Educators report difficulty finding suitable OER materials

Finding suitable open license educational resources is difficult for teachers, according to a survey conducted by the OER Hub (with funding by the Hewlett Foundation). 

These results were reported in the chapter "What Can OER Do for Me? Evaluating the Claims for OER" from the book Open:  e Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science. 

For all users, the biggest barrier to use of OER was  finding suitable resources, and OER repositories were used very little compared with resources such as YouTube, Khan Academy, and TED talks. Another  nding that was consistent across all groups was the comparatively high level of adaptation.  is might be expected to be high amongst educators (79.8%), but was also found in formal learners (77.3%), and informal learners (84.7%). What constitutes adaptation varies for these users, and is an area that requires further investigation.  is is in contrast to other research which found previously low levels of adaptation.8 For some users adaptation means using the resources as inspiration for creating their own material, as this quote illustrates:
‘What I do is I look at a lot of free resources but I don’t usually give them directly to my students because I usually don’t like them as much as some- thing I would create, so what I do is I get a lot of ideas.’

People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East

It was late last year I finished Joris Luyenddijk's People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East. It's the story of a Dutch speaker who moves to Egypt to learn Arabic and then stumbles his way into becoming a Middle East correspondent for Dutch media. The first part of the book deals with his  wrestles over the fact that just because he knows Arabic doesn't make him an expert on Egypt, much less the Middle East. 

He gives readers the inside scoop on how reporters fake expertise, mostly by standing firmly behind a set of (mostly made up) statistics and each correspondent interviewing the same 'experts' in each country. He also wrestles with the fact that covering newsy items in the Middle East doesn't give his readers any insight on how people are there, how people live there, etc. 

One issue that makes it very hard to explain how people live and think is that (at that time) most of the people living where he covered lived under the thumb of dictatorships. No one living in Syria, Saddam-era Iraq and Egypt were going to tell him the truth -- about anything. At least on the record. And most certainly didn't want to be seen speaking with a reporter. 

The last 40 percent of the book covers his burnout from working and living in Egypt and moving to a different country (Lebanon) and finally to the West Bank. This latter move was the biggest of all. Professionally he went from a mostly anonymous Middle East correspondent into reporting on the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, where every word he wrote was filtered through these two hyper critical lenses. In the early years, he was lucky to receive any feedback through letters to the editor. In those later years, he was lucky if a single story didn't create an avalanche of nasty letters. He spends a bit of time explaining why Israel is winning this ever-so-important media war. 

From his early years: 

The most surreal thing was my own job. Students riots broke outings Iran, and I had to every them from Cairo because Tehran kept its gates closed. How many readers and listeners would know that I couldn’t even place a direct phone call to Iran from Egypt, and that Cairo was about the least-suitable place on earth from where to follow these disturbances? Not many, I hoped, and it really couldn’t come out that I know precisely six words of Persian. 

I am a former journalist, and it's been a long time since I read a good, honest account of the sometimes debilitating worries reporters have of being found out as fraudsters. I was told by the person who recommended the book that it wasn't going to change my thinking in any way. It didn't. But his reminisces and arguments feel so close to what I experienced -- just in another part of the world. 

2016 Florida student textbook & course materials survey

"The financial burden that students must bear for textbooks and course materials — and its impact on their academic choices and success — is a mounting concern for Florida’s higher education community," write the authors of the 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey from the University of Florida Office of distance Learning & Student Services. 

The survey, conducted in March and April 2016, counted results from more than 22,000 students. 

Three of the findings include:

The high cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access, success, and completion. The findings suggest that the cost of textbooks is negatively impacting student access to required materials (66.6% did not purchase the required textbook) and learning (37.6% earn a poor grade; 19.8% fail a course). Time to graduation and/or access to courses is also impacted by cost. Students reported that they occasionally or frequently take fewer courses (47.6%); do not register for a course (45.5%); drop a course (26.1%), or withdraw from courses (20.7%).

Required textbooks are purchased but not always used in course instruction. The average survey participant purchased 2.6 textbooks that were not used during his or her academic career. That is a statistically significant increase from the 1.6 textbooks indicated in the 2012 survey.

Students in Associate or Bachelor’s degree programs spent more on textbooks than students in Master’s or Doctorate degree programs. For those students seeking an Associate degree, Bachelor’s degree with 0-60 credit hours, or Bachelor’s degree with 61 or more credit hours, 54.6%, 57.8% and 55.0%, respectively, reported having spent $301 or more on textbooks. By comparison, 38% of students seeking a Master’s degree, and 45% of students seeking a Doctorate degree, reported having spent $301 or more.

Repeat drunk driving offenders in 12 US states

From the United States, more context regarding drunk driving.

A 2014 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration updated statistics on the level of drunk driving recidivism by investigating data from 12 states and calculating the chance of being a repeat drunk driving offender depending on the type of charge: arrests, convictions and license suspensions. 

In 1995, researchers found that one-third of all drivers convicted of DWI were repeat offenders. This study looked to re-explore and update repeat offender tallies. 

In the United States, the amount of DWI arrests has dropped 25 percent since 1995, but drunk driving remains more common than other offenses, such as property crime, drug abuse violations, larceny-theft and assaults. 

The researchers found, “although DWI arrests have decreased, DWI repeat offenders are still believed to make up a sizeable proportion of DWI arrests.”

Looking at data from 12 states, researchers calculated the amount of repeat offenders and compared them against other states. Each group was weighted against the type of drunk driving charges. 

Arrests: DWI recidivism ranged from 11 to 41%, the median was 25% and the weighted mean was 25%. Minnesota had the highest percentage of repeat DWI offenders with 41%, and Mississippi had the lowest percentage of repeat DWI offenders with 11%. The number of drivers arrested for DWI in each State varied significantly, but there was no relationship between the number of drivers arrested and the per - centage of repeat offenders. 

Convictions: DWI recidivism ranged from 11 to 69%, the median was 29.5% and the weighted mean was 30%. Pennsylvania had the highest percent - age of repeat DWI offenders with 69%, and Mississippi had the lowest percentage of DWI offenders with 11%. 

Suspensions: DWI recidivism ranged from 11–73%, the median was 34% and the weighted mean was 32%. Vermont had the highest percentage of repeat DWI offenders with 73%, and Mississippi had the lowest percentage of DWI offenders with 11%. 

Context on the global airline industry

As we move into the holiday season, which for many people means the travel season, or the why-the-hell-am-I-putting-myself-through-this season, here is some context on the industry that moves millions of people around the world. Much of this comes from the book The Global Airline Industry.

Don’t cry for airlines:

  • Air travel industry around the world has averaged 5 percent growth during the previous three decades, posting twice as much growth as global gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Yet the biggest driver for air travel is a growing global economy, and passenger traffic has grown for the past three decades, outside of three periods: 1991, after the Gulf War; immediately after the 2001 attacks in the United States; 2009 during the global financial crisis.
  • Experts predict global airline growth continuing at 4-5 percent over the next 15 years. This estimate is partly due to a predicted 2-3 percent annual GDP growth.

The US airlines and their international counterparts

  • In 2013 US airlines operated 10 million flights and carried 743 million passengers, making up nearly a quarter of the world’s total air passengers. In the mid-1980s, the percentage of passengers flying US carriers was 40 percent.
  • US airlines (including passenger and cargo) employed more than 580,000 people, operated 6,700 aircraft and flew over 25,000 flights per day. These airlines reported $200 billion in total operating revenues. Commercial aviation contributes 5 percent of the US GDP.
  • Delta Airlines, American and United have the highest revenue per passenger of all airlines. However, in the last decade, Emirates Airlines, Qatar, Etihad and Turkish Airlines have posted faster growth than the three large US-based carriers.
  • Since the start of US airline deregulation in 1978, which spurred loosening of rules around the world, airlines outside the US have seen a variation of profits.

How do you measure ‘profits’

  • Load factor is an important airline industry metric that measures “the percentage of available seats that are filled with paying passengers, or of freight capacity that is utilized.”
  • Higher load factor generally translates into higher profits
  • By 2013, the average load factor for US airlines reached 83 percent, more than 10 percentage points higher than the beginning of the century.
  • During that period, world airlines as a group increased load factors to nearly 80 percent.
  • Many older, legacy airlines reported higher load factors, but had problems sustaining high profitability because a high proportion of seats are sold at discount prices.

Global growth of low-cost carriers

Opposition to drunk driving in the US

From One for the Road : Drunk Driving since 1900 by Barron H. Lerner:  

Opposition to drunk driving is as old as the automobile. In the early years of the twentieth century, state and local legislators in certain areas passed laws making impaired driving illegal. But prohibitions varied greatly. Although publicly on the record as opposed to drinking and driving, the automobile and beverage industries carefully avoided any black-and-white characterization of the problem. The suburbanization of America after World War II, followed by the development of the interstate highway system, helped to transform the automobile—and the act of driving—into a vital cultural and economic activity. The car, the “freedom machine,” became the primary mode of transportation for those in suburban or rural areas going to work, visiting friends, and most importantly for this book, going to restaurants and bars. It was one thing to leave a bar in a city and stagger home or onto a bus or subway; it was quite another to literally have “one for the road” and get into one’s car, either in an impaired or a fully inebriated state.

Driver health and traffic safety: An overview

From the book Drugs, Driving and Traffic Safety, edited by Joris C. Verster, S. R. Pandi-Perumal, Johannes G. Ramaekers, Johan J. de Gier. This overview written by Henry J. Moller: 

Road safety has emerged as a major public health and preventative medicine challenge of the twenty-first century. The World Health Organization (WHO) World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention estimates that 1.2 million people are killed in road traffic crashes each year and up to 50 million more are injured or disabled.
Projections of future traffic fatalities suggest that the global road death toll will grow by approximately 66% over the next twenty years. This estimate, however, reflects divergent rates of change in different parts of the world; the road death rate is projected to decline by close to 30% to less than 1 per 10,000 in high-income countries, and rise to approximately 2 per 10,000 persons in developing countries by 2020 (with an expected rise in fatalities of close to 92% in China and 147% in India).
Factors playing a role in this trend include an exponential growth of motorized traffic density in driving environments lacking safe road design, differential access to timely medical care for traffic injuries, lack of education and enforcement of safety regulations, and a public culture in many countries that does not specifically highlight personal and collective responsibility for safety.

Ebook Usage: Patron-Driven Acquisitions v. Subscription Model

Hua Yi, from the California State University of San Marcos, studied the difference in usage between patron-driven acquisitions (paid for by CSUSM) and large subscription databases, which is paid for by CSU consortia. Yi found both have their benefits

It would be highly beneficial if we could combine the best out of both of these acquisitions models, PDA and subscription of large aggregated databases/bundles. Based on the findings and discussion here, the author would suggest that the PDA model is a more suitable acquisition model at the local level. In which case, the CSUSM library would only add PDA e - books selected by its own students and faculty and the collection would match our campus academic programs better. On the other hand, large aggregated databases and bundles might work better at the consortia level. Most of those large databases and bundles are not customized to the needs of specific organizations. However, consortiums, with their large sizes, have a much higher negotiating power and can obtain better pricing for their members. Having the same content at a better price should be an advantage for a local library to seek when considering subscription to un - customized databases and bundles.

Also interesting is the subject breakdown differences between PDA and subscription model. 


Jane Kramer on Thrillers

In a review for Phillip Kerr's novel Prussian Blue, Jane Kramer, in the New Yorker, expounds on the nature of thrillers

I never knew how hard it was to describe a thriller, especially one in which fact and fiction blend so seamlessly, until I sat down with “Prussian Blue.” Thrillers are thorny gifts for critics. It’s not a matter of Elizabeth meets Darcy, and, after a number of setbacks involving pride, prejudice, and social station, they work things out, declare their love, and, in the end, marry. With a great thriller, the important thing is to tell the story while never giving anything away, certainly not who did it and, in the case of a Gunther thriller—densely populated and always dizzyingly complex—the logic by which our redoubtable protagonist finally gets his man.

The best thrillers share some of that depth and density. They are really social histories, disguised in nineteenth-century-novel form, though often with a bit of late-twentieth-century nouveau roman thrown in, perhaps to signal the sensitive self-searching of some of their toughest sleuths. They paint what could even be called ethnographic portraits of societies in which particular kinds of crimes consistently appear and of the people who tend to commit those crimes. By now, thrillers like Philip Kerr’s have become a genre in themselves and, more to the point, a voyage in themselves. They are exhaustively researched, reportorial in detail, and, in their invention, obsessively liberating, which may account for the fact that most journalists I know love them, and more than a few end up writing them. …

Who's Downloading Papers at Sci-Hub? Science Mag Says 'Everyone'

This is a bit dated, but still a very useful piece investigating the traffic flow to Sci-Hub, the pirate database of academic papers. John Bohannon writing in Science. 

The geography of Sci-Hub usage generally looks like a map of scientific productivity, but with some of the richer and poorer science-focused nations flipped. The smaller countries have stories of their own. Someone in Nuuk, Greenland, is reading a paper about how best to provide cancer treatment to indigenous populations. Research goes on in Libya, even as a civil war rages there. Someone in Benghazi is investigating a method for transmitting data between computers across an air gap. Far to the south in the oil-rich desert, someone near the town of Sabha is delving into fluid dynamics. Mapping IP addresses to real-world locations can paint a false picture if people hide behind web proxies or anonymous routing services. But according to Elbakyan, fewer than 3% of Sci-Hub users are using those.

In the United States and Europe, Sci-Hub users concentrate where academic researchers are working. Over the 6-month period, 74,000 download requests came from IP addresses in New York City, home to multiple universities and scientific institutions. There were 19,000 download requests from Columbus, a city with less than a tenth of New York’s population, and 68,000 from East Lansing, Michigan, which has less than a hundredth. These are the homes of Ohio State University and Michigan State University (MSU), respectively.

To fight back against the pirating, major publishers took Sci-Hub, its founder, Alexandra Elbakyan, along with other similar sites, to court where they won $15 million in damages. Sci-Hub lost its hosting, but quickly reappeared in a different form. And questions remain whether the publishers will ever see the money from a site based in Russia. From Nature

“Sci-Hub is obviously illegal,” says structural biologist Stephen Curry at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom. “But the fact that it is so immensely popular, inside and outside academia, is a symptom of many people’s frustration with the status quo in academic publishing.”

When Elbakyan spoke to Bohannon, she refused to tell him her location, in case she is arrested while traveling and extradited to the US. 

From Bohannon at Science: 

While Elsevier wages a legal battle against Elbakyan and Sci-Hub, many in the publishing industry see the fight as futile. “The numbers are just staggering,” one senior executive at a major publisher told me upon learning the Sci-Hub statistics. “It suggests an almost complete failure to provide a path of access for these researchers.” He works for a company that publishes some of the most heavily downloaded content on Sci-Hub and requested anonymity so he could speak candidly.

For researchers at institutions that cannot afford access to journals, he says, the publishers “need to make subscription or purchase more reasonable for them.” Richard Gedye, the director of outreach programs for STM, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, disputes this. Institutions in the developing world that take advantage of the publishing industry’s outreach programs “have the kind of breadth of access to peer-reviewed scientific research that is pretty much the equivalent of typical institutions in North America or Europe.”

And for all the researchers at Western universities who use Sci-Hub instead, the anonymous publisher lays the blame on librarians for not making their online systems easier to use and educating their researchers. “I don’t think the issue is access—it’s the perception that access is difficult,” he says.

Paper Argues 'Sci-Hub Provides Access to Nearly All Scholarly Literature

A second version of an article investigating the coverage of the pirate database Sci-Hub is out. Here’s a few nuggets from their abstract:  

As of March 2017, we find that Sci-Hub’s database contains 68.9% of all 81.6 million scholarly articles, which rises to 85.2% for those published in toll access journals. Coverage varies by discipline, with 92.8% coverage of articles in chemistry journals compared to 76.3% for computer science. Coverage also varies by publisher, with the coverage of the largest publisher, Elsevier, at 97.3%… We find Sci-Hub preferentially covers popular, paywalled content, containing 96.2% of citations to toll access journals since 2015. For recently requested articles by Unpaywall users, oaDOI provided access to 48.8% whereas Sci-Hub contained 81.5%. Together, oaDOI and Sci-Hub covered 94.1%, demonstrating that gaps in Sci-Hub’s coverage, especially for open access articles, can be filled using licit services. For the first time, nearly all scholarly literature is available gratis to anyone with an Internet connection. Sci-Hub’s scope suggests the subscription publishing model is becoming unsustainable.

The authors published tables on coverage by publisher and discipline:

Failure to Scale: Changing Workflows Hampers Open Access

Toby Green, in Learned Publishing, argues it is taking so long for Open Access to scale because so many established work patterns need to change in concert from a variety of stakeholders: authors, authors' institutions, funders, librarians, publishers and readers. 

Let us look at one stakeholder, the author, as an example. For green open access, at a minimum, the author needs to change from his or her traditional approach as follows: he or she would need to select a journal that allows a green version to be posted in a repository and then find a suitable repository on which to post it. This does not sound like much, but without mandates, only around a fifth of authors actually make the effort to deposit green versions, a figure that struggles to rise above 70% with mandates (Gargouri, Larivière, & Harnad, 2013; Poynder, 2011). A study of Spanish researchers in 2016 showed that, when allowed, just 13% of authors posted green versions on their institutional repository, and allowed or not, just over half posted full-text versions on ResearchGate (Borrego, 2017). It seems that even a little change involving no out-of-pocket cost is a tough ask for authors, even when backed up by a mandate.

For gold, at a minimum, the author needs to find a suitable gold open access journal and, sometimes, find funds to pay the publishing bill. As we have seen above, with less than 20% of all new articles published in gold journals, for most authors, not changing to gold is vastly preferable.

He notes other issues, too. Well worth the read. 

The Researcher-Centered View at Academic Libraries

In an (admittedly older) report for OCLC [pdf] on how academic libraries should take advantage of the move many universities are taking toward improving research, John MacColl points out:

"In our Research Information Management (RIM) programme of work, we presume that libraries in research universities need to rethink the services they provide by taking a researcher-centred view": 

This model puts the researcher at the centre, producing research outputs primarily for the purpose of advancing their own field of intellectual exploration, or do main (or indeed confluence of domains, in the case of interdisciplinary research). However, many of those outputs are also expropriated by other environments. Research funding bodies will often assume some ownership or interest in them if they have provided the funds for the research that produced them. The researcher’s institution is also likely to want to keep a full record of all outputs produced on the campus, and its mission will influence the research areas it particularly champions. Research funders and institutions both also have interests in making many of these outputs Open Access, and in the case of some funders there are repositories that mandate deposit of these outputs. Institutions commonly maintain Open Access repositories as well, and in other cases these are maintained on behalf of domains (‘subject repositories’). Articulation between these environmentally-located repositories therefore makes sense, though is not yet necessarily always effective.

Journal Impact Factor: Uncritical Substitute for Research Quality?

Robin Chin Roemer of the University of Washington and Rachel Borchardt of American University, authors of the book Meaningful Metrics: A 21st- Century Librarian’s Guide to Bibliometrics, Altmetrics, and Research Impact, talk to Inside Higher Ed about different research assessment tools like altmetrics. But here Robin speaks about the traditional Journal Impact Factor.  

Journal Impact Factor remains a commonly-used metric. What's wrong with it? What do newer approaches have to offer?

Robin: It’s not so much that there’s something intrinsically “wrong” with Impact Factor as it is there’s something wrong with how Impact Factor has come to be used by many parts of academia - e.g. as an uncritical substitute for individual research quality, or even worse, researcher quality. When you really look at it, Impact Factor is just another way of saying “materials published three years ago by this journal have since averaged about this many of citations.” It’s a journal-level metric, for comparing the reach and influence of journals based on a definition and window of impact that is itself only a good fit for certain research areas. For this reason, its relevance therefore can’t be generalized across different fields, let alone different disciplines. Yet that’s exactly how it’s commonly wielded, which is both misleading and frustrating to many who are just trying to do excellent work and make a legitimate impact.