Open educational resources (OER) are free and openly licensed materials used for teaching and learning. These resources can range from full courses, to course textbooks, to individual course modules, to supplementary instructional tools. The key element that makes a resource an open educational resource is the licensing that allows for free use and repurposing of that resource. The use of OER in the classroom in place of commercially licensed resources has the potential to bring down costs for the student and the university, more easily allows instructors to customize their own instructional resources, and encourages community engagement with the available instructional resources.
The rising cost of course textbooks, along with the rising cost of a college education as a whole, has led to many calls to make college more affordable. Open educational resources have the potential to be a key tool in the fight to control college costs. There has been significant progress in the development and dissemination of OER; however, the commercially licensed resources remain the status quo in most engineering classrooms.
This paper details an ongoing project to provide a snapshot of OER use in foundational engineering mechanics courses (Statics, Dynamics, and Strength of Materials) and efforts to identify the barriers that exist preventing the adoption of these resources. Engineering mechanics courses were chosen as a bellwether for engineering as a whole because they i) have large enrollments across multiple disciplines, ii) are some of the first courses taught by engineering faculty members, and iii) have a stable and consistent content base (unlike design courses and programming courses which can vary greatly from one university to the next). It is believed that efforts to develop and adopt OER in these courses will provide the greatest potential for cost savings for the engineering students.
Using a combination of information gathered from the internet from 80 randomly selected universities, as well as surveys distributed to engineering mechanics instructors across the United States, the authors examine the balance between open and commercial resources in various types of engineering mechanics classrooms. Additionally, using the lens of Rogers’ “Diffusion of Innovations” model, the authors examine the barriers to the widespread adoption of OER in these mechanics classrooms and suggest options for accelerating the rate of adoption.
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