The objective of this study is to better understand the process by which faculty members select the educational materials that they employ in their courses. The educational resource that people are most familiar with is the required textbook: faculty members select one or more books that all students are required to use through the duration of the course. Faculty also employ a wide range of other materials, some of which are supplemental or optional, and others that are required for all students. This study deals with only core (required) materials, using the following definition: Items listed in the course syllabus as required for all students, either acquired on their own or provided to all students through a materials fee; examples include printed or digital textbooks, other course-complete printed (course pack) or digital materials, or materials such as laboratory supplies In addition to examining the overall resource selection process, this study also explores two particular classes of educational materials: those classified as open educational resources (OER) and a sub-set of OER known as open textbooks.
Most higher education faculty are unaware of open educational resources (OER) – but they are interested and some are willing to give it a try. Survey results, using responses of over 3,000 U.S. faculty, show that OER is not a driving force in the selection of materials – with the most significant barrier being the effort required to find and evaluate such materials. Use of open resources is low overall, but somewhat higher for large enrollment introductory-level courses.