Open Praxis, volume 8 issue 3
0 Editorial board Hemlata Chari, University of Mumbai, India Gangappa Kuruba, University of Botswana, Botswana Thomas P. Mackey, SUNY Empire State College , New York , United States Alan Tait , The Open University, United Kingdom Belinda Tynan, RMIT University , Melbourne, Australia Joel Warrican , University of the West Indies, Barbados Yang Zhijian, Open University of China (OUC) , China
INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL FOR OPEN AND DISTANCE EDUCATION
Open Praxis is a peer-reviewed open access scholarly journal focusing on research and innovation in open, distance and
flexible education. It is published by the International Council for Open and Distance Education—ICDE
The aim of Open Praxis is to provide a forum for global collaboration and discussion of issues in the practice of
distance and e-learning.
Open Praxis welcomes contributions which demonstrate creative and innovative research, and which highlight
challenges, lessons and achievements in the practice of distance and e-learning from all over the world.
Open Praxis provides immediate open access to content on the principle that making research freely available to the
public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge.
Inés Gil-Jaurena, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain
Beatriz Malik, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain
Publisher and contact information
ICDE—International Council for Open and Distance Education
0283 Oslo, Norway
The ICDE Bulletin changed its name to Open Praxis in 1993. In 2003 became an electronic journal. In 2011 Open Praxis
is relaunched as an scholarly and peer-reviewed open access journal, hosted by Universidad Nacional de Educación a
Distancia (UNED) in its first period (2011–2017).
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
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Open Praxis does not necessarily agree with opinions and judgements maintained by authors
Introduction to Open Praxis volume 8 issue 3
Measuring the e-Learning Autonomy of Distance Education Students
Research Trends in Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Theses and
Dissertations: Surfing the Tsunami Wave
Aras Bozkurt, Nilgun Ozdamar Keskin, Inge de Waard
Exploratory study of MOOC learners’ demographics and motivation:
The case of students involved in groups
Rebecca Yvonne Bayeck
Incentives and barriers to OER adoption: A qualitative analysis of faculty perceptions
Olga Maria Belikov, Robert Bodily
Sharing of Knowledge among Faculty in a Mega Open University
Sujata Santosh, Santosh Panda
Examining Student Perception of an Open Statistics Book
Barbara Sack Illowsky, John Hilton III, Justin Whiting, Jordan Dale Ackerman
Book Review of Learning Online: What Research Tells Us About Whether,
When and How
William H. Stewart
Introduction to Open Praxis volume 8 issue 3
Editor for Open Praxis. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia - UNED (Spain)
This third Open Praxis issue in 2016 is an open issue that includes six research papers and one
book review. If in our first editorial in 2014 we introduced our editorial process (Gil-Jaurena, 2014),
in this occasion I would like to deepen in the role of the Editorial team and present our Editorial
Board past and current members, partially renewed in July 2016.
Editor, a Consultative Editor and an Editorial Board compose the Open Praxis Editorial team.
Dr. Inés Gil-Jaurena is the editor and Dr. Beatriz Malik is the consultative editor since 2011, when
our editorial project (Gil-Jaurena & Malik, 2011) was selected by ICDE for the relaunch of Open
Praxis as a scientific journal. We are associate professors at the Faculty of Education in the
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) (National Distance Education University),
Spain, and have worked together in various research projects and teaching initiatives.
In the composition of the editorial team, gender and geographical balance have been considered.
All members belong to ICDE member institutions. Three of them are in the Editorial Board on behalf
of the ICDE Executive Committee (currently Alan Tait, Yang Zhijian and Belinda Tynan; the latter
has replaced Marta Mena in July 2016); the other four have been appointed among experts from
ICDE member institutions in other regions. Thomas Mackey and Gangappa Kuruba have been
members of the Editorial Board since 2013; Hemlata Chari and Joel Warrican have joined the
Editorial Board in July 2016; and formerly Suresh Garg was a member from 2013 to June 2016.
Professor Alan W. Tait is Emeritus Professor of Distance Education and Development at the Open
University, United Kingdom, and was Director of International Development and Teacher Education
from 2013–2015. He was formerly Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Dean of Faculty. He has
edited Open Learning, the European Journal of Distance and E-Learning (EURODL) and was
founding Editor in Chief of the Journal of Learning for Development (JL4D).
Dr. Yang Zhijian is President of the Open University of China (OUC) since July 2010. Prior to that,
he served as Deputy Director-General of the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of
Education of China. He is also current President for the China Association for Educational Technology
Professor Belinda Tynan is Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education) and Vice President at RMIT
University, Melbourne, Australia since May 2016. She was Pro Vice-Chancellor at the Open University,
UK, for 3 years. She has worked across a range of education sectors for 30 years and, over the
past 8 years, she has been in senior executive roles in the areas of learning and teaching, quality
and innovation. Her research is within the field of online and digital education with a keen interest
in ‘openness’, staff workload and more recently learning analytics.
Thomas P. Mackey, Ph.D. is Vice Provost for Academic Programs at SUNY Empire State College,
New York, USA. His research interests include metaliteracy, information literacy, open learning, and
teaching with technology. He introduced the concept of metaliteracy with Trudi Jacobson in the
article Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy (2011) and followed that piece with their
book Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners (2014). This team recently
published a new co-edited book, Metaliteracy in Practice (2016).
Dr. Gangappa Kuruba is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Business, University of Botswana. He
is presently working as Executive Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, University of Botswana. He has
been working at this institution for the last 27 years in different capacities: Coordinator of Extension
programmes, Head of Extra Mural and Public Education, and Acting Director at the Centre for
Continuing Education. While working at this Centre he participated in various conferences and
published on Distance Education.
Dr. Hemlata Chari completed her PhD from University of Alberta, Canada. She is presently working
as Deputy Director- Academic, at the Institute of Distance and Open Learning-IDOL, University of
Mumbai, India. In charge of Virtual Learning Centre and Study Material Unit. She supervises doctoral
students; designs, develops and delivers course material; and peer-reviews for higher education
and distance learning journals.
Dr. S. Joel Warrican is the Director of the Academic Programming and Delivery division within
The University of the West Indies Open Campus, in Barbados. He is responsible for the planning,
development and delivery of the online programmes offered by the campus.
From January 2013 to June 2016, two other scholars have been members of the Editorial Board,
and we want to thank them for their contribution to the development of Open Praxis during this
Professor Marta Mena is Director of the Virtual Training Program for Researchers of the Secretariat
of Science, Technology and Graduate Studies of the National Technological University (Universidad
Tecnológica Nacional), Argentina. She was member of the ICDE Executive Committee until 2016
and member of the Open Praxis Editorial Board on behalf of it.
Finally, Dr. Suresh C. Garg has been Professor of Physics at Indira Gandhi National Open
University, New Delhi, India, since 1993. He was former Pro-Vice Chancellor at IGNOU (2002–
2006). He has recently retired from IGNOU.
The expected tasks as members of the Editorial Board are:
Advocacy, promotion of the journal in their institution and professional networks
Suggestion of additional reviewers
Invitation to potential authors
Advice in case of doubts in the acceptance of a paper
Proposal for special issues
Also, Editorial Board members participate in the selection process of the ICDE Prizes for Innovation
and Best Practice in Open, Distance, Flexible, Online Education and E-learning. The first edition
took place in 2013 (Gil-Jaurena & Malik, 2013), the second one in 2015 (Gil-Jaurena & Malik, 2015)
and the 3rd edition is expected in 2017, linked to the 27th ICDE World Conference to be held in
Before joining the Editorial Board, some of its current members had contributed to Open Praxis
in different ways: three of them had published in Open Praxis in its new stage: Tynan and James
(2013), Tait (2014) and Warrican et al. (2014); and Hemlata Chari had been a reviewer in 2013 and
After this presentation, below an introduction to the contributions that compose this issue.
In the first paper, Mehmet Firat (Measuring the e-Learning Autonomy of Distance Education
Students) focuses on the autonomy of students in distance education environments, analyzed with
a scale that has been used in his institution, Anadolu University in Turkey. The scale is included in
an appendix and the paper evaluates its validity and reliability, as well as the results once applied
with a sample of students.
In the second paper, Aras Bozkurt, Nilgun Ozdamar Keskin and Inge de Waard (Research Trends
in Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Theses and Dissertations: Surfing the Tsunami Wave)
review 51 master thesis and doctoral dissertations related to MOOCs to identify research trends in
this area. They characterize them by analyzing the areas, methods and conceptual frameworks
used in those academic works, providing an overview that complements other studies focused on
reviewing scientific literature about MOOCs.
Also about MOOCs, Rebecca Bayeck (Exploratory study of MOOC learners’ demographics and
motivation: The case of students involved in groups) presents a case study of the MOOC Creativity,
Innovation and Change, which included voluntary group work; it is this particularity that is analyzed
in the paper. She provides demographic data and studies the motivations for enrolment in the
course. Even if the profiles don’t differ much from those identified by other researches, the author
points to some findings related to group work.
Olga Belikov and Robert Bodily (Incentives and barriers to OER adoption: A qualitative analysis
of faculty perceptions) analyze the perception about OER among US faculty, collected through an
open question included in a larger survey. The categorization of the free answers leads to identify
a set of drivers and barriers to OER adoption that are explained in the paper and exemplified with
quotations from the respondents.
Also presenting a study on faculty perceptions and identifying barriers, Sujata Santosh and
Santosh Panda (Sharing of Knowledge among Faculty in a Mega Open University) focus on faculty
attitudes towards sharing knowledge. The survey-based study was developed at the Indira Gandhi
National Open University in India and presents an outlook of the behaviours, trends and suggestions
for improving the knowledge sharing culture.
In the last paper, Barbara Illowsky, John Hilton III, Justin Whiting and Jordan Ackerman (Examining
Student Perception of an Open Statistics Book) compare students’ perception about open textbooks
vs. traditional textbooks, through the study of the perception of users of a specific open textbook
that had been updated and improved. The students were asked about quality and cost of the open
textbook, and the paper provides insight to understand students’ perception about educational
Finally, the issue includes a review by William Stewart of the book Learning Online: What Research
Tells Us About Whether, When and How, published in 2014 in the USA.
We thank to the authors and the reviewers for their valuable contributions.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Measuring the e-Learning Autonomy of Distance
Anadolu University (Turkey)
Previous studies have provided evidence that learner autonomy is an important factor in academic achievement.
However, few studies have investigated the autonomy of distance education students in e-learning
environments. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the e-learning autonomy of distance education students
who are responsible for their own learning. For this purpose, as the first step of the study, an e-learning
autonomy scale was developed. Analyses of the validity and reliability of the scale were carried out with the
participation of 1,152 distance education students from Anadolu University, Open Education System. The
scale has an internal consistency coefficient of α = 0.952 and a single factorial model that explains 66.58%
of the total variance. The scale was implemented with 3,293 students from 42 different programs. According
to the findings, student autonomy in e-learning environments is directly proportional to level of ICT use but
not affected by program or gender.
Based on computer and Internet technologies, e-learning has laid a strong foundation for the
realization of continuous learning. The use of advanced communication technologies for learning
purposes has improved the abilities of distance education systems to serve larger learner groups,
offering richer content and faster service. The expansion of distance education has not only led to
an increase in the diversity or saturation of the instruments that it uses but also improved its theory.
In other words, these new learning environments have not only enhanced the means of learning,
but they have also influenced our opinions regarding the nature of learning (Bates, 1997). Thus,
there has been a worldwide paradigm change from a cognitive-behaviorist, progressive, systematic
concept of learning towards a concept in which learning is continuous, lifelong and Connectivist and
learner autonomy is emphasized (Anderson & Dron, 2010).
Autonomy is one of the most important factor of self-learning. And self-learning is vital for distance
education students. Learners take action toward becoming lifelong learners when they take
responsibility for their own learning. So, determining autonomy of distance education has a critical
importance (Jacobs, Renandya & Power, 2016). According to Moore (1972, 1993), learner autonomy
occurs when the person who sets learning objectives, has learning experiences and makes
assessment decisions regarding a learning program is the learner rather than a teacher or instructor.
This study has two main goals. The first goal of the study is to develop a valid and reliable scale
that can be used to determine the autonomy of distance education students in e-learning
environments. The second goal of the study is to use the developed scale to analyze the autonomy
of students in e-learning environments based on their programs of study, gender and ICT usage
Most learning theories stipulate the desirability of the learners’ acquisition of sufficient preparation,
execution, and evaluation skills to conduct their own learning (Moore, 1972, p. 80). Precisely for
this reason, after defining distance education for the first time, Moore (1972) discussed learner
autonomy as the second dimension of independent learning. This is because in distance education,
which is based on the idea that an individual will learn on his or her own unbounded by temporal
and spatial restrictions, the learner is expected to benefit from the provided environment, tools and
materials with his or her own self-control and free will (Andrade, 2014). Therefore, one of the
indispensable learner competencies that is required for distance education is learning autonomy.
The notion of autonomy in education views the purpose of teaching as helping learners attain
ideal individual learning behavior. This approach targets learner practice-focused, independence
and responsibility as essential parts of all learning processes (Boud, 2012; Xu, 2013). According to
Lynch and Dembo (2004), learner autonomy is a critical factor in successful online distance learning.
Tschofen and Mackness (2012) discussed autonomy as one of the key principles of learning in
connectivism. Additionally, Anderson and Dron (2010) found that the first task of Connectivist
education involves exposing students to networks and providing opportunities for them to gain a
sense of self-efficacy in network-based cognitive skills and the process of developing their own
The literature on learning autonomy offers various definitions for the term. These definitions
include the ability to learn in a logical and appropriate manner (Holec, 1981), the capacity of a
student to take control of his or her own learning (Benson, 2001), and the ability to function
autonomously in self-directed learning and self-regulated learning processes (Loyens, Magda &
Rikers, 2008). According to Betts (2004), an autonomous student is an independent and life-long
learner. In its broadest sense, learner autonomy refers to a learner’s intervention in his or her own
learning. According to Little (1991), to do this, the learner must have the capacity for critical reflection,
decision making, and independent action. Lynch and Dembo (2004) defined five components of
learner autonomy that are especially important for distance learner success. These components
are motivation (self-efficacy and goal orientation), Internet self-efficacy, time management, study
environment management, and learning assistance management. On the other hand, Arnold (2006)
identified 11 factors that promote autonomy in the online environment: flexible access, learning
facilitation, self-selection, a lack of face-to-face contact, media choices, community peer learning
and dialogue, peer review, negotiated learning activities, self evaluation, evaluation of performance,
and reflection on learning.
As a contemporary theory of intrinsic-extrinsic motivation that is built on the fundamental premise
of learner autonomy, self-determination theory (SDT) argues that all humans have an intrinsic need
to be autonomous in their environment (Deci & Ryan, 2011). Recent research (Chen & Jang, 2010
and Hartnett, 2010, cited in Hartnett, George & Dron, 2011; Andrade, 2014) has demonstrated that
self-determination theory can be useful in the study of e-learning motivation. According to Hartnett
et al. (2011), although only a few studies have adopted this framework, more have begun to emerge.
Studies in distance education indicate that learner autonomy is an important factor in determining
academic success (Holmberg, 1995; Keegan, 1996; Peters, 1998; Jung, 2001; Kearsley, 2000;
Lynch & Dembo, 2004; Yen & Liu, 2009). However, viewing learner autonomy as just a component
of academic success does not explain how autonomous learners work in e-learning environments
and how they effectively make use of their autonomy (Lynch & Dembo, 2004). Learner autonomy
or learner independence is a major contribution to success in e-learning environments in which
learners are responsible for their own learning (Zimmerman, 2002). Learning autonomy plays an
important role in achieving lifelong learning (Ariza & Sánchez, 2013). According to Zimmerman
(2002), learner autonomy also contributes to the attainment of comprehensive educational goals
such as improving life-long learning skills.
In a study conducted by Seiver and Troja (2014), satisfaction and success in online learning were
analyzed as functions of belonging, autonomy, and expertise. Two studies have analyzed the
relationships between motivation, satisfaction and online learning success. The results of these
studies showed that the need for affiliation plays a significant role in a student’s satisfaction with
his or her online learning experience, and the need for autonomy and mastery are less important;
thus, the need for autonomy is not significantly related to students’ willingness to learn.
A study that was carried out by Hartnett et al. (2011) attempted to determine the learning motivations
of teacher candidates studying in two online distance-learning environments. SDT was used as a
framework. The study found that the learners were not primarily intrinsically motivated. Another
study that was conducted by Scott, Furnell, Murphy and Goulder (2013) tried to determine teacher
and learner opinions about learner autonomy in the field of biology. To this end, 28 teachers were
interviewed, and 84 students were surveyed. The results showed that the number of years that
were spent by the students in the university program did not affect their learning autonomy.
Furthermore, it was found that learning autonomy was affected by personal and social factors rather
than by other factors.
An analysis of the relevant literature found that learner autonomy has been researched intensively,
especially in foreign language education (Holec, 1981; Benson, 2001; Furnborough, 2012; Kelly,
2014). Furthermore, various studies of learner autonomy have been performed in many different
fields including psychotherapy (Holec, 1981; Kelly, 2014), emotional autonomy (Schmitz & Baer,
2001) and foreign language learning (Beck, Epstein, Harrison & Emery, 1983; Schwienhorst, 2012).
While there have been studies in many fields, there has been a lack of studies on the learner
autonomy of distance education students, especially those in e-learning environments. This gap
has been frequently underscored in the relevant literature in recent years (Arnold, 2006; Macaskill
& Taylor, 2010; Hartnett et al., 2011; Seiver & Troja, 2014). Due to this gap, many studies have
even cited research on autonomy in foreign language learning (Aliweh, 2011). However, no scale
exists for learner autonomy in general and for learner autonomy in e-learning environments in
particular (Furnborough, 2012). Therefore, this study seeks to fill this gap in the relevant distance
education literature and to provide a direct perspective on the autonomy of distance education
students in e-learning environments.
This study was conducted to determine the distance education students’ autonomy in e-learning
environments. For this purpose, an e-learning autonomy scale was developed as first step of the
study. Developed e-LAS scale used to analyze the autonomy of students studying in the e-learning
environments as a function of their program, gender and ICT usage level as first step of the study.
e-LAS scale designed as an online questionnaire to collect data from distance education students.
Some important advantages of online questionnaires include their ease of storage, retrieval, and
qualitative analysis (Murthy, 2008).
Distance education has students from all ages, professions and socio-economic groups. These
features are important to generalize the research results because learners vary in their ability to
exercise autonomy and autonomy varies from program to program (Moore, 2013). It is possible to
analyze the participants in this study in two groups. The first group includes the 1,152 distance
education students from Anadolu University, Open Education System who participated in the e-LAS
scale validity and reliability analyses. These students were from 38 different programs (5
undergraduate and 33 associate degree programs) during the 2014–2015 academic year. The
lowest rate of participation was from the Brand Communication program, with 12 students, and the
highest participation rate was from the Business Administration degree program, with 305 students.
The reason for this difference is the varying number of total enrolled students in these programs.
Thus, the number of participants in the study parallels the total number of enrolled students in these
The second group of participants includes those involved in the e-LAS scale implementation,
which was composed of 3,293 students from 42 different programs (6 undergraduate and 36
associate degree programs) during the 2014–2015 academic year. Of the students who participated
in the study, 36.4% were females and 63.6% were males. The students in the distance education
system were asked a multiple-choice question with three options regarding how they rate themselves
in terms of ICT use. According to the responses that were given by the students, only 8.2% see
themselves at a basic user level, while 46.1% see themselves as medium-level users, and 45.7%
think they are at an advanced level. This shows that the students who participated in the study see
themselves as competent in the use of ICT.
Development of the e-Learning Autonomy Scale (e-LAS)
In the determination of the e-LAS scale items, these criteria by Moore (1972, 1993), Little’s (1991)
autonomy skills, Lynch and Dembo’s (2004) five components of learner autonomy that are especially
important for distance learning and Arnold’s (2006) 11 factors that promote autonomy in an online
environment were all taken into account. Accordingly, some of the expressions that are utilized
for the items on the scale are planning learning experiences, evaluating learning performance,
determining learning goals, self-control of learning process, taking responsibility for decisions and
assessment of learning needs.
Scale development in the social sciences involves formulating an item pool, soliciting expert
opinions, conducting factor analysis and estimating reliability (DeVellis, 2012). In this study, an item
pool was formed before the implementation, expert opinions were consulted, and a pilot study was
conducted. The necessary permissions were obtained from the university administration for
implementation. After the implementation, the validity and reliability were analyzed.
For the Turkish version of the e-LAS scale, an item pool was prepared based on the relevant
literature. The item pool consisted of 15 items, 10 items were selected by following the suggestions
of 3 field specialists. The field specialists were an associate professor of adult learning, an assistant
professor of instructional technologies, and a distance learning specialist assistant professor. A draft
of the scale form was made using the items that were suggested by the field specialists. The pilot
study was conducted with 12 distance education students. As a result of this pilot study, one item
was revised to make it more readable. Half of the items were negatively worded. Following each
item was a five-point Likert-type scale of potential responses: strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree,
and strongly disagree. The participants checked the place on the scale that best reflected their
feelings about an item. The maximum possible score on the scale was 50, and the minimum was
10. Translated e-LAS scale given in Appendix 1.
The descriptive statistics of percentage (%), frequency (f), standard deviation (SD), and mean ( X )
as well as the parametric independent sample t-test and one-way ANOVA were used in the analysis
of the data that were obtained from the application of the e-LAS scale to the distance education
students. The statistical tests in the study were conducted using IBM SPSS 22.
The findings regarding the two basic aims of the study are presented in this section. The findings
are presented under two headings that correspond to each aim.
Analyses of e-LAS Validity and Reliability
The first goal of the study was to develop a valid and reliable scale that could be used to determine
the autonomy of distance education students in e-learning environments. To this end, for the validity
analysis of the e-LAS scale, several analyses were conducted in addition to the explanatory factor
analysis. Based on the correlation matrix of the variables that were involved, a correlation factor
analysis, which is a technique that requires a large sample size, was used. Tabachnick and Fidell
(2001) provided a guideline on sample size: 100 is poor, 200 is fair, 300 is good, 500 is very good,
and 1000 or higher is excellent. In this study, 1,152 distance education students participated in the
e-LAS factor analysis application.
To determine how well the data from the distance education students matched the factor analysis,
a Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) value was calculated. Ranging between 0 and 1, the KMO value is
normal between 0.5 and 0.7, good between 0.7 and 0.8, very good between 0.8 and 0.9 and perfect
over 0.9 (Field, 2005; Sharma, 1996). Furthermore, the significant result of the Bartlett’s Sphericity
Test was interpreted as good for the factor analysis of the sample size and the convenience of the
correlation matrix (Field, 2005; Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996). As a result of the analyses, the KMO
value was found to be 0.943, and the Bartlett Sphericity Test iχ2 value was found to be 10329.547
(p < 0.001). According to the obtained results, the data matrix from the work group was determined
to be convenient for the factor analysis.
To determine the discrimination power of each item on the e-LAS scale in discriminating individuals,
the item validity was analyzed. To this end, an item analysis that was determined according to each
item score of the scale based on the lower 27% and upper 27% group median differences was
conducted through an independent samples t-test. To determine the item discrimination of e-LAS,
an item analysis was used. Maximum likelihood was used as the extraction method. The inter-item
correlation was found to be r = 0.666. The item analysis findings are presented in Table 1.
MD= Mean Difference
The analyses that are presented in Table 1 show that the t values for the 27% upper-lower group
differences were significant at p < 0.001. This finding demonstrates that each item of the e-LAS
scale has discriminatory power. The item total correlations ranged between 0.758 and 0.868. These
findings suggest that the scale items have a high level of discriminatory validity.
To determine the factor structure of e-LAS, an explanatory factor analysis was conducted. The
factor analysis was performed using the maximum likelihood and Varimax rotation techniques. The
maximum likelihood analysis revealed one component with an eigenvalue of 7.28, which explains
66.58 percent of the total variance. The scale item loading on a single factor varied from 760 at the
lowest to 869 at the highest. Loadings in excess of 0.71 are considered excellent (Tabachnick &
Fidell, 2001). Because the e-LAS had such a strong single-factor structure, a confirmatory factor
analysis was not conducted.
Reliability analyses were conducted using both the Cronbach’s α coefficient and split-half Spearman
Brown for equal length methods to establish the internal consistency characteristics of the scale.
The Cronbach’s α coefficient was used to determine the internal consistency of the scale, and the
split-half method was used to find the internal stability. As a result of the internal consistency
analysis, the Cronbach’s α coefficient was found to be α = 0.952 with p < 0.001. Additionally, all of
the Cronbach’s α coefficients for item deleted values of 10 items were lower than 0.952. As a result
of the reliability analysis that was conducted using the split-half method, the Spearman Split-Half
Coefficient value of the test was found to be 0.919 with p < 0.001. These findings show that the
e-LAS scale measured the autonomy of the distance education students in e-learning environments
in a valid and reliable way.
The e-Learning Autonomy of Distance Education Students
The second goal of the study was to use the e-LAS to analyze the autonomy of students studying
in the e-learning environments as a function of their program, gender and ICT usage level. For this
purpose, various descriptive statistics and parametric tests were used. When the descriptive statistics
of the student scores on the e-LAS scale were analyzed, the students had a high average ( X =
37.97, Sd = 8.54). Considering that the maximum possible score on the scale is 50, this finding,
which was obtained within the limitations of the study, indicates that the students who participated
in the study have an adequate level of autonomy in e-learning environments.
Distance education of the University can be categorized as associate degree, undergraduate
degree, completely distance (electronic environment), and internship requiring (face-to-face). Thus,
to determine whether the program types (associate versus undergraduate degree and distance
versus face-to-face) affected their degrees of autonomy in e-learning environments, these types
were compared using an independent samples t-test. According to the results of the independent
samples t-test, no significant difference was found between the e-LAS scores of the students in the
four-year undergraduate programs and those of the students in the two-year associate degree
programs [t(3291) = 0.71, p = 0.472 > 0.05]. The autonomy of the students in e-learning environments
does not statistically vary with the characteristics of their programs. However, because the program
types and study methods differ, the e-LAS averages also varied.
The type of degree, i.e., undergraduate or associate, did not have a significant effect on the e-LAS
averages. However, the e-LAS averages of the students that performed their coursework on
e-learning platforms were higher than those of the students that studied in programs that required
internships. Additionally, the e-LAS scores were compared by gender with the help of an independent
samples t-test. This t-test showed that there was no significant difference between the e-LAS scores
when compared by gender [t(3291) = 1.79, p = 0.472 > 0.05].
The e-LAS scores were also compared by level of ICT use. For this purpose, a one-way ANOVA
test was used. This analysis revealed a significant difference between the groups [F(2,3290) = 40.657,
p < 0.001, MS = 2897.45]. To determine the differences between the various groups, one of the
most common post hoc (multiple comparisons) tests, the Bonferroni test, was used. According to
the multiple comparisons test, the e-LAS average of the students with advanced level ICT use was
significantly higher than the e-LAS average of the students with medium level ICT use (MD = 1.923,
p < 0.001) and the e-LAS average of the students with basic level ICT use (MD = 4.442, p < 0.001).
Similarly, the e-LAS average of the students with medium level ICT use was significantly higher
than the e-LAS average of the students with basic level ICT use (MD = 2.513, p < 0.001). These
findings indicate that, as ICT use of the distance education students increases, their autonomy in
e-learning environments also increases.
This study was conducted to accomplish two main goals. According to the first aim of the study, the
e-LAS scale was developed, and validity and reliability analyses were conducted. After it was
analyzed for its validity and reliability, the e-LAS scale was implemented with the distance education
students. The relevant literature was also reviewed and used in the development of this e-LAS
scale. The validity and reliability analyses confirmed that the e-LAS scale, which was comprised of
10 items with a 5-point Likert-type scale, was valid and reliable. The scale has an internal consistency
coefficient of α = 0.952 and a single factor structure that explains 66.58% of the total variance.
For the second aim of the study, the e-LAS scale was implemented with the students studying in
the University distance education system. The autonomy of the participants in this learning
environment was found to be high. This finding differs from Hartnett et al.’s (2011) finding that
learners are primarily not intrinsically motivated. The students’ e-LAS scores were also compared
based on program, gender, and level of ICT use. The analyses indicated significant differences
based on level of ICT use. These findings demonstrate that the higher the ICT use of the distance
education students, the higher their autonomy in e-learning environments.
Lynch and Dembo (2004) underscored the need to compare the autonomies of learners who take
completely online, blended, less-structured or highly structured courses. Following this suggestion,
in this study, the learning autonomies of students in associate degree, undergraduate degree,
completely distance (electronic environment), and internship requiring (face-to-face) programs were
compared, but no significant differences were identified. This finding supports that of Scott et al.
(2013) who claimed that learning autonomy does not change depending on how many years a
student has been enrolled in a university program.
Conclusions and Suggestions
The previous research analyzed the effect of learner autonomy on academic success and foreign
language learning. This study, however, analyzes the autonomy of distance education students in
e-learning environments. For this purpose, an e-LAS scale was developed. Validity and reliability
tests determined that the e-LAS scale, which is comprised of 10 items with a 5 point Likert-type
scale and has a single-factorial structure, explains 66.58% of the total variance and has an excellent
internal consistency (α = 0.952). In this study, 1152 distance education students from 38 different
programs (5 undergraduate and 33 associate degrees) participated in the development of the scale.
Afterwards, the scale was implemented with 3,293 distance education students from 42 different
programs (6 undergraduate and 36 associate degrees).
To accomplish the second aim of the study, the autonomy of distance education students in
e-learning environments was analyzed using the e-LAS scale. The autonomies of the distance
education students in e-learning environments were found to be high. The autonomy of the students
does not vary with program or gender but is directly proportional to level of ICT use. Given the
limitations of the study, the autonomy of the distance education students in e-learning environments
can be said to be affected by ICT use. Consequently, to support the autonomy of distance education
students in e-learning environments, it is necessary to increase their ICT literacy. As such, in terms
of ensuring their autonomy in e-learning environments, the computer literacy, Internet literacy, and
more broadly, the media literacy of the distance education students can be said to be very important.
As an important outcome of this research e-LAS can be used to determine the autonomy of distance
education students in e-learning environments. Thus, the necessary precautions can be taken to
support the autonomy of the students. The effect of ICT use on autonomy in e-learning environments
were determined in this research. Improving students’ ICT literacy and technology use can support
also the autonomy of the students. Especially, distance education students should be supported by
training and courses in this regard.
Limitations and Future Research
This study was conducted to determine the autonomy of distance education students in e-learning
environments and included the following limitations:
• the autonomy of distance education students in e-learning environments,
• the validity and reliability of the e-LAS scale were analyzed with 1,152 distance education
• the implementation of e-LAS was conducted with 3,293 students from 42 different programs
(6 undergraduate and 36 associate degree programs) in a University.
It is possible to suggest future researches by taking these limitations into consideration. In future
studies, e-LAS scale can be used to determine the autonomy of different universities and countries
distance education students in e-learning environments. For this, scale adaptation studies can be
conducted. In the future researches the autonomy of distance education students and face-to-face
students can also be compared in e-learning environments.
Appendix 1. e-Learning Autonomy Scale (e-LAS)*
Instructions: Please read each of the following statements carefully. Next to each statements, select the
number that represents how strongly you feel about the statement by using the following scoring system:
Strongly Disagree (1), Disagree (2), Neutral (3), Agree (4) and Strongly Agree (5).
In e-learning environments . . .
1- I plan my own learning experiences.
2- I don’t evaluate my own studies.
3- I don’t arrange environment for myself.
4- I track my learning performance.
5- I don’t take responsibility for my decision.
6- I control my own learning process.
7- I set my own learning strategy.
8- I don’t determine my own learning needs.
9- Decisions are not belong to me.
10- I determine my own learning goals.
* e-Learning Autonomy Scale translated from original Turkish language.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Open Praxis, vol. 8 issue 3, July–September 2016, pp. 203–221 (ISSN 2304-070X)
Research Trends in Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
Theses and Dissertations: Surfing the Tsunami Wave
Ministry of Education (Turkey)
Nilgun Ozdamar Keskin
Anadolu University (Turkey)
Inge de Waard
Open University (United Kingdom)
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have attracted a great deal of attention by higher education and
private enterprises. MOOCs have evolved considerably since their emergence in 2008, all the while given
rise to academic discussions on MOOC impact, design and reach. In an effort to understand MOOCs more
comprehensively, this study analyzes theses and dissertations (N = 51) related to MOOCs and published
between 2008 and 2015, identifying research trends from these academic documents. Theses and dissertations
within this research scope were gathered through a comprehensive search in multiple academic databases.
For the purposes of the study, the research employed a systematic review approach. In order to reveal trends
in research themes, emphasize theoretical/conceptual backgrounds, research designs and models, first a
document analysis was used to collect data and this was followed by a content analysis. Our research findings
indicate that MOOC research is generally derived from education, engineering and computer science, as well
as information and communication technology related disciplines. Qualitative methodology linked to a case
study research model is most common, and the theoretical/conceptual backgrounds are usually distance
education related. Remarkably, nearly half of the studies didn’t benefit from any theoretical or conceptual
perspectives. In sum, this study presents an evaluation regarding research trends derived from MOOC theses
and dissertations, and provides directions for future MOOC research.
Keywords: Massive Open Online Courses; MOOCs; distance education; theses and dissertations; research
Though the origins of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can be traced back to early
2000s when open source, open access and open courseware movements appeared
(ZawackiRichter & Naidu, 2016), the year 2008 was a cornerstone for networked learning and MOOCs. Dave
Cormier first coined the term MOOC to define connectivist learning on networks (Hollands & Tirthali,
2014). George Siemens and Stephen Downes facilitated the first (connectivist) MOOC in that same
year (Siemens, 2013). Many other successful connectivist MOOCs followed one another. As a
connected and open system, MOOCs caught a lot attention and were researched in open and
(de Waard et al., 2011, Bozkurt et al., 2015a)
. However, MOOC mania really
took off when Sebastian Thurn facilitated the Artificial Intelligence (AI) MOOC which attracted 160K
learners from 190 countries in 2011. This meant that the first generation connectivist MOOCs
(cMOOCs), suddenly saw the rise of a second MOOC generation called extended MOOCs
Lack of knowledge about copyright and
available licensing options.
Lack of adequate infrastructure for sharing
in the organization.
Lack of free and open communication
amongst the faculty in my institution.
Relatively low priority is given to sharing
of resources in my institution.
Absence of trust among faculty members.
Lack of time.
Lack of supportive colleagues.
Sharing of resources is not valued by the
decision makers in the institution.
Discussion and Conclusion
The findings clearly suggest that the faculty of the national open university are actively engaged in
sharing of knowledge and learning resources to meet their teaching and learning requirements. The
results from the respondents have provided a wider perspective of the knowledge sharing behaviour
of the faculty throwing light on the related aspects of the knowledge sharing activities. The findings
suggest that the faculty prefer to share their knowledge and experiences with other academics from
within the faculty and institution and also from outside the institution. This is consistent to what
Collinson and Cook (2004)
suggested, that the faculty decision to share is influenced by norms of
equality and reciprocity. Moreover, one study suggests that people are five times more likely to turn
to friends and colleagues for answers to their problems rather than to other sources of information
(Cross & Baird, 2000)
The findings indicate that 65% respondents are engaged in sharing voluntarily. Previous research
indicates that individuals are more willing to share knowledge than anticipated
(Wasko & Faraj,
2005; Adler, 2001)
. As opined by Stauffer (1999), creating and sharing knowledge are intangible
activities that can neither be supervised nor forced out of people. These activities happen only when
people cooperate voluntarily. The findings reveal that feedback in the process of knowledge sharing
and exchange is highly valued by the faculty, as also can be seen in the following responses to
It gives me broader perspective of understanding by receiving feedback.
Exchange of knowledge helps in constructing the knowledge and comprehension to solve problems in
The results show that a majority of the respondents use phone followed by seminars, workshops,
public lectures, conferences and training programmes for knowledge sharing. E-mail was also used
by a large number of respondents. However, the use of blogs, social media webinars and discussion
forums was found to be comparatively less. Previous research
(Cheng, Ho & Lau, 2009; Kim & Ju,
2008; Cabrera & Cabrera, 2002)
has stressed on the importance of open and frequent contact
opportunities such as seminars, workshops, and other small group meetings to facilitate exchange
of ideas, opinions, and knowledge among faculty members. The need for open platform for knowledge
exchange has also been stressed by the respondents in response to the open ended question:
Institution should have a platform either online or face-to-face to share knowledge.
The findings suggest that academics were engaged in publication as the major knowledge sharing
activity. The result is consistent with the findings of a research conducted in an institution of higher
learning in Malaysia
(Nossuora & Hasan, 2010)
The study investigated into what inhibited the academics from sharing of knowledge and learning
resources. It was found that lack of proper recognition and rewards, absence of knowledge sharing
culture, and lack of interest in sharing were ranked as the main barriers. Previous studies
Ju, 2008; Jain, Sandhu & Sidhu, 2007; Riege, 2005; Al-Hawamdeh, 2003; Earl, 2001; O’Reilly &
have identified reward system, and incentives (Lou, Yang & Shih, 2007) as a significant
factor affecting knowledge sharing. A recent study on knowledge sharing in academic institutions
in Malaysia found that appropriate incentives and reward mechanisms, even if they are in the form
of recognition by the institution, are crucial for creating a conducive knowledge sharing environment
(Cheng, Ho & Lau, 2009)
. The results of the present study are consistent with the findings of
(Ramayah et al., 2013; Sohail & Daud, 2009; Bock & Kim, 2002)
that have suggested
the influence of organisational culture on knowledge sharing behaviour. Organisational culture is
“perhaps the most difficult constraint that knowledge managers must deal with”
(Davenport, De Long
& Beers, 1997)
argues that knowledge sharing can only work if the culture of the
organization promotes it. The study by
De Long and Fahey (2000
) shows that culture influences
knowledge sharing by as much as 80%. Lack of interest of the faculty in knowledge sharing is an
indicator towards the need for motivation for sharing. The need for culture is also highlighted by the
responses to the open-ended question:
Culture has to be created in the institution.
Sharing of resources and knowledge should be encouraged by the institution.
Sharing of knowledge and resources should be improved to establish a healthy academic culture in the
institution. Also, due credit must be given to those who are willing to share.
As for the National Open University, it is found that there is near absence of an organized
institutional culture of knowledge sharing in as much as there is lack of any official recognition and
reward system for doing so. Moreover, for quite some time, the open resource repository (i.e.
e-Gyankosh), once freely available to one and all, had been withheld (which in a way contradicts
Lack of knowledge about copyright and available licensing options has also emerged as a
prominent barrier. Open responses by the respondents also highlight this aspect, which could be
addressed by providing training programmes:
This is an area where more awareness needs to be created. Many people have doubts about IPR issues
which they would like to clarify before engaging in sharing of educational resources.
Training sessions should be organised regarding copyright and plagiarism – to clarify the doubts.
In an earlier study on the national open university,
Panda and Mishra (2007)
had reported that
significant barriers to e-learning perceived by the faculty included access to technology and training
on e-learning, followed by institutional policy and instructional design on e-learning. The findings
reported in the present paper could also be seen in conjunction with two other works being carried
out by the authors
(Santosh, 2012; Santosh & Panda, 2016)
. Santosh & Panda (2016) in a recent
study found a strong positive inclination among the faculty towards knowledge sharing. They also
stressed the need for proper training and awareness on IPR and copyright issues for facilitating
sharing and re-use of resources.
The findings of the study suggest that the faculty preferred colleagues rather than networks to
share with. This could be attributed to a culture of self-sufficiency and also to a latent fear of external
scrutiny. The findings also reveal that voluntary sharing was much less; publishing was most
preferred over sharing through social and professional networks. Use of Internet for resource use
was frequent though use of networks was minimal, as also use of own resource. These could
suggest a conservative and protective mindset, and dependency on others (even if the principle of
OER sharing suggests one can use freely as long as one can contribute freely). The current mindset,
developed over a period of time in the institution, is seen as a result of barriers like lack of proper
recognition and incentives, absence of organizational knowledge sharing culture and collaborative
environment, lack of awareness of copyright issues, and lack of adequate infrastructure.
Following the initial stages of the development of the university, resource sharing with the society,
especially the students and faculty, was seen as a progressive and democratic step. The creation
of the first national resources repository (E-Gyankosh) by the university was a pointer to this direction
(for open sharing of print, audio, video, and multi-media course materials). Contrary to OER
movement getting momentum globally, the university later decided to abandon open sharing, thereby
legitimizing the dogmatic view of a few. However, recent developments towards openness are very
encouraging—this can sustain only when policy decisions and operational provisions are made
The study highlights the existing knowledge sharing culture in an open university, at the same
time stressing the need for strong institutional support mechanisms in the form of opportunities for
knowledge exchange and provision of rewards and recognition, thus creating a sound but open
academic culture. Proper trainings with respect to IPR and copy right issues will create the awareness
among the faculty thus inculcating the confidence to share. The study was limited to only a single
open university in India and had a small sample size of 65 faculty. However, the findings are
indicative enough to encourage the existing positive attitude and individual use of knowledge sharing
on one hand, and build in conducive policies and institutional culture towards knowledge sharing
(including continuous awareness and training interventions) on the other.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Open Praxis, vol. 8 issue 3, July–September 2016, pp. 265–276 (ISSN 2304-070X)
Examining Student Perception of an Open Statistics Book
Barbara Sack Illowsky
Foothill-De Anza Community College District (USA)
John Hilton III
Brigham Young University (USA)
Indiana University (USA)
Jordan Dale Ackerman
Brigham Young University (USA)
The rise of Open Educational Resources (OER) research provides data that Open Textbooks and other forms
of OER may be one cost saving approach for college and university students. Yet little research has been
conducted around the attitudes and perceptions of the students using these Open Textbooks. This paper
examines the perceptions that students have of the different versions of an open statistics textbook used over
several years in one community college. Survey results show that students generally had at least as good of
an experience using the open textbook compared to traditional textbooks. Suggestions for further research
Keywords: Open educational resources; open textbooks; electronic textbooks; open access; mathematics
education; introduction statistics
For community college students, textbook expenses and course supplies can be more expensive
than tuition and fees. For example, two twelve-credit semesters of tuition at California community
colleges cost $1104. If students take a total of ten classes, and those textbooks cost an average
of ninety dollars each
(Hilton, Robinson, Wiley & Ackerman, 2014)
, their textbook costs will approach
that of tuition. Reducing costs of education can aid students in lessening their debt and potentially
help them complete their education faster. Shrinking college budgets may make decreasing tuition
costs difficult; however, there are promising possibilities in terms of lowering the costs of textbooks.
Open Educational Resources (OER) are one possible answer to lowering the cost of student
educational expenses. OER are defined as “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside
in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their
free use and re-purposing by others” (Hewlett, 2013).
One of the best-known and earliest examples of OER is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT) OpenCourseWare program. This program increased access to MIT’s teaching materials and
has expanded to a variety of websites where OER are available for teachers to use as substitutes
for traditional textbooks. In the past decade, many OER have been made available, and today,
many websites provide college instructors with the ability to locate OER that could be substituted
for traditional learning materials. Because textbooks are traditionally used as a staple in college
courses, open textbooks, a subset of OER, are among the most useful OER to potentially use in
the college classroom. The Minnesota Open Textbook Library (http://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/)
and California’s Cool4Ed project (http://cool4ed.org/) are examples of searchable directories of open
textbooks that include faculty reviews of these textbooks. Yet little research has been conducted to
understand the student perceptions and attitudes of those actually using the OER textbooks.
The purpose of the present study is to examine student perceptions of different versions of an
open statistics textbook over several years at a community college in California. The overall research
questions for this study are:
1) What are student’s perceptions of overall quality of an open textbook compared to traditional
2) What are student’s perceptions of cost of an open textbook compared to traditional textbooks?
We begin with a review of literature of open textbooks broadly and then provide specific background
on the textbook that is the focus of the present study.
Review of Literature
Open Educational Resources
In addition to the above mentioned definition of OER, the phrase “Open Educational Resources”
has also been characterized as, “The open provision of educational resources, enabled by information
and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for
(UNESCO, 2002, p. 24)
. Wiley, Bliss and McEwen (2014) provide an
overview regarding the history of OER, including some challenges to OER such as business models
of sustainability and discoverability. However, one clear and immediate advantage of open textbooks
is cost-savings to students, who spend approximately $90.00 per class on textbooks (Hilton et al.,
2014). Yet, for faculty members who make decisions about which textbooks to adopt, more is
required than simple cost savings; for them, other factors such as student performance may be the
most vital issue. Thus,
Allen and Seaman (2014)
found that college professors rate “proven efficacy”
and “trusted quality” as the two most important criteria for selecting teaching resources.
Several studies indicate that OER have similar efficacy to traditional textbooks. For example,
Allen, Guzman-Alvarez, Molinaro and Larsen (2015) examined an OER that was substituted for a
chemistry textbook. An experimental class of 478 students used the OER, while a control class of
448 used a traditional textbook. In order to minimize confounding variables, these two classes were
taught by the same faculty member and teaching assistants. Both sets of classes used identical
midterm and final exams and were taught at back-to-back hours. The researchers also used
pretests at the beginning of the semester to determine that there were no significant differences
between the groups. Although there was a large difference in the cost of the resources, the
researchers found no significant differences in the tests scores between the two groups.
reviewed eight additional efficacy studies focusing on OER and determined that, in general,
students perform as well or better when OER are implemented.
also reviewed nine studies where teachers and/or students share their perceptions
about the quality of OER. A general finding from these studies is that approximately half of teachers
and students find OER to be of equal quality with traditional textbooks, with a larger number of
students and faculty reporting that OER had higher quality than traditional textbooks than those
who stated that traditional learning materials had higher quality.
Many of the studies regarding student and faculty perceptions of OER ask for the opinions of
students regarding several different textbooks, or in some instances, a small sample discussing a
(e.g., Petrides, Jimes, Middleton-Detzner, Walling, & Weiss, 2011; Lindshield & Adhikari,
. This present study was designed to examine student perceptions of quality of a single OER
textbook, originally known as Collaborative Statistics, across several years and versions. We next
describe the history and background of Collaborative Statistics, later renamed Introductory Statistics,
the textbook that is the subject of the present study.
History and background of Collaborative Statistics
Elementary Statistics at De Anza College is generally considered to be a service course. Students
planning on transferring to a California public university are required to complete a college level
mathematics course before transfer. Many majors, excluding engineering and mathematics, require
this particular algebra-based statistics course. In addition, as the course can be used to satisfy most
other majors’ mathematics graduation course requirements, Elementary Statistics has become the
default college level mathematics course for non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and
Barbara Illowsky and Susan Dean (now retired), mathematics faculty at De Anza College in
Cupertino, CA, have been teaching introductory statistics courses for over 25 years to hundreds of
students each year. In the mid-1990s, they wrote Collaborative Statistics, a textbook that incorporated
technology, multiculturalism, collaborative learning, writing answers, data driven problems, and was
at a reading level suitable for English Second Language students.
In 2006, FHDA and Connexions (a division of Rice University) received a grant from The William
and Flora Hewlett Foundation to develop a prototype community college OER textbook, as well as
train educators in the adoption and use of open textbooks. Dean and Illowsky worked with the
Connexions team to produce the OER textbook in an attempt to produce a high quality open text
that could be a positive disruptor in the market. Students and faculty were able to access the book
freely from the Connexions site, print their own text, modify the text to suit the needs of individual
faculty members, or purchase a hard copy version
(Illowsky & Dean, 2008)
The pace of innovation accelerated as an ecosystem around OER evolved. The level of innovation
around the original work has greatly exceeded the textbook authors’ expectations. One such way
was the multiple industry innovations derived from the book, such as the iBook textbook version,
Kno version, WebAssign’s learning system integration, and a new edition of the textbook called
Introductory Statistics that was published by OpenStax College in 2014. Collaborative Statistics/
Introductory Statistics became the prototype for OpenStax College’s open textbook model. Dr.
, OpenStax College at Rice University said, “This is the project that really
started it for us. I doubt that we would be reaching nearly 1,000 adoptions, hundreds of thousands
of students, and millions of web learners if it weren’t for Collaborative Statistics.”
Differences between Collaborative Statistics and Introductory Statistics
Introductory Statistics is an updated version of the original Collaborative Statistics. The original text
was in black and white only. The printed version appeared as black and white, camera-ready text.
The online version was ADA compliant, but still without color. OpenStax College added color and
formatting to give the appearance, both online and when printed, of a more traditional textbook.
OpenStax College upgraded the graphs and images. It also provided more examples, narrative,
and editing. In addition, faculty using the text from a variety of colleges around the United States
provided features, narrative, examples and feedback. The final Introductory Statistics is a more
community-developed, professional, open textbook than the original version
To date, one study has been performed on this textbook.
Petrides et al. (2011)
, surveyed instructors
and students who used Collaborative Statistics. In total, 31 instructors and 45 students shared their
perspective on Collaborative Statistics. “Cost reduction for students was the most significant factor
influencing faculty adoption of open textbooks”
(Petrides et al., 2011, p. 43)
, partly because it
increased student access. Researchers also found that 65% of students surveyed reported a
preference for using open textbooks in the future because they stated that they are generally easier
to use. Our purpose in this study is to further examine the perceptions that students have of the
different versions of this textbook over several years.
The research in this present study was conducted between 2013–2015 on student use and
perceptions of Collaborative Statistics and Introductory Statistics at De Anza College. De Anza
College is a large suburban community college in California, located in the region known as Silicon
Valley. It operates on the quarter system. The college serves approximately 23,000 students (over
40% full-time). Locally, it has the highest graduation rate (associate degree) with over 60% of its
full-time students earning the degree within three years. Asians (38%) and Latinos (24%) are the
two largest ethnic groups at the college. To evaluate student perceptions, a questionnaire was
developed to identify the student assessment and perceptions of the open textbook. The initial
surveys were on the book when it was known as Collaborative Statistics, with the final survey being
done on the later version of the book, known as Introductory Statistics produced by OpenStax
Collaborative Statistics Version of the Textbook
The initial questionnaire was sent to all of the students who used this text in the spring and fall 2013
quarters at De Anza College to participate by filling out a survey questionnaire. Requests were
made via an email, which contained a link to the questionnaire. The requests were sent to statistics
instructors towards the end of each respective term, after the last date for students to withdraw from
the course, with an invitation for them to pass the questionnaire on to their students. Seventeen
out of a possible 28 different instructors had students from their classes that submitted responses.
The questionnaire included multiple-choice, multiple-response, and text entry questions. This survey
was based in part on a survey utilized by Bliss, Hilton, Wiley & Thanos (2013).
While taking the questionnaire, students would see between sixteen and nineteen questions
depending on the answers they chose. No responses were mandatory, so a student could skip any
of the questions if they chose to do so. The first few questions were basic demographic questions
(e.g. instructor, gender). The next questions asked about students’ financial situations, such as if
they had received loans, Pell Grants, or fee waivers to fund their education. Other questions asked
about student textbook usage, both in general and specifically in their statistics class. The last group
of questions inquired about students’ usage and perceptions of the open statistics textbook. Two
questions inquired how often they used the textbook and what version they used most. Another
examined how they would rate the quality of the text as compared to other textbooks and then
asked them to comment briefly on their response. The questionnaire did not explicitly define the
term “quality,” which was left open to student interpretation in order to accurately capture their
perceptions. Other items asked students to comment on what they liked best about the text, as well
as their biggest complaints. The final questions probed students to explain their overall opinion of
the text, as well as how likely they were to consider taking another course that used this kind of
text. We used descriptive statistics to analyze the quantitative data and emergent coding to identify
themes from the qualitative questions.
Of the 231 students who completed the survey in 2013, 126 were female (54%) and 106 were male
(46%). Twenty students (9%) had received loans to fund their education, and 85 (37%) had received
Pell Grants or fee waivers.
Student Perception of Cost
As mentioned previously, the text for this course was offered free of charge online; however, there
was also a hard copy available for purchase for under $30. Forty-eight percent of students reported
purchasing a text for this class. The rest of the students either used the online version or printed
off a PDF copy of the text. Of the 56 students who reported purchasing texts, all but eleven reported
spending $100 or less, and 57% reported spending under $40. Considering the cost of the hard
copy, the “$100 or less” could refer to one instructor whose students purchased the optional hardcopy
note pack from the campus bookstore instead of downloading and/or printing them.
Many students (61%) reported printing materials for the course. Of those who did, 82% reported
spending $30 or less, with 46% spending less than $10. Many students reported that they did not
purchase any texts for the course. When we asked them why not, the vast majority of them (84%)
answered “the text was available free of charge online.” In an answer to our second research
question of student perceptions about cost of OER, our findings indicate that whether students
purchased a hard copy of the text or printed off pages, it appears that most students experienced
significant savings relative to the average costs of college textbooks.
Student Perception of Quality
In order to answer the first research question of overall student perceptions of the OER textbook
being used, a variety of questions were asked and analyzed. One indicator of text quality may be
the frequency of student use. We asked students how often they normally use books in all their
classes. More than half of students (66%) reported that they used their textbooks at least twice a
week. When asked how often they used the textbook for this course, 65% reported using it twice
a week or more. Thus, these students used this text about as much as they would any other
When specifically asked how they would rate the quality of this text as compared to other textbooks
they have used, 143 (62%) said that it was the same as books in their other courses, 57 (25%)
rated it as better than other texts and 31 (13%) rated it as worse than other texts they have used.
This finding is similar to other research on the perception of open textbooks
(Bliss et al., 2013)
Figure 1 illustrates percent responses from students as to the quality of this text compared to a
When students were asked to imagine a future course in which there were two sections, one
offering traditional printed texts and the other offering texts such as the one they used in this course,
50% of students said they would choose the class with texts like those offered in this course. Only
19% said they would enroll in the course with the traditional printed text, and the remaining 32%
said they would have no preference. Similarly, when asked how likely they were to register for future
courses using books like this one, 73% of students said that they were either “somewhat likely” or
“very likely” to do so. Thus, in each case, it appears that students generally had a favorable view
of the textbook.
In order to gauge the reasons behind the answers the students gave, we asked them to provide
answers to free-response questions designed to help us understand what aspect of the textbook
were appealing (and not appealing) to students. Students who rated the textbook quality as lower
than average believed that the textbook lacked clarity and organization. For example, one student
said, “[The textbook] was very confusing to understand exactly where everything was, and I had a
hard time finding something when I needed it.”
In contrast, students who rated the textbook quality higher than average offered different opinions
when they were asked why they rated the textbook highly. When asked what made it better, their
comments fell into two main categories: clarity and examples. Examples of positive student comments
about the text are as follows:
• “The examples and summary pages were the most helpful portions and worth the 26 dollars
to actually purchase the text.”
• “The book is written simply and clearly. This made it easy to understand and less ‘taxing’ to
read. The collaborative aspect of the course built in the text encourages group learning which
I have found to be beneficial to my learning.”
Figure 2 illustrates comparisons between the first two free-response questions: “What made it
better?” and “What made it worse?”
In addition to the foregoing questions, students were also asked a free-response question regarding
what they thought of the text overall. We divided their responses into positive, negative, and neutral
comments. The negative comments fell into three main categories: clarity, relevance, and examples.
For purposes of this analysis, we have defined relevance as how well the text fit in with students’
classes. Some examples of negative relevance comments follow:
• “It needs improvement as our instructor substituted material for chapters that were not very
• “It was a good text but not good enough to rely on for the sole purpose of learning, I prefer
teacher notes since it simplifies everything for me.”
• Some examples of negative student comments about the text’s clarity follow:
• “Overall, this text is ok. It was simple to understand in the beginning, but then got too
complicated for an Intro to Statistics book. It needs to be simplified a bit more.”
• “I find reading the textbook necessary but very dull and not very engaging so it makes it hard
to focus on the information being provided.”
Examples of negative comments about the examples used in the text are as follows:
• “The answers to the homework needed to be a bit more robust; I noticed that the questions
that were qualitative did not have sentence answers, which made it difficult for me to gauge
whether I was understanding the material (vs. following the formulas provided).”
• “Too many examples, not enough explanation of the problems.”
The positive comments to the overall question mainly fell into three categories (other than general
comments such as “Good,” “Great,” etc.). These categories were Examples, Clarity, and Organization.
Sample positive comments regarding “examples” are as follows:
• “I think it was a good choice for this course. It had a good variety of homework problems and
labs that appeal to most of the students.”
• “Many examples are given to illustrate the topics discussed.”
• “I liked all the examples given because they were very alike with the homework problems.”
The following are examples of positive statements regarding the “clarity” of the textbook:
“I like that is written in simple words that everybody understands.”
“I was pleasantly surprised with how concise and un-confusing the language and examples
“I loved the textbook that is currently being used. It is easy to understand the theories,
formulas, and the examples.”
Sample comments representing student statements about Organization are as follows:
“It was easy to use and the format was nice!”
“Easy to navigate.”
“I appreciated it because the objectives were clear and the examples followed the objectives.”
All neutral answers given to this question were coded as “general.” None of them focused on
anything specific about the text; but rather were statements such as, “Okay,” “It was all right,” “It’s
the same as the others.” Figure 3 illustrates the answers to the question “Overall, what did you think
of the text used in this course?”
Two final open response questions were utilized in order to help students elaborate on their
feelings regarding the textbook. First, in order to prompt students to record any negative impressions
of the textbook, students were asked about their biggest complaint regarding the textbook. Responses
to this question were similar to those negative comments described previously.
In responding to the question “What do you like best about this text?” students’ answers fell mainly
into three categories: examples, online benefits, and price. Statements regarding examples were
similar to those discussed previously. Student comments with regard to online benefits are illustrated
by the following comments made by the students:
• “Free. . .I have attended other institutions and this course is the first one that offered a free
textbook. I am very appreciative both of the access to knowledge in a form that is digital,
online and hard copy. Also, cost is prohibitive for textbooks sometimes, and not having to pay
for textbooks is a direction I’d like to see education move towards.”
• “It has an online component to it, so I don’t have to carry it around all the time.”
• “I liked the fact that it was online the most because I didn’t have to go out and buy/rent a
heavy textbook to uselessly keep or return once I finished the class.”
• “The convenience, I liked that it was available online.”
• Representative examples of comments regarding price include the following:
• “It is free and it is just like regular textbooks.”
• “I would recommend the text to future students. I loved how students had a choice between
downloading the free text and/or owning the hard copy. The course material felt really
accessible for low-income students, like myself, who often can’t afford expensive texts, and have
to wait several weeks into the course to buy one.”
Figure 4 summarizes the answers between the first two free-response questions: “What made it
better?” and “What made it worse?”
Introductory Statistics Version of the Textbook
In the spring of 2015, seventeen teachers at De Anza College used a revised OpenStax version of
the textbook now called, Introductory Statistics. We invited those teachers to survey their students
regarding their perceptions of the textbook. In total, students from nine of those teachers completed
the survey; and 94 students in total completed the survey. A strong majority of the respondents
(68%) all came from one class.
Demographics were similar to the previous results. 54% of respondents were male, and 46%
were female. 13% of students had received loans to fund their education and 41% had received
Pell grants or fee waivers to fund their education. Seventy percent of students stated that they did
not purchase any textbooks for this class; their reason for not purchasing the textbook was primarily
because the textbook was available for free online.
While only a minority of students purchased the textbook, a slight majority (53%) did print text
materials for the course, with about two-thirds of students reporting that they spent less than $20.00
on their printing costs. In terms of how students accessed the book, 47% used the book online,
23% downloaded a PDF, and 31% used a hard copy.
In answer to the question, “How would you rate the quality of the texts used for this course?” 70%
said it was about the same as the quality of the texts in their other courses, 23% said it had better
quality and 7% said that it was worse. Only five students gave specific responses to the question,
“Why did you rate the OER textbooks as being worse than traditional texts” and there was no
observable pattern in their responses. Some felt there were errors; others felt it was too difficult to
understand. Figure 5 illustrates percent responses from students as to the quality of this text
compared to a traditional text.
Sixteen students shared their perceptions on what made the open textbook better. These responses
were categorized in three groups: clarity, cost, and convenience. For example, one student said,
“[It was] easier for me to access, I could search information that I needed instantly, and it was free.
I didn’t have to worry about buying another expensive book that I would only use once and sell for
less than half of what I bought it for.”
Participants were asked, “Overall, what do you think of the text used in this course?” All neutral
answers given to this question were coded as general, and, as stated previously, were generic
answers such as “It’s okay.” Figure 6 illustrates the answers to the question “Overall, what did you
think of the text used in this course?”
Discussion and Conclusion
Student perception of textbooks, in general, is quite subjective. Opinions of clarity, for example, may
be tied to students’ overall comprehension of course content. Elementary Statistics at De Anza
College is mostly a required service course that students do not want to take. Both negative and
positive textbook opinions can be based upon like or dislike of the course, in general, as well as
course grade. The authors attempted to have students to focus specifically on using an online, open
(free) textbook, in place of purchasing an expensive hard copy text.
Overall, student responses to using both Collaborative Statistics and the updated Introductory
Statistics were positive. For both open textbooks, students overwhelmingly reported the text was
the same as, or better than their traditional texts. In response to open-ended questions, both groups
of students provided similar comments. The hard copy version of both texts could be purchased for
under $30. This cost is significantly less than what it would cost for a student to print out the full
pdf of either text as well as purchase a hard copy of a traditional textbook. In general, students who
do print can print just the pages that they feel they need in hard copy form. The authors expect that
in the future, fewer and fewer students will purchase the hard copy version as online academic
reading becomes more prevalent.
One of the limitations of this study, is that while the authors attempted to distinguish between use
of a hard copy textbook and use of an open, online textbook in their research, some students chose
to purchase the hard copy of the text, and thus may have given responses that were based on the
hard copy version of the open textbook. Future research might focus on cost trade-offs of open
versus expensive textbooks, as well as low cost (under $40) versus traditionally priced, expensive
textbooks. As most classes that previously used Collaborative Statistics have now adopted
Introductory Statistics, and Introductory Statistics is now widely used, future research would also
benefit from an expanded survey population of multiple institutions and instructors in order to more
adequately generalize the findings of the study.
In conclusion, we believe this study adds to a growing body of research that indicates that when
it comes to textbook costs, students might not “get what they pay for.” In other words, students
appear to perceive the quality of the open textbook to be as good or better than more expensive
commercial textbooks. If this in fact the case, professors and educational administrators should
carefully consider adopting open textbooks to reduce the high cost of traditional texts.
Statement regarding potential conflict of interest: This research is supported in part by a grant from
the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This Foundation exerted no influence in the design or
writing of this study.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Open Praxis, vol. 8 issue 3, July–September 2016, pp. 277–278 (ISSN 2304-070X)
Book Review of Learning Online: What Research Tells Us
About Whether, When and How
Learning Online: What Research Tells Us About Whether, When and How, Barbara Means, Marianne
Bakia, & Robert Murphy, New York: Routledge, March 26th, 2014, 1st Edition, 232 pages, ISBN-13:
Reviewed by: William H. Stewart
Gangnam-University of California Riverside IEC (Republic of Korea)
Our learning has become increasingly mediated by
technology and to that effect online education and
blended learning in the classroom have become part and
parcel of everyday life, whether taking the form of official
classwork or in our own independent, interest-driven
pursuits. The application of online education is not a
onesize-fits-all approach however, nor may it be appropriate
for all learners or instances. Means, Bakia, and Murphy
have synthesised a variety of resources and topics in the
field to present the reader with research that has been
conducted regarding the effectiveness of online learning,
as well as an engaging overview of what online learning
looks like in K-12 and Higher Education, in addition to
personal interest and productivity.
The text is divided into 9 chapters that will take the
novice through foundational knowledge in the field
of online learning all the way through current topics
(e.g. Blended Learning, Virtual Schools). The more
knowledgeable or focused reader can easily dive into
topics of greater interest or personal relevance. As the
authors note, the text has been written in such a way
that each chapter can stand on its own so that the reader is free to engage with the text in any
order or amount that meets their needs.
Structure and Content
The authors establish a foundation for all readers in Chapters 1 and 2 by introducing the landscape
of online learning, the inconsistency of terms, and as a result the challenge of a coherent conversation.
Rather than suggest yet another typology to describe a quickly changing field, the authors
pragmatically provide a set of dimensions for the reader to better contextualize the topics they will
encounter in the book: context, design, implementation, outcomes. This particular chapter will be
of value for readers without any background knowledge and will prepare them for subsequent topics,
while chapter 2 begins by grounding the text in research through an extensive meta-analysis of
William H. Stewart
studies conducted by the authors that address not only whether or not online education is as
effective as face-to-face education, but in what ways it is shown to be associated with more positive
outcomes than traditional methods alone. As is suggested by the subtitle of the book of whether,
when, or how, there is a host of nuance and as a result there are applications and contexts that
are more effective than others, making this chapter an asset for all readers.
Chapters 3 and 5 examine how brick-and-mortar tertiary and secondary programs are extending
themselves through online education as well as a synopsis of the origins of current practices and
research. Topics range from adaptive instruction, competency-based learning, and MOOCs. This
chapter also begins a treatment on blended learning which is covered more extensively in chapter
5 within the context of K-12 education.
Everyday informal learning that occurs online in a more structured way than the casual learner
might describe their learning activities is addressed in Chapter 4. The authors describe various
forms of self-initiated learning such as online tutoring, help with assignments, gamification, the
limitations of current research, as well as aspects of the digital divide that disadvantage certain
learners. This chapter may be of less interest to the majority of readers since such learning
experiences tend to be ubiquitous if not wholly transparent in the 21st century.
Chapter 6 discusses the rise of 100% online universities and K-12 virtual schools and explores
the performance of students in these programs, as well as how these organizations are funded.
These institutions generally offer full degrees and aside from the obvious advantages they provide
in accessibility, they are not without controversy and the authors fairly represent the complex
relationship of profit, access, quality outcomes, financial-aid associated with funding, and the major
criticisms launched at typically for-profit fully online institutions.
The learner is brought into focus in Chapter 7 and the authors explore the difficulties associated
with designing online learning experiences that meet the needs of an increasingly diverse group of
students, particularly those that are not adequately prepared for, or ideally suited for, formally
learning online. This is often a paradox for online learning as many learners are ill prepared and ill
suited for it, yet, it is commonly a last chance for many that have not been adequately served by
mainstream educational outlets.
Lastly chapter 8 briefly discusses the economics of online learning and asks a fundamental
question of whether or not it reduces costs when compared with traditional methods. The authors
note the complexity and challenge associated with analysing available data and ultimately offer
some general conclusions with the proper perspective as it comes down to how one chooses to
compare numbers in the absence of standardised methods of calculating the costs involved. Chapter
9 closes the text as a summary of the previous chapters along with a research agenda for directions
of future inquiry.
The authors have provided a valuable text that gives the professional and laymen alike a manageable
overview of not only the research related to the effectiveness of online learning in various situations
and formats, but also of the ways it is manifested in Higher Education, K-12 virtual schools, blended
learning in face-to-face classrooms, open universities, and informal learning online. I would
recommend the book to those looking for a broad and accessible overview of online learning.
Readers looking for a more in depth treatment of a specific online focus such as only Higher
Education or blended learning may be better served by a text more limited in scope. The potential
exists for this book to be used as a primary or supplementary resource in an introductory course
in online education/distance education. Strengthening the argument to do so is the independent
nature of each chapter which allows flexibility and adaptability for any course curriculum.
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