Lindshield, B. L., & Adhikari, K. (2013). Online and campus college students like using an open educational resource instead of a traditional textbook. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(1), 26-38.

This study explores student use and perception of an alternative Human Nutrition textbook that they refer to as flexbook, which was developed in Google docs and used instead of traditional textbooks and e-textbooks at Kansas State University. Online and on-campus students were surveyed during the same semester. Not all surveyed students we flexbook users, so the survey used branching logic to ask follow-up questions about flexbook use and satisfaction.

The researchers found that online students used the flexbook more frequently and valued it for the high quality and flexibility they perceived. Campus students tended to use the flexbook once in a while, as a reference to study for exams. The results ultimately support the notion that students are willing to move beyond traditional print textbooks, but it is also important to understand what students want from this type of OER before instituting.

A longer survey period would benefit the validity of their findings. Also, surveying use and perception before and after the adoption of an alternative text would produce other valuable insight.


Lieberoth, A. (2015). What really works in gamification? Short answer: we don’t know, so let’s start thinking like experimenters. From the field: eLearning Papers, 43, 1–4.

Despite the ubiquity of games, this article suggests that researchers face evidence and method problems when it comes to isolating the design decisions and condition that work in favor of gamification. Based on lab and field experience related to gamification, the researcher recommends an experimental mindset and creative partnerships connecting data-driven research with real-world design practices.

In a randomized controlled trial, two groups of users were asked to play a social game but one group’s game had no mechanics: only assets like cards and playing pieces were provided. Researchers found that both groups shared equal intrinsic motivation, but one group could be measured with the unpredictable variables that commonly plague gameplay. In another large-scale field study, researchers partnered with a bus company to test a gamified bus pass system. The scale of data and anonymity of researchers were both improved as a result.

Overall, the article puts forward some interesting ideas for games-, Analytics, and UI-based research design.

Leinonen, T., Purma, J., Põldoja, H., & Toikkanen, T. (2010). Information architecture and design solutions scaffolding authoring of open educational resources. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 3(2), 116–128.


This article presents the research-based design process that have informed authoring and sharing via LeMill, an open learning object repository and collaborative authoring platform. As of October 2009, the platform supports 8,500 reusable learning resources and 7,500 members. LeMill’s licensing scheme encourages collaborative reuse and remix of content for quality. Accordingly administrators have made a special effort to address technical jargon, complicated forms, multicultural, and multilingual concerns for users.

The researchers refer to their method as “research-based design with software as hypothesis,” noting that users are capable of creating meaningful navigation of the tools among which they are immersed, and, furthermore, that these same users can seldom identify the software tools they need before use. Four iterative phases in a cyclical model define the research-based design method: contextual inquiry, participatory design, product design, and production of software as hypothesis.

Results of this article primarily offer critical understanding and justification of LeMill design choice, which is certainly valuable and ripe for emulation. The method they use assists designers in scaffolding user behavior. Further study that compares byproducts of this design/research methodology with the interactive spaces brought forth by others would be interesting.

Jimes, C., Weiss, S., & Keep, R. (2013). Addressing the Local in Localization: A Case Study of Open Textbook Adoption by Three South African Teachers. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(2), 73-86.

Examining the use of open textbooks by three high school teachers in South Africa, this case study documents the results of when open textbooks feature content that is rooted in the cultural and geographic contexts in which they are used.

The South Africa initiative authored and licensed the open textbooks collaboratively, and faculty were allowed to use and modify the texts freely to fit their needs. After conducting interviews with faculty, the researchers found that teachers’ adoption of open textbooks were often tied to whether or not they were localized since teachers considered the local content of the texts to be more relevant and of higher quality. This study concludes that the impact of open textbooks can be maximized when they are created based on localized knowledge and contexts.

I have concerns about the scale and generalizability of the study’s findings. At what point is content so local that it becomes unethical to teach? Collective authoring practices helped mitigate and ensure quality in this study, but the dogmatic beliefs of certain communities could run counter to more empirical academic content. Alternatively, there may be value in customizing the media and interfaces of OER to local needs, but the results of effectively doing so and monitoring such practices are not discussed here.

Hilton III, J. L., & Wiley, D. (2011). Open access textbooks and financial sustainability: A case study on Flat World Knowledge. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(5), 18-26.

Flat World Knowledge (FWK) both gives away and sells open-source textbooks as a business model, this article analyses the financial sustainability of such a model. The authors peruse data collected during FWK’s first year open to the public (fall 2009 – summer 2010) via the company’s internal reporting and e-commerce systems.

Findings show that the average cost for each of FWK’s first 10 textbooks was $150k. Since the publication of these initial 10, the average price has dropped to $120k. These costs include production and marketing but do not include administrative overhead. As it stands for the data set where revenue per textbook averaged $48k, it would take approximately three years for FWK to recoup expenses for the initial run of textbooks assuming they sold at least the same number of copies each year. Helpful to this cause, and cited by the authors, student enrollment in FWK courses grew from 790 in the private beta to 57,690 in the first year of operation. Ongoing study of FWK will help identify sustainable properties of its business plan and potentially promote a shift in publishing as we know it.

Hilton III, J. L., Robinson, T. J., Wiley, D., & Ackerman, J. D. (2014). Cost-savings achieved in two semesters through the adoption of open educational resources. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(2).

This study examined the cost savings benefits brought to community college students by way of faculty participation in the Kaleidoscope Open Course Initiative (KOCI). This initiative supports faculty adoption of open textbooks under the hope that doing so will grant students broader access to educational materials and, as a result, greater student success. Additionally, improvements to course design as well as learning community collaboration and investment are all prerogatives of KOCI.

According to the study, the 1727 students enrolled in KOCI classes saved a collective $104,253.57. This study cites the reality that students commonly refuse to buy textbooks when facing financial difficulties, especially when textbooks (an inevitably optional expense) can account for up to 59% of the total cost of attending community college.

This study does much to prove the financial benefits afforded to students through adopting OER textbooks; there is still a limited understanding of other student benefits (e.g. efficacy of using OER over traditional texts).

Hilton III, J. L., Guadet, D., Clark, P., Robinson, J., & Wiley, D. (2013). The adoption of Open Educational Resources by One Community College Math Department. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(4), 37-50.

This study reports on one community college’s adoption of open educational resources (OER) across five different math classes. 2,043 students had access to OER during Fall Semester 2012. Surveys based on Bliss, et al. (2013) were administered to faculty and students during class time.

The study pursued three research questions: (1) How much money did students save because of the use of open textbooks? (2) Did the patterns of retention and student success change after OER was implemented? (3) How did students and faculty perceive OER quality, compared to other materials? The researchers also compared the previous two years’ retention rates as well as the number of students who passed their courses (C grade or better).

Findings suggest that there was little to no change in educational outcomes after switching to OER and that students saved a considerable amount of money. Both students and faculty held favorable perceptions of the materials. That said, questions about textbook quality are going to be rooted in understandings of what textbooks typically are and how they are expected to function. Hence the disagreement among faculty respondents about perceived quality.

Hilton III, J. L., Lutz, N., & Wiley, D. (2012). Examining the reuse of open textbooks. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(2), 45-58.

Prior research has found rates of revision and remixing to be relatively low among faculty using open educational resources (OER). To test this trend, the researchers study the revision and remixing practices of faculty who have adopted Flat World Knowledge FWK textbooks.

To examine the extent to which teachers reused, revised, and remixed FWK texts, the researchers assumed a multistep approach: matching corresponding course sections based on customized and original open texts, eliminating custom texts with no match, and pairing shared text for analysis.

Overall, they found that only 7.5% of textbooks had been customized. A strong relationship existed between user customization and the simplicity by which one was able to customize. FTW texts, as a particular brand of OER, have their own unique limitations to customizing content. This study could valuably be applied to other OER ecosystems for greater understanding of the findings.

Gallant, J. (2015). Librarians transforming textbooks: The past, present, and future of the Affordable Learning Georgia initiative. Georgia Library Quarterly, 52(2). 1-6.

The Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) project seeks to provide faculty with support to reduce educational costs and make textbooks more affordable for students. As a result of this project, ALG is expected to save students over an estimated $9 million in course materials between the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.

Textbook Transformation Grants are at the heart of the initiative, encouraging faculty, librarians, and instructional designers to explore the use of open educational resources (OER) and partnerships by way of load releases and financial compensation to accommodate any additional workload. For those instructors making use of ready-made OER, the strain is said to be no different than that which one encounters when adopting new course texts. In addition to monetary benefits of adopting OER under ALG,  faculty have valued this project as it allows them to rethink their courses and seek a new way to engage their students.

Though the details on this initiative are valuable, this article does little more than recount the rationale and execution behind this project.

Filippou, J., Cheong, C., & Cheong, F. (2015). Designing persuasive systems to influence learning: Modeling the impact of study habits on academic performance.

Persuasive technology (e.g. social media) has proven efficacy in influencing the behavior of users. This study seeks to understand how persuasive technology might be used to improve student study habits. They hypothesize that positive change to a student’s study habits would lead to improvement in their learning outcomes.

An online survey was administered, consisting of two sections: (1) questions about demographic information and (2) the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) which is commonly used to evaluate study habits. Not only is participation self-selected, it stands to reason that a modifying a version of the MSLQ to address technology-based learning would have produced more appropriate results.

The researchers found that learning is complex. When study habits proved most impactful, they related to resource management, perceptions of task value, and learning expectations. By targeting these habits, the researcher suggests that designers stand to gain from targeting these habits.