or following traditional citing conventions?
  • How and why do students access web based learning resources generally, how aware of formal open licences are they and would the lack of an open licence discourage use?

OER supporting users in enhancing pedagogic practice

It has already been noted that the original handout included screen shots that the Nottingham academic would have had little time to produce himself.

As well as being used by Geography, the handout is also being used by an academic from the Faculty of Engineering at Nottingham as part of a module on research methods in ergonomics.

Previous years’ delivery of the module had already included an SPSS workbook which guided students through setting up a data file and running a number of analyses. The workbook, however, did not provide an overview of the SPSS interface. The academic running the module this year has inserted the original handout (not the adapted handout) into the workbook which will enable students to familiarise themselves with the SPSS interface away from formal contact times as well as during taught sessions. 

An academic from the School of Molecular Medical Sciences, University of Nottingham had shown interest in using the handout, this time with postgraduate students. On further analysis of the handout she deemed it unsuitable for postgraduates.

The URL of the original resource and the URL of the repurposed resource

The original handout created by Dr Trevor Bryant (University of Southampton) and found using the Xpert repository is available at http://www.edshare.soton.ac.uk/5135/

The adapted handout re-purposed by Dr Richard Field (University of Nottingham) is available at http://resources.jorum.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/123456789/11915

The adapted handout has been made available in JorumOpen under the attribution–non- commercial–share-alike creative commons licence. Included in the description of the resource is an explanation of the case study and an offer to include any information about its future re-use into the study via the Open Nottingham team. It will be interesting to see if anyone gets in touch.

The full version of this report is available in Word format.

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