Researching OER impact

open educational resources – training

Sickle Cell Disease

Authors:                                Level:

Dr Vivien Rolfe                             OER community

OER Features:

Researching OER!

OER Description:

It is lovely to see that in 2015, three years after the end of the HEFCE-funded UKOER programme, open education is becoming mainstream in education and with a number of high-impact OER projects in existence. The community are developing OERs, open courses and influencing institutional policy. A number of researchers have attempted to define and evaluate the impact of these OER projects, and this information is providing vital messages to reach and influence further corners of the education sector. This blog post will provide links to OER research tools, including openly licensed surveys and questionnaires that are available for reuse!

Open University OER Research Hub

The Open University’s ‘OER Research Hub’ team are leading the way in harvesting existing OER studies onto a global impact map. They have also defined 11 impact hypotheses for researchers to consider when evaluating the benefits of OER activities and projects. The OER Research Hub web pages also contain useful information on ethics for the increasing number of people now researching ‘openly’ on the web, outside he jurisdiction of any institution.

What is research and what is evaluation?

In terms of approaches required, if someone is setting out to explore the benefits or impact of their work, it is important to distinguish between evaluation and research. One grows from the other, and a simple evaluation study can provide the pilot data or starting point for a more robust programme of study. The most important point to make is that within universities, there may be a lack of clarity as to whether ethical approval is required. The danger for someone producing exciting data from a small evaluation is they may then wish to publish it but not have the consent to do so in place.


  • Testing the benefits of an ‘intervention’ (e.g. control versus test group; pre-intervention versus post-intervention comparison).
  • Formative evaluation will improve classroom practice, or the progress of a project.
  • Limited in the number of research methods employed, e.g. interviews or a questionnaire.
  • May inform internal changes.
  • May fall into the trap of being externally published without ethical consideration.


  • Research will test hypotheses and theories.
  • May employ a number of methods to cross-reference and validate results.
  • Be more extensive and generalisable to a wider population.
  • Externally published / presented at conference.
  • Will require ethical approval.

Openly licensed survey instruments

The ‘Reusable Learning Object Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning’ (RLO CETL) has a wealth of superb materials, from templates for preparing high quality multimedia resources, to checklists and ideas for evaluation and research. The following document includes focus-group, interview and questionnaire questions that can be reused and adapted.

RLO CETL Evaluation Toolkit_CCBYNCSA_2005 (questionnaire and interview questions)

OER Community of User Perception Survey (questionnaire questions)

OER Open Learner User Survey (questionnaire questions)

OER Staff Awareness and Perception Survey (questionnaire questions)

OER University Student Awarenss and Use Survey (questionnaire questions)


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