Background: Demand for higher education is growing at an exponential rate with the global student population expected to reach 250 million by 2025. Demographic trends indicates increasing diversity as a result of more female, mature and part-time students as a result of more interest in professional and life-long learning and a broadening of the social base. Since 2010 however the UK has seen a significant decline of part-time students which tend to include those who are more mature, have low or no qualifications, are from disadvantaged backgrounds or have family or caring responsibilities.
Based on the current model of tertiary education delivery there is insufficient capacity to meet this demand and in order to remain competitive in this increasingly diverse and globalised education market, UK higher education institutions will need to actively demonstrate their response to continue to attract both national and international learners.
In order to satisfy this demand for education, organisations including UNESCO, OECD and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have invested millions in to the exploration of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and have based their education strategies on a world where barriers to access higher education can be removed to provide fairer and greater access to publicly funded educational content. This mission has led to huge expectations that open education resources have the potential to provide access to education for all as a basic human right and to obviate demographic, economic, and geographic educational boundaries and to promote life-long learning and personalised learning (Yuan et al 2008).
With an early focus on achieving a critical mass of released content, challenges of how resources can be found by beneficiaries has been highlighted as a major issue moving forward which requires further research and investigation to understand the most effective approaches of reaching out to and engaging a globally dispersed population of education users.
Methods: By conducting a scoping study using the Arksey and O’Malley framework to conduct a broad review of the literature, this dissertation provides a summary of the strategies for the discoverability of OERs identified as being used by higher education institutions releasing OERs. This was mapped against a body of literature on our understanding of user behaviours for online resource discovery and the technologies available to support this to identify trends and gaps as opportunities for improvements.
Summary: The study identified a preference for management based systems for sharing OERs and the primary audience of OERs in many cases was users already within higher education rather than the beneficiaries proposed by international organisations. Specific discoverability strategies in use relied upon users finding content via search engines, though the literature indicates that nearly half of individual items are missed using this strategy alone. Social-based technologies and practices were under used with methods maintaining control over content and direct contribution. It is hoped that this study will act as a starting point for conducting a wider review of the field and target further research towards specific interventions to allow further analysis.