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Open educational resources for all? Comparing user motivations and characteristics across The Open University’s iTunes U channel and OpenLearn platform.

Law, Patrina; Perryman, Leigh-Anne and Law, Andrew (2013). Open educational resources for all? Comparing user motivations and characteristics across The Open University’s iTunes U channel and OpenLearn platform. In: Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference 2013, 23-25 October 2013, Paris, France, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), pp. 204–219.

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With the rise in access to mobile multimedia devices, educational institutions have exploited the iTunes U platform as an additional channel to provide free educational resources with the aim of profile-raising and breaking down barriers to education. For those prepared to invest in content preparation, it is possible to produce interactive, portable material that can be made available globally. Commentators have questioned both the financial implications for platform-specific content production, and the availability of devices for learners to access it (Osborne, 2012).

The Open University (OU) makes its free educational resources available on iTunes U and via its web-based open educational resources (OER) platform, OpenLearn. The OU’s OER on iTunes U reached the 60 million download mark in 2013; its OpenLearn platform boasts 27 million unique visitors since 2006. This paper reports the results of a large-scale study of users of the OU’s iTunes U channel and OpenLearn platform. A survey of several thousand users revealed key differences in demographics between those accessing OER via the web and via iTunes U. In addition, the data allowed comparison between three groups: formal learners, informal learners and educators.

The study raises questions about whether university-provided OER meet the needs of users and makes recommendations for how content can be modified to suit their needs. As the publishing of OER becomes core to business, we reflect on reasons why understanding users’ motivations and demographics is vital, allowing for needs-led resource provision and content that is adapted to best achieve learner satisfaction, and to deliver institutions’ social mission.

Item Type: Conference Item
Copyright Holders: 2013 European Association of Distance Teaching Universities & the authors
ISBN: 90-79730-13-0, 978-90-79730-13-1
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
OER Research HubNot SetHewlett Foundation
Keywords: open educational resources; free educational resources; iTunes U; OpenLearn; informal learning
Academic Unit/Department: Other Departments > Open Media Unit
Other Departments
Institute of Educational Technology
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Item ID: 39102
Depositing User: Leigh-Anne Perryman
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2013 09:36
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2016 14:26
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These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

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