Impact and benefits

Cross strand evidence to support this section is recorded at: Impacts and benefits evidence

Strand evidence is recorded at: release | cascade | omac | collections

Projects identified significant benefits from being involved in an OER project and also highlighted benefits of engaging with OER release processes for a wide range of different stakeholder groups. It is too early to report fully on the use of OERs released through project activities, although there are some very interesting discussions around intended use as well as evidence from teachers and learners as reviewers, producers and re-users of open learning resources. These indicative findings should be cross-referenced with the more detailed research study from the TALL team at Oxford University.

see also Institutional Issues for impacts on organisations

What kinds of OERs are being adopted and re-used and how?

It is very early to identify which of the OERs developed during this phase of activity are being used – although projects intended to observe and report on this. It seems that most projects underestimated the effort that goes into developing OERs and timescales did not allow much time to evaluate use. However most held focus groups and surveys with staff and students.

Some projects report on anticipated use based on initial feedback from stakeholders and others have used tracking analytics to generate some information on views and downloads. Most projects have ongoing activities and mechanisms to encourage and promote use, including obtaining feedback from resource users.  

The National Skills Academy will be promoting the resource on its ‘Get into Theatre’ and ‘Get into Live Music’ websites, so that the latest version can be downloaded by its members. The tool will also be promoted within its support of the new FE Artsmark as a current resource for the arts to be shared between students, with tutors and between industry and education. SPACE (simulation 3d environment)

Generally more use is anticipated for some of the disaggregated resources but many projects felt the need to provide additional pedagogic support or intention. There is evidence of use of whole units/modules as well as smaller granular elements. This highlights a focus on activities around the OERs being as important as the OERs themselves and their potential to encourage ‘pedagogically infomed use‘ (SWAP) – ie good learning and teaching practice (open practices).

PORSCHE highlighted that student expectation may also have an impact as their use of open resources continues to increase. PORSCHE also found evidence that demand is there (particularly in this economic climate) but that there is still a lack of critical mass of OERs at the right level of granularity. Cascade strand projects noted that choice of search engine affected which resources were found and used and many projects across strands understood the value of making OERs discoverable and usable for a range of stakeholders.

Participants at the eLearning in Health Conference identified examples of OER that would be of use: interprofessional practice teaching was raised as an area where sharing of resources could be of particular benefit. Other particular needs identified were: taking content straight to a patient’s bedside; and providing students the opportunity to take risks without harming patients. PORSCHE Evaluation Report

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: release | cascade |  omac

How can OERs be integrated sustainably into different curriculum processes of the various partner institutions?

How OERs are integrated into curriculum processes can depend on the way they have been developed or presented. Projects generally produced OERs for a particular subject discipline area, sector or student group and this impacted on intended use. Although many projects also ensured that the OERs were usable in a disaggregated way most of them also produced surrounding pedagogical context that prescribes/suggests how they might be used.

The pedagogical wrap-around materials were developed to provide sufficient background information about the resources. TIGER provided information about how the OER is being used and how it could be used, the aims of the OER, the outcomes, who the target audience is, how previous tutors had set up the learning activities and how they had structured student interaction. Guidance on how the users can reuse and repurpose the OERs was also important since this would allow them to modify materials as needed within their own environment.TIGER

 In the OMAC strand the CPD focus has meant that inclusion of OER release and use has been incorporated/embedded into formal teacher training – an approach advocated by many pilot programme projects.

Another aspect affecting how OERs might be intergrated are the models adopted for curriculum design and delivery, and also the institution’s openness to change policies and procedures.  Engaging with OERs and open practices can really challenge, and support transformation of, existing curriculum processes.

In our institution a current initiative to take account of e-learning in quality management and enhancement processes offers an opportunity to address OER production and use. The course approval processes ask questions about resources and library support; a specific question about OER use and sources would mean that new courses must consider OERs. OER considerations could also be incorporated into VLE course approval processes (design for openness, for instance), and into events, CPD workshops and training courses. If not already in place, Creative Commons Licensing could be covered in institutional guidelines on copyright and IPR for teaching materials. CPD4HE

This potential lies around changing attitudes to content, away from viewing content as constitutive of the curriculum and towards viewing it as an artifact of the learning, research and knowledge-sharing process which can be re-inscribed into new learning situations as and when appropriate. Several projects revealed evidence of staff attitudes towards ‘their’ content changing as they engage in the process of release. OERs can both inform the overall design of a programme of study, or be embedded fully in the learning activities. The OSTRICH project highlights the need to bring together the lessons from the  Curriculum Design and OER programmes to focus on ‘embedding and sustaining an OER culture through curriculum design and delivery’.

many elements of OER (e.g. quality assurance, permissions to use third party materials, accessibility, appropriate file formats, logical structure, clear learning outcomes) can be mirrored within an effective learning design process. The DORRE model was developed to explore how these elements can be supported … within a learning design frameworkOSTRICH

ADM and C-SAP projects devoted time to developing a shared understanding within the subject community of what an ‘open pedagogy‘ would look like and how it might be supported by open educational resources. The C-SAP project, in a posting on project methodology, presented an outline ‘Pedagogical framework for OERs’ in which the following aspects are considered:

closed – open | private – public | embedded – free | dependent – independent | prejudiced – neutral | contextualised – decontextualised

messy / dirty – clean |  crude – refined

Many academics routinely search for online content – whether openly licensed or not – to support curriculum delivery. Evidence from ADM and C-SAP is that this use tends to be non-compulsory i.e.  students are offered links to content in support of required learning activities. Projects variously recommended enhancing general awareness of OER among academic staff, developing more useable tools for distinguishing open content from content with more restricted uses, and enhancing the digital literacy of staff and student users, to enhance these practices (see impact on staff and students).

“[WBL] shifts the balance whereby the academic facilitates the learning in a very different way. So OER allow us to continue that shift, because learners sitting wherever – in Wrigleys, in a cafe – can access a range of resources suited to his or her own workplace. It’s about democratising education”. (Learning from WOeRK OER developer)

Cross strand evidence
Strand evidence: release | cascade |  omac

What is the impact on the student experience?

Impact on student engagement? impact on student autonomy? student grasp of the subject?

It is important to note that most evidence relating to student use comes from early piloting of materials and their input during OER development. This has helped to raise awareness with students about OERs, IPR issues and course materials. In some cases it encouraged engagement resulting in student materials being added to OER collections.

The majority of students had not heard of the term OER, and it is interesting to observe that most OER initiatives and projects are targeting tutors and academic users, but what we have is a superb learning resource for students too. In their open comments they were very enthusiastic and encouraging of the notion of open educational resources, suggesting that resources should be shared. Therefore, work needs to be done to not just train staff to search and use OER, but for students also as users, and potentially contributors as we have demonstrated with students from Arts and Technology. SCOOTER

OMAC strand students are teachers, so impact on this group has been slightly different – this student group is likely to take this forward into their own teaching and projects anticpate significant contribution to  future generation and reviewing of content.

As a spin off from their work on this project, the SU will be contributing to the PGCert in Academic Practice face to face delivery and the ‘up mentoring’ of up to 30 members of participants. Their involvement adds richness, credibility and authenticity to these resources and a real student dimension to the overall programme.  Learning to Teach Inclusively

Release strand projects have focused largely on non-traditional learners and supporting a flexible curriculum to meet their needs.

Learners can access a curriculum which is more flexible, visible, tailored, blended and integrated with real life experience, which allows them to integrate learning and work and which can provide a bridge into university from work-based or informal learning.  Campus-based learners can also benefit (e.g. via Plymouth Award) from reflecting on experiences outside of their course, via these materials. (Learning from WOeRK)

Projects often differentiated between potential use by students and teachers and several felt that the two groups needed OERs presented in different ways – including wrap-around support incorporated within OERs as well as guidance to use offered in presentation mechanisms. Student engagement was varied and reflected the different approaches – C-SAP identified three approaches which were also reflected by projects in other strands:

  • ‘Content approach’ – existing content repackaged
  • ‘Connoisseur approach’ – students as reviewers
  • ‘Creative empowerment approach’ – students as producers and actively critiquing peer OERs

students, who in many cases are informally creating and sharing learning materials, should be actively involved in the development of open educational practise, including the creation of resources where learning and sharing are aligned. ADM

However not all feedback from students was so positive – reinforcing the notion that they can be very focused on activities that contribute to grades.

Virtually all members of the [student] group had not really interacted with the materials in any way whatsoever. So, I asked them why this was the case, and the various (though quite standard) responses related to the ‘context’ (or perceived rationale) to actually embark upon such activities. The group (even the few students who had made at least some attempt to access the OERs) identified as part of their feedback, that, as undergraduates, their preference is to focus upon specific and directed research, self-directed activities that can ‘clearly’ (and positively) influence the grades attained in assignments (and exams). (C-SAP final report)

Cross strand evidence
Strand evidence: release | cascade |  omac

What is the impact on staff of release and use?

staff workload? models of teaching and learning?

Evidence has emerged of changes in attitudes, awareness and practice of staff and this is also discussed in the section on Practice change.

We know that the process of filming the sessions and reviewing and discussing the DVD after the sessions has made an impact on the practice and thinking of those involved. This is evident in the discussions (some of these discussions are captured on video and have been included in the resources and in the module).  Learning to Teach Inclusively

Projects identified several positive impacts for a range of different staff which were a direct result of involvement with an OER project, particularly increased awareness around open educational practices and increased opportunities for collaboration across institutions, sectors and subject disciplines.   Projects identified skillsets and areas of knowledge necessary to effectively release OERs and also celebrated increased literacies of staff involved in projects, particularly in relation to IPR and technical issues. Of note is the fact that several staff saw engagement with OER as having impact on their pedagogic practice and enhanced quality of their own learning resources. The notion of people involved in projects already being key change agents or champions of technology-enhanced learning was also noted. In addition to impacts from being involved with OER project staff also benefitted from increased access to OERs. 

What has developed, however, is the way that the IPR4EE course structure also moves from an understanding of course design for online learning to a broader understanding of course design for open access. The first unit explore issues of IPR within an understanding of localised online learning, i.e. to a known audience of learners, whereas Unit 3 explores the application of IPR to creating and sharing open education resources IPR4EE

The impact on our stakeholders has been greater awareness and understanding of OER rather than changed attitudes. By far the most visible impact is on the teachers involved in the project, who went through the process of developing their resources. The collaboration between academics and support staff from three different areas has been rewarding and may have a lasting impact. CPD4HE

As highlighted previously, the identification and involvement of many individuals with PORSCHE who are key change agents in their own department or trust has proved vital in moving dissemination from a localised to a wider model increases the project’s potential to have a long-term, cross-cultural impact on healthcare education within the UK and beyond. PORSCHE Evaluation report

Good practice in OER development and use, is good learning and teaching practice. This potentially provides a starting point for engaging academic staff with the OER agenda. EDOR 

“The whole project has been an enlightening learning experience for me, where new words, technology and processes appeared at every stage of the project – OER, Creative Commons, IPR, Jorum, TED, AGILE project management method and SCRUM meetings, Web2Rights, OU SCORE, O4B, meta tag, Equella etc. I am now going to brush up on my new found knowledge so that I can inform others!” Mrs Julie Green, Quality Manager, Aston Business School, July 2011 O4B

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: release | cascade |  omac

How do the OERs or OER release process benefit various stakeholders?

including industry and subject communities outside project teams How are they being used across the sector?

Most projects can only offer very early evidence of this due to the timescale of the project. There are three aspects to this

  • impact of being involved in an OER project
  • Impact of OER release on the various stakeholders
  • Impact of OER use – some of this refers to potential rather than actual use.

In many ways this is probably best viewed from strand perspectives as this would provide a more detailed insight into the effectiveness of the strand focus and activities. Some stakeholders groups are common across strands such as educational institutions, professional bodies, subject discipline focused bodies (particularly HE Academy subject centres), employers, employment and trade bodies, different sectors (such as HE in FE and NHS).

CASCADE, RELEASE and OMAC strands have  all evidenced the following:

  • Raised awareness, principally among academic staff, but also taking in other stakeholders such as students, professional service staff and academic managers and across a wide range of stakeholders outside the educational sector
  • Enhanced policies and documentation for dealing with IPR i.e. copyright clearance and open licensing
  • Enhanced models, workflows and other processes for developing learning materials, particularly for open release
  • Technical developments including new repositories, repository tools, and development tools
  • OERs released in a wide range of formats for different stakeholders
  • OERs embedded into curricula
  • Ongoing discussions about open content, open educational practices, and how these impact on the curriculum
  • Community building

OMAC strand project OERs were developed by and for a very specific audience and the process itself significantly engaged the audience. Their proposed use to support teaching practice is expected to have continued impact within the institutions involved. The strand also produced generic OERs which will impact across subject disciplines, although projects did receive requests to make them discipline specific. Incorporation of OERs into formal institutional teacher training/support mechanisms is likely to result in continued use and development of resources.

Projects have noted the value of community building and open exchange or sharing as much as that of the open resources. The emerging communities, and strengthened existing communities are seen as important in relation to sustainability. This process was also highlighted in the pilot phase and has been built on significantly by phase 2 activities.

We now have new relationships with these organisations, and I can’t see why we wouldn’t be able to work with them – or similar types of organisations – to develop OERs in future. It seems to work well. (Doncaster college) SPACE

Open Resources for Built Environment Education: a resource taxonomy for built environment education’ could do continuing useful service…  This document could be particularly supportive of increasing understanding between higher education and the built environment industries, including their intermediaries.  It could be drawn on in clarifying how higher education fits with what is required in professional occupations.  This could be a side effect as far as HEA and JISC see it, but it is potentially a welcome one.  It could bring industry and higher education closer together. “(ORBEE External Evaluation report) ORBEE

Without the lead of SWAP we would not have had the opportunity to create not only a national, but also an international resource where academics and anyone else interested in Social Work/Policy education can obtain resources for use in their own teaching. By leading the application process, they managed to bring together and encourage a number of organisations to work together for the good of the social work community. The potential legacy in terms of this project is the potential it presents for the development of a community of practice’ (Interview conducted as part of the SWAP legacy report to the SWAP Steering Group) SWAP

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: release | cascade |  omac

Do the OERs support/enhance/promote the subject to staff and students?

It may be that given the value projects put on community building and value of the process or releasing OERs that these may be more important than the OERs themselves.

Given that the English Subject Centre will not now be able to promote The Pool within its user community, we are concerned that the HEA and JISC do so.  Otherwise there is a danger that the effort that has gone into producing what the Evaluator describes as “a rich set of materials which are extremely generative of discussion and of ideas for educationally sound and creative practices in university English teaching” will be wasted. ASSAP

“There is quite a range of resources…some are just course documents and I wasn’t sure about the value of those – but when I looked closely at them it was useful to see how people structure their courses. People teaching the same subject take different angles.”EDOR

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: release |  omac

How are different means of ensuring sustainability of OER collections effective?

Most of the collections strand projects were based in Higher Education Academy subject centres, and sustainability of their work assumed a new urgency during the lifetime of the projects with the proposed closure of the centres. Questions of sustainability were at the heart of many of the decisions that projects made.

Technical choices for sustainability included the platform for the collection. Three projects used WordPress because its existing widespread usage and strong community base meant that it would be easy for others to maintain and develop after the end of the project.

WordPress is a widely used framework, with an established user and developer community. This gives any project confidence that its development will be more sustainable and offer benefits to others” (Triton interim report)

OF (GEES), which developed its own platform with map-based interface put resource into refining the admin interface, so that the collection can be maintained and updated by someone unfamiliar with the OF project after the project funding has ended. (OF (GEES)).  Oerbital, which used MediaWiki, emphasised that its content could be exported or re-located at the end of the project. The Triton project put emphasis, also, on using or developing transferable technologies.

The rest of the site’s customisation has been based around a methodology of transferability. Whenever a need was identified an assessment was made as to how to do this with existing tools.  To use OER phraseology, we have reused and remixed existing plugins and code to save development time initially, but also maintenance time in the future. (Triton)

The Collections projects were creating both static and dynamic collections. In the light of this experience, two projects, C-SAP collections and Delores, argued that in the long run the dynamic collections would be more sustainable and take less resource to maintain.

The project also questioned the relevance of the static/dynamic distinction made by JISC. Though we identified a desire for a refereed resource along the lines of Intute, our focus group recognised that with ever increasing resources such a model would be difficult and expensive to maintain” (C-SAP)

The notion of selecting key materials by hand to form a core selection, and then using these materials to train a filter to recognise material relevant to a community that is then further classified automatically may allow more discriminating search and discovery mechanisms to be achieved than has been the case without excessive expenditure of specialist time and effort.(Delores)

Projects noted that time was an issue for users. The C-SAP user survey suggested that the majority of teachers look for online resources only when there is an immediate need, and they are in a hurry. So, to embed OER use into practice, ensuring sustainability, meant emphasising quality assurance and discoverability.

This finding stresses the relevance of the collections project, which offers research methods resources with an emphasis on principles of quality assurance and discoverability.  (C-SAP user survey report)

For OER to be a success there are many loops and cycles, which have to be completed to a high standard by the academic community itself for a resource to “get into sustained orbit” i.e. be maintained and enhanced continuously  (Oerbital)

Embedding project activities into other institutional activities was a further means of ensuring sustainability. The Triton project, for example, made exit plans from the outset and engaged strongly with the academic department that would be taking over the site and maintaining it after project end.  The Delores project negotiated that further technical development of the Waypoint classification system would be adopted as a potential MSc project next year, ensuring that the work will get done.

Projects such as Delores operated with some exceptional processes to allow external users to access dynamic collections.  They noted that for ongoing sustainability, such processes needed to be mainstreamed. This issue of access by external users is one that pilot phase OER projects also encountered, and one that is likely to limit collaborative development of OER.

Projects encouraged ongoing technical development through developing open source software and engaging with the relevant technical developer communities.

the methods made available – through descriptions of the methods followedandprovision in the public domain of the technologies – for respectively Delores Selections and Delores Extensions will allow educators in other domains an easier means of providing OERs for their own subject material (Delores)

“Picture picker plugin was promoted / donated to the Open Attribute project (so that its development is supported sustainably” (Triton)

More generally community engagement was a sustainability strategy adopted by all projects. C-SAP collections and OF (GEES) encouraged ongoing contribution of resources from the community, C-SAP collections produced an awareness-raising DVD, Delores and Oerbital expect their collections to improve through user comments and ratings, and OF (GEES) suggested broadening the community base by extending the range of disciplines covered in the collection.

However, Delores noted also that community-building can present sustainability problems as allowing user comments on a web2.0 site has ongoing maintenance implications.

Strand evidence: collections

Back to Organisational and institutional issues
Forward to Summary of key lessons