Organisational issues

Institutional/Organisational type

How do different institutions manifest OER readiness? How does this change through engagement with a UKOER project?

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: cascade |  release | omac

Institutions leading phase 2 projects exhibited readiness to engage with OER, and many had also been involved in the pilot phase. Many projects however, had partner institutions or organisations who were newer to both the concept and the practice. The notion of cascading knowledge, experience and expertise was strong with a whole strand dedicated to this approach, and collaborative partnerships and networked communities were seen by all strands as enabling and supporting change. Cascade institutions regarded their partner institutions not as less developed but as different – and therefore as offering opportunities to discuss, enhance and test approaches to OER. The C-SAP final report explicitly challenges the idea of cascade:

if you are being cascaded to that might imply having less power; we need to critique and challenge that concept’ (Critical Friend). C-SAP

Institutional readiness can become evident through strategic level approaches and senior buy-in. Many projects supported the view that strategic vision was an essential factor and this was reflected in attention to institutional strategies and policies. Generally it was felt that strategic buy-in could ensure the development of an infrastructure to enable staff engagement and contribute to longer term sustainability.

“Using SCOOTER as a vehicle to lead cultural changes has begun. The draft OER@DMU Policy puts many important considerations in place, and includes “how to enable staff”. By aligning the OER policy with DMU Strategic Vision and the University Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy, this gives the message that it is OK to proceed, a concern raised in staff feedback:
“Needs encouraging with permissions given via an institutional policy”. SCOOTER

Engagement of high level stakeholders [allows] the professional and technical champions to be given the time and resource necessary to engage (Ripple final report)

One area in which a strategic approach can reap clear benefits is in offering staff reward and recognition for their investment in OER.

Alongside a strategic ‘top-down’ vision is the notion of institutional readiness at ‘ground level’.  Projects described open educational practices emerging at an individual or departmental level, or being embedded into professional activities in a low-key way. Evidence of open sharing cultures are emerging across institutions and communities, with project activities providing the impetus and sustaining activities to support these.

Each institution has its own policies, politics, and embedded processes for change….. If there is no institutional driver (i.e. top‐down support) achieving change is more difficult but not impossible; it becomes more focussed on the individual rather than the institution… If you are a lone innovator you get ground down. But an initiative that helps people to focus and to realise that they are part of a groundswell gives a threshold effect. Ripple

Several projects highlighted institution-wide initiatives that could be used to drive OER activities forwards, such as implementing institutional repositories or content management systems. Linking project activities to institutional priorities also emerged as useful, especially challenging agendas such as flexible curricula and non-traditional students. Tying in with institution-wide initiatives did sometimes present challenges due to delays, management changes and as the sector responded to economic conditions. Closure of HE Academy Subject Centres, in particular, has had significant impact as they often provided the vision and infrastructure to support community endeavours, and the impending loss of both expertise and hosting mechanisms is likely to have long-term implications for OER collections and ongoing community approaches to development, release and use.

Projects also noted some intermediate stages en route to OER ‘readiness’ and the need to allow staff time to gain confidence in their own materials and mechanisms to share them. ALTO developed a specific UAL commons licence to acknowledge staff need for phased openess.

We can’t go straight to open release with many items but now there is increased activity, and some new items will now go straight to OER or via the intermediate stage of the teaching collection within RADAR. Ripple partner Oxford Brookes

The section on impact provides more detail on how projects have advanced institutional readiness.

What issues arise for different types of institution in regard to OER release adoption and use?

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence:  release | cascade | omac

The wider political context impacts on cultures of sharing open learning resources. For example, teaching in the Welsh medium has been the catalyst for sharing Welsh learning resources due to the small number of users/resources and less competition between institutions. Political initiatives such as UK OER itself have undoubtedly driven release, and can provide an antidote to more restrictive or protectionist academic cultures. At the same time, though, some teaching staff have reacted to the perception (rightly or wrongly) that OERs undermine the teaching/learning relationship and potentially might even make it easier for educational institutions to reduce staff numbers.

Findings from this phase of activity confirm those from the phase 1 institutional strand, that there are different cultures of openness at different educational institutions. This is not as simple as a single dimension from closed to open: rather there are many different ways in which institutions can support open educational practices and start to move towards more open policies with relation to educational resources. Projects have identified a range of factors which need an institutional approach or at the very least consideration at an institution-wide level, as they closely link to both high level strategy and policy as well as process and operational management issues.

Content management factors: (see also Phase2 Development and Release Issues) and the Web2Rights diagnostic tool ‘How Open are You?’

  • Open licensing of content: how far is this allowed, assumed, actively supported? (Impact measure – how much learning and teaching content is openly licensed in practice?)
  • Hosting and managing of learning and teaching content: how well does the institution support this and how open are its resources? (Impact measures: investment in institutional repository and other content management systems; open repository?)
  •  Use of web 2.0 services to host and access content: to what extent is this allowed, assumed, actively supported? (Impact measures: how much learning and teaching content is web 2.0 accessible? Is there a contract with i-tunes-U, youtube-edu etc?)

Curriculum factors: (see also: Phase2 Practice change)

  • OER awareness/use: to what extent are OERs seen as an integral part of the digital resource environment? (Impact measures: engagement of library and learning resources with OER issues; institutional guidance to staff/students on use of digital resources includes OERs)
  • Curriculum design: to what extent are OERs integral to curriculum and course design?

Institutional reputation:

  • Quality systems: how far have these been adapted to support the development and use of OERs? Have any OER-specific quality issues been formalised or noted (e.g. in relation to branding, technical format…)?
  • Reputation management: to what extent are open educational resources an aspect of marketing and reputation management? (Impact measures: data on downloads etc is actively collected by marketing or similar unit; any evidence of OER use influencing choice of course/institution)

Factors relating to staff (see also: Phase2 Practice change and Phase2 Cultural Considerations)

  • Support to staff: what legal, technical and pedagogic support is available?
  • Staff expertise: what staff development is available that specifically deals with OER issues?
  • Staff reward and recognition: how are staff recognised for making learning and teaching content openly available? Are staff confident that the impact on their reputation will be positive?
  • Staff Roles: how are changing boundaries and new expertise impacting traditional staff roles and responsibilities?

HE in FE

This phase included several different types of organisation and the impact of cultural differenceshas been discussed in the Phase2 Cultural Considerations section. Projects reported challenges with some commercial and international organisations but the inclusion of these in phase 2 activities has raised the issues (particularly in relation to licencing) and encouraged discourse.

We also learnt the harsh lesson of organisational reality.  Engaging large international organisations can be as problematic, long winded and difficult as imagined. Although many individuals seem to acknowledge and accept the features of Creative Commons licences, there are underlying barriers and suspicions at the organisational level. Disappointingly, it was well into the project, before these attitudes and views were explicitly communicated to us, and for much of the project we were led to believe that there would eventually be agreement. It was perhaps an outcome we might have anticipated with Routledge, although early dialogue was quite promising. The LOCOG and ODA resources took us into the domain of the IOC and its zealous ownership of the ‘O’ word (Olympics). Although we stressed that there was no commercial gain involved in the project and that the resources would not be re-purposed (as they were original reports and would be suitable for research and enquiry-led learning, we also came up against the legal machinery of Locog and the IOC and their reluctance to go beyond established copyright.

Employers (Learning form WOeRK) and the NHS (SCOOTER, ACTOR and PORSCHE) were two other types of organisation which presented different challenges but work with these groups led to significantly increased understanding and some excellent outputs, such as the Consent Commons paper – developed from a need to create a framework for considerations around patient information. Many projects working with non-educational institutions noted the impact of economic conditions as highly likely to impact on some of the progress made, both in relation to time to engage and increasing competitive aspects.

Analysis of policies (see project Final Report Appendix 3) and interviews have also shown new pressures from upcoming changes to the NHS, resulting in uncertainty, and a worry that there will be a strategic move away from sharing and open access and towards a more commercial future (also highlighted in  Section 7).

“All NHS trusts by 2013 have to become foundation trusts. One of the requirements of that is to become income generating, working as a commercial organisation rather than historically how we’ve worked. So there is a bit of a conflict over the willingness to share something openly versus the need to generate income.”  PORSCHE Evaluation Report

How do different types of institution ensure embedding and sustainability?

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence:  release | cascade | omac

This relates closely to issues discussed above. Generally when these factors are addressed at an institutional level changes to strategy, policy and processes support embedding and, ultimately, sustainability. In some senses it is easier to sustain support mechanisms (such as repositories, quality assurance processes or curriculum design practices) than maintaining and encouraging staff engagement at an institution-wide level. Staff awareness, engagement and support for ongoing staff involvement is seen by most projects as crucial and, as in the pilot phase, staff development and training (capacity building), reward and recognition and maintaining communities of practice emerged as important sustaining activities. Emerging open educational practices, if shared and taken up at institutional or community level are also likely to impact on long term use and sustainability of processes to release OERs.

What new policies or strategies are required to support sustained release and use?

What existing policies and strategies require changing?

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: release | omac

Two approaches emerged in relation to institutional policies – those who chose to adapt existing policies (which emerged as a strong preference for pilot phase institutional strand projects) and those that chose to develop new policies. The difference here lies in the nature of the policy. Adapting existing IPR or learning, teaching and assessment policies, where they already exist, can be important for gaining buy-in of interested stakeholders, and can indicate a sense of more gentle (and less threatening) change than a new policy. In contrast the development of a new special OER policy can act as a powerful signal that the institution is committed to the concept and to providing appropriate resource to support implementation. Projects adopted both approaches based on the needs of their particular institution.

Continuing the ground work laid by the predecessor UKOER phase 1 project (OER Dutch) the project team also continued to promote the idea of Open Educational Resources on an institutional level at UCL, and advocated the introduction of a faculty- or institution-wide policy on OERs, which would complement UCL’s advanced Open Access policy for research outputs well. DHOER

What issues arise in collecting together and sharing disciplinary collections of OERs across institutional boundaries?

Strand evidence: collections

Institutional issues in collecting together and sharing across institutional boundaries fall into two broad categories: legal and technical. These categories are impacted by institutions’ overarching concerns with quality, trust, and liability.

Legal – copyright and licensing

Lack of clear licensing information made many resources that might otherwise have been collected, unusable. Even when information is clear, it is generally not clearly attached to the metadata for component resources, making automated dynamic collection very difficult, as noted in Development and Release issues.

Projects have noted a lack of institutional awareness about copyright and CC licencing.  This results in many “grey”, “non-“, “quasi-” OERs.

“grey OERs” are Resources that have been created and/or deposited with the intention of being shared within an institutional context, yet lack the distinctive features of OERs such as a creative commons licence (C-SAP)

By highlighting how many institutions are not clear about licensing we hope to make the practice of applying CC licenses more common and to make the … community aware of current limitations in licensing practices (C-SAP)

However the Delores project noted that licensing issues may be due to lack of will, or caution regarding IPR, as well as lack of awareness.

a number of approaches were made to institutions who were known to have resource repositories the contents of which might be suitable for provisions as OERS. Encouragement to make these available were unsuccessful. It is thought that the reluctance to do so was either because there was no institutional will to go through the process, or because of default behaviour of caution regarding intellectual property rights (Delores)

Licensing of material from non-academic institutions was a further issue, encountered particularly by the OF (GEES) project who negotiated access to maps with the Ordnance Survey.

Legal – responsibility, liability, and datasharing

Legal responsibility is a big issue for institutions, especially where reputations are at stake, and presented barriers to cross-institutional collections. It was particularly an issue for the Triton project, a collaboration between Oxford and Cambridge who were keenly aware of the risks to their reputations.

To ensure the DPIR’s [Department of Politics and International Relations] concerns regarding potential risk to the reputation of both universities were addressed the project team consulted with Legal Services at the University of Oxford. This led to a lengthy process of consultation between the two universities legal departments to resolve issues of site ownership and the legal documents required on the site. (Triton)

Agreement was needed on domain registration, branding, website terms and conditions, accessibility, privacy policy, shared site administration and data sharing. To handle ongoing supervision of these agreements, and responsibility for quality, Triton developed an oversight team with members from both institutions which had responsibility for policy on the scope of the collection and for signing off blog posts.

Editorial guidelines were developed plus a number of documents were produced to help contributors understand clearly their responsibilities, the ownership of material, the channels for dispute if material needs to be declined and the licences that the material will be released under” (Triton)

Technical – expertise

Several projects evidenced the effect of the presence or absence of technical expertise. As in the pilot phase, projects often migrated to technologies that they were familiar with, and sometimes this was a deliberate choice aimed at increasing capacity with these technologies (eg. Delores’ use of Waypoint and sux0r).

However, projects also found they needed to adopt technologies with which they were less familiar, particularly platforms for hosting or managing access to collections. Oerbital, for example, developed support pages to assist their expert team in editing wiki pages, while Delores noted,

“If WordPress is chosen as the front-end, more support might be necessary at the programming level to incorporate the necessary OER elements” (Delores interim report)

Technical – access

Access for non-institutional participants in collaborative collections projects could be an issue, and is one that seems to have its origin in institutions’ lack of trust and reluctance to take responsibility for contributions by external participants.

Delores Extensions is currently hosted on a stand-alone server. The through-firewall access to this server by external users is based on a special short-term dispensation by the University of Bath Computer support unit (BUCS) that is subject to review at short intervals. Additionally, use of such a stand-alone server is non-standard provision, which conflicts with BUCS operating policies

What issues arise in curation of discipline collections?

Strand evidence: collections

Issues of curation fell into three categories, of: whose role it is to curate the collections and what expertise they need (see also Staff, below, and expertise issues in practice change); what resource is needed for maintenance; and where the collection should be hosted.

Delores felt that curation was likely to fall upon library staff, who would need training to develop the necessary expertise. Necessary expertise was felt to be in wikis (Oerbital); technical development of the interface, mapping data and geo-tagging (OF (GEES)); IPR and licencing knowledge (OF (GEES); and community engagement (OF (GEES). Triton noted scope for a cataloguer to maintain the classification of resources as the collection grows and blog authors potentially add their own terms.

Maintenance of collections requires ongoing resource whether the collections are static or dynamic.  Links to collected resources will need checking, especially if the material collected is not from stable repositories, while dynamic collections require provision for adding/deleting feeds.

Projects were concerned to host their collections where they could be easily re-located (Oerbital), or deposited in a stable central open repository with an rss feed, such as JorumOpen (OF (GEES))


In what roles do we find OER advocates and how are they affecting change within institutions?

Strand evidence: cascade

See also the issue of expertise covered in Cascade – Development and Release and also cross strand discussion in the practice change section.

Ripple found it important to win over key champions at a high level, even before people in technical and professional roles. ADM likewise targeted course leaders as champions and conduits of information. Because the roles involved in open development and release are so diverse, different approaches are needed and different messages must be crafted. The OSTRICH project found that tasks identified in the CORRE and revised CORRE workflows did not map closely to institutional roles. However, the project did map changes in attitudes and practices among a range of different stakeholder groups, corresponding to institutional roles,

What new capabilities and expertise do institutions require?

Strand evidence: cascade

C-SAP project partners have developed technical skills in formatting, tagging, licensing and depositing OERs but need more support with repurposing and managing/maintaining resources. The OSTRICH project also found a need for more support to create or convert materials for open release, and ADM noted a lack of staff confidence to use emerging technologies and to think more broadly about what an ‘open educational practice’ might involve. In general, then, institutions need to move beyond a technical approach to expertise and take a more strategic perspective. This could involve supporting individuals in a range of roles to explore the potential of OER and wider open educational practices, and to take ownership of any changes to their professional practice that might be entailed. This is at least in part also a research agenda that could (should?) continue to be pursued by phase 3.

How do institutions support staff to change practice/develop skills/knowledge?

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: release | omac

Several approaches emerged to support changes in practice of staff and there are a range of outputs for the wider community to use/adapt:

  • Events and workshops around OERs as a concept (increasing awareness)
  • Capacity building across a wide range of roles and departments (technical, curriculum design with OER, IPR, digital literacy, open practice)
  • embedding within teacher training and performance review and appraisal mechanisms
  • Developing and maintaining Communities of Practice
  • Creating a culture of openness across the institution (encouraging sharing)
  • recognition and reward 
  • support and guidance materials
  • cross-team collaboration (input from different professionals/services leading to increased understanding)

guidance (all strands) see Release guidance materials Cascade: Outputs

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