Open Educational Resources

Report: Most Educators Aware of OER, Don't Understand OER Licensing

A new report examines who the decision-makers are in curriculum adoptions and finds that a sizable percentage of schools have chosen open educational resources in the last three years.

Open Educational Resources

Most school districts, 77 percent, have made at least one full-course curriculum adoption decision in the last three years, according to a new report from the Babson Survey Research Group. Teachers are most likely to have a role in those decisions, according to the results, with 93 percent of respondents saying they are decision makers and another 6 percent saying they have a role in offering advice.

District-level administrators, by contrast, came in second, with 75 percent of respondents naming them decision makers and 19 percent saying they have a role in offering advice regarding full-course curriculum decisions. Principals rounded out the top three, named decision makers by 73 percent of respondents and advisers by 18 percent.

The survey of more than 500 district decision makers was designed to shed light on how districts make full-course curriculum adoption decisions and to what degree respondents are aware of open educational resources (OER) and have adopted them.

"The stated level of awareness of the terms and concepts of OER among K-12 district decision makers is very high," according to the report. "However, that awareness does not extend to knowledge of open licensing. Nearly three-quarters of respondents say that they are aware of OER, but if we count only those who are also be aware of Creative Commons licensing, this drops to only one-third."

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Two-thirds of all districts represented in the survey indicated they are of at least one full-course OER curriculum;
  • 37 percent of respondents said they have considered adopting one or more OER curriculum;
  • 16 percent of respondents have actually adopted an OER curriculum;
  • Larger districts, defined as those with more than 2,500 students, were most likely to have engaged in full-course curriculum decisions, at a rate of 84 percent;
  • Mathematics was the most common subject of such decisions, at 59 percent, followed by English language arts at 44 percent, science at 29 percent and history and social studies at 19 percent;
  • Selecting new material to meet changing standards was cited as the most common reason for change, at 69 percent;
  • The top three factors cited as "very important" or "critical" in an adoption decision were comprehensive content, the ability to work with existing technology and cost;
  • In districts with high rates of poverty, cost was twice as likely, at 52 percent, to be cited as a critical consideration as in districts with low rates of poverty, which cited cost only 26 percent of the time;
  • Most districts making full-course curriculum decisions are replacing materials that are 6-10 years old; and
  • 22 percent of districts with high child poverty rates reported having adopted OER curricula, while only 10 percent of districts with low child poverty rates said the same.

"Districts often have only a vague understanding of the specifics of the term 'open educational resources' and of specifics of licensing, but they are well aware of open full-course curriculum products, even if they remain somewhat fuzzy on what makes them 'open,'" said Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, in a prepared statement.

To access the full report, visit

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].