Connexions: Author Use and Reuse of Open Educational Resources
For teachers and learners, the proliferation of Open Educational Resources (OER), along with advances in information technologies, has meant centralized access to materials and the possibility of creating, using, and reusing OER globally, collaboratively, and across disciplines. Focusing on the repository Connexions (www.cnx.org), this study examined how and to what extent OER are created, adapted and augmented by both individuals and communities of author users. In doing so, it shed light on how OER collections and repositories can create a user-driven infrastructure that supports the continuous addition and modification of content, lending to advancements in the creation of freely available materials.
Connexions log file data from April 2000 to July 2005 were analyzed. Examination – in the form of frequencies, correlations, probability and qualitative analyses – allowed for the quantification and qualification of OER use and reuse behaviors and provided insight into the factors that support these behaviors. Also, because Connexions allows author users to enter comments about why they augmented and published OER content, data allowed for the analysis of the reasons for creating content, and user perceptions of that process. Because the focus was to better understand aspects of author use and reuse that center around content creation, augmentation, and collaboration, the analysis was confined to CNX users who have created, augmented and contributed OER content to Connexions.
These users are referred to in this study as ‘author users.’ After the log file analysis was completed, eleven follow-up phone interviews were conducted in order to contextualize the findings from the log file analysis from the perspective of specific author users. The goal of the interviews was to understand obstacles to and incentives for content creation, use, and reuse. The interviewees were selected based upon the frequency and type of activities that they participated in – the objective being to have a diverse mix of participants with varying levels of use and types of activities. The questions posed to the eleven participants centered on why they chose to use Connexions, their typical activities, and their prior experiences with creating and using OER. Thus, while the quantitative data provided insight into use and reuse practices, as well as into some of their determinants, the interviews conducted with the selection of author users added depth to these findings by delving into the why and how behind use and reuse practices, as well as into the discontinuation of use and reuse by some users.
The study indicated a 70% annual growth in new Connexions authors over the nearly five-year period, and that author users edited and augmented existing content to a greater extent than they created new content. The study further found that author group size was central to retaining active, consistent users. Specifically, as group size increased beyond one author user, the probability that users stayed with the OER collection increased with it. However, given that the majority of the OER content within this study was created individually as opposed to in groups, the issue becomes how OER repositories can facilitate more group authorship (or participation). In facilitating group authorship, group role structures and assignation of roles were found to play an important role.
- How and to what extent are OER created, adapted, augmented, and ‘remixed’ by both individuals and communities of author users?
- What role do author workgroups play in the sustainability of OER?
- What infrastrustructural tools and mechanisms can best support OER repositiry users in contribuiting, using and reusing OER?