Professors Know About Free Textbook Options, but Adoption Remains Low

Awareness of free or openly licensed educational resources, including textbooks and other teaching materials, has increased slightly over the past year, but according to a large-scale survey released on Tuesday, still only 6.6 percent of faculty members are “very aware” of them.

The survey and an accompanying report, “Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2015-16,” includes results from a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 full-time and part-time professors and was conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group.

The survey shows a mixed picture for open educational resources, commonly referred to as OER, according to Jeff Seaman, a co-director of the group and a co-author of the report, and it highlights some “serious disconnects.”

For example, of the professors who had recently chosen the assigned books or other materials for one of their courses, 87 percent said the cost to the students had been important or very important to them. But the survey also found that only about 5 percent of those professors had assigned a free or openly licensed textbook.

“They say it’s important, but they’re really not acting on it,” said Mr. Seaman in an interview.

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