Practice change

Cross strand evidence to support this section is recorded at: Practice-change-evidence

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

Practice change in context

We asked projects to record how practices around educational content are changing, and in particular how OER development, release and use are evolving across institutions and communities.  We were interested in practice of teaching staff, professional/support staff and senior/strategic managers, as well as other staff from partner bodies. Although this was not an explicit focus of UK OER funding, the changing practices of learners were of great interest where they could be captured, as they impact on how OERs are used and on how teaching staff relate to students around content and knowledge. Institutional or organisational practice change is also significant as institutional culture has such a large impact on the business models, motivations, and support available for OER (see Organisational/Institutional Issues).

It is evident from project reports that engaging with OERs encourages sometimes radical practice change among the project team and close associates, but this may have more to do with forming new partnerships, opportunities for cross disciplinary and cross sector discourse, and reflection around designing learning materials for different contexts. Does engagement with the concept of openness via OER contribute to new forms of educational practice? We discuss this further in the Open practices briefing paper [add link].

In reporting these findings we are aware that terminology around OERs is not universally meaningful or recognisable and we may sometimes be asking people the wrong questions. Where staff report no engagement with OERs they often describe using third party materials in their teaching. This demonstrates the ‘iceberg of OER use’ described in OER: The value of reuse in education, which found that most sharing and reuse happens informally and below the surface. Use and reuse of OERs, strictly defined as content that is openly licensed and consciously reused as such, is a small sub-set of the whole. Practice below the surface may actually become harder to research as awareness of open content spreads (as the Porsche project found), because there is a greater awareness that online content may be ‘risky’ or inappropriate to use.

Practice and policy change

How do we see practices and policies changing?

From the pilot phase of UK OER we concluded that informal sharing of learning and teaching materials is common practice, though carried out through different channels by different departments and subject areas. This continues to be a theme. Academics seem most likely to look for teaching materials when they are dealing with new or unfamiliar subject matter. As confirmed in much greater detail by the OER Impact Study of the University of Oxford TALL team, both teachers and students make extensive use of online content, though they may not think of this as ‘sharing’ or ‘reuse’, or be able to distinguish open educational content from other types of material. Increased awareness of open content can lead to changes in sharing practice and use/re-use of learning resources, for example restricting searches to openly licensed content, looking for content via subject and institutional repositories first, or ensuring that materials released to a virtual learning environment confirm to the higher standards required for open release.

Collaborative practice has emerged as important during this funding phase. Cross disciplinary approaches are beginning to have an impact at an institutional level and reveal a new benefit of open content – that it is easily shared and co-constructed across existing boundaries. Engaging with partners outside the academic sector has been challenging but has encouraged new partnerships, trust and levels of understanding. Several projects comment that working across boundaries to develop project outcomes (business/community/academy, staff/consultants, students/teachers) has been one of the most radical aspect of their experience and has the potential to change practice more widely.

Also of importance was the notion of reflective practitioners, as engagement with OER release stimulated reconsideration of existing content development practices particularly focussing on how  learning resources might be used in different contexts. Instead of developing resources for one specific learning activity staff considered how to present materials in different ways for different contexts. New kinds of conversation about the learning experience took place.

Many projects in the Release strand were producing materials for non-traditional students and exploiting the potential of OERs to take university learning beyond the boundaries of the campus. Remote students on fieldwork, internships and placements were also catered for by Release and Collection projects.

Several project teams put energy into developing a shared understanding within their institutions, subject and sector communities of how learning and teaching might be supported by open educational resources. Some went so far as to consider what an ‘open pedagogy‘ would look like (ADM and C-SAP).

“I have learned a number of processes from the design workshop, we have done some of it but not all because of time frames. I would change how to write libraries and programming and would start from the beginning again. The way we approach things has changed – in terms of timescales and things – I have definitely learned some things. It has definitely changed the way I work and measure time, and how I structure my work. I think I have changed the process of the way I approach clients too.” (Project team member)

Release strand projects reported changes to existing policies but several also noted the development of new open policies.

Bath’s intellectual property policy guidance document now includes reference to OERs, as a direct result of OSTRICH. Bath also created a “Deed of Licence” which academic staff are required to sign to permit the university to release materials as OERs, and consent documents based on JISC and Web2rights templates (available here). (OSTRICH)

Cross-strand evidence

Strand evidence: release | cascade

How has OER release affected the practice of academic development staff?

Impacts on the practice of the OMAC strand practitioners has been much the same as for other strands. Engagement with OER release generally has fostered reflection on existing teaching practice, increased technical skills, improved understanding of IPR and legal aspects, improved use and application of licenses and changes in content production processes. The specific focus areas of projects, such as inclusive practice, CPD and digital literacies, has further enhanced both engagement and practice change.

A key outcome from this project has been the opportunity to work closely with and learn from university teachers in a range of subjects about the ways in which they academically engage their diverse students. Pre and post observation meetings with teachers, students and in some cases student support staff, provided the opportunity to think about inclusive practice within different contexts and from different perspectives.  Discussions with staff not only led to changes in their practice, they also challenged our thinking, as researchers and academic developers, around inclusive practice.  (Learning to Teach Inclusively)

Student feedback and interaction has been of particular benefit in this strand.

I found it really useful to have the opportunity to speak frankly with some of my students and to learn directly from them which of the techniques I use they find the most useful.  I enjoyed reflecting upon what I do and I like the fact that following reflection I am always finding ways to tweak and improve my practice and keep it fresh for student…It was good to learn from the note taker and interpreter…I’m looking forward to seeing the extracts of other teachers in action. (Tracy McCoy, Lecturer). (Learning to Teach Inclusively)

Projects also reported a value in engaging with the UK Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning in HE (PSF):

it has been an enormously useful exercise to bring together selected material that specifically links to the areas considered in the UK Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning in Higher Education. This will enable and encourage staff members in our small & specialist college to apply for HE Accreditation via the individual path or by taking our accredited programme.  (RLT for PA)

The potential value to the promotion and implementation of the UKPSF is considerable and there is therefore a need to continue the community of practice long term to promote this process. MEDEV will explore with the HEA how this might be achieved.   (ACTOR)

Strand evidence:  omac

What policies enable contribution of OERs to cross-institutional collections?


Users on both the Delores and Oerbital projects expressed the view that current UK government HE policy, which encourages competition between HEIs, mitigates against a culture of sharing:

We know that the Government wants to introduce more competition between universities, so giving material away for free (for which I spent a lot of time and effort, sometimes even money) seems to be counter-intuitive. (Oerbital community portal)


Policies that encourage contribution of OER fell into two areas:

1) Recognition and reward schemes, which might be institutional, or might be UK-wide analogous to research funding and the REF. Such policies encourage OER release more generally, but are essential if there are to be sufficiently many OER for collection to be worthwhile.

2) Licensing and copyright policies, especially those that promote clear licensing and awareness of copyright and licensing requirements.

Focus group participants, although they assumed that copyright was not an issue when using materials for educational purposes, participants expressed a concern that sharing materials online could breach copyright (C-SAP collections)

While clear copyright policies are desirable for OER contribution generally, the requirement for copyright information to be attached to the metadata for components of OER is one that is essential for automated collection. 

Strand evidence: collections


What kinds of expertise are most significant to changing practice?

In a climate of constrained funds and anxiety about staff employment and roles, it is increasingly difficult to recruit, develop and retain the specialist expertise required for OER initiatives. Projects commented on the expertise they had been able to gather and draw upon, but it was not always clear how this expertise was being embedded and whether it would be lost to the institution once funding ended.

Academic teaching staff need experience of using OERs in their own teaching to support good decisions about development/release and ‘help to situate themselves in the OER landscape‘ (OERCafe). The OSTRICH team identified a need for expertise in developing

content to benefit the wider community, including prospective students and self-learners’ and in ‘[reviewing] OERs from elsewhere … as an integral part of curriculum design process’. 

 Ripple were concerned that staff should understand the value of tagging material to aid discovery, even if they did not address complex metadata requirements themselves. All Cascade projects offered workshops for teaching staff, covering a range of OER issues from basic awareness to technical aspects of IPR and hosting. In some final reports there was evidence that this expertise was being embedded into more generic staff development and training, though usually at a lower level of detail and complexity:

Generic training offered re. Moodle, setting up modules, assessments etc. …Ironically, some staff manage well without training and they find their own tools etc. (OER Cafe)

Professional/support staff were identified as critical in a range of roles: ‘where OER facilities and support are already in place there is a strong sense of the benefits of open educational practice‘ (ADM). The kind of support required included:

  • e-learning/content production: support for open design and production, reaching a global audience (OSTRICH); flash and multimedia design (ADM)
  • IT infrastructure: a range of background issues, e.g. the bandwidth, the servers’ (ADM)
  • IT services/content management team: support for and hosting of open repository (OSTRICH)
  • marketing/communications: awareness of branding issues and corporate identity management (Ripple)
  • legal: a broad appreciation of legal aspects of content use, release and re-use, not limited to open licences and third party IPR but for example around consent for image capture (ADM, Ripple)
  • library/content management: appropriate and pragmatically applicable metadata‘ (Ripple) ‘greater awareness amongst library staff about open content [including] discussions with research publications repository manager’ [OSTRICH]

Senior/strategic managers were referenced in several final reports. ADM staff expressed a need for ‘greater coordination‘ to support open educational practices; Ripple advocated addressing ‘key decision makers… before developing technical and legal expertise ‘ as ‘policy decisions can be an obstacle to allowing new activities to take place’.

Projects were often able to facilitate new conversations and ongoing partnerships across different roles and departments, extended for example to finance, human resources, and the research/knowledge transfer office. A clear recommendation from the strand is for institutions to take a strategic view of the expertise required to engage with open content: it cannot be found or developed in a single location.

Strand evidence: cascade

How are different means of sharing expertise effective?

CASCADE projects expressed the view that the sharing of expertise was not a one-way street. The subject-based projects by their nature were more able to define events as fairly open-ended discussions or focus groups, and in this context both queried whether ‘cascade’ was an appropriate metaphor. Openness to ideas, recognition of contextual differences, negotiation of meanings and co-creation of materials were important to the ADM and CSAP projects just as they are to learning and teaching in those subject areas. The ADM project worked across:

 ‘six sites, each with a local action plan that was discussed, commented on, developed iteratively, and with ownership of the process devolved to a local lead. Six associated focus groups with the aim of engendering critical engagement with the pedagogic, technological and other cultural implications of open educational practice’. 

Evaluation reports from the partner sites record that the OER agenda was successfully aligned with local priorities and educational practices. The main evaluation report concludes that

it is important to maintain a balance between institutional ‘regulation’ and staff ‘autonomy’, in the context of a more wholesale push towards open education.’  

Similarly the C-SAP project final report notes that

the success of the project partly derives from a team model constituted by locals (C-SAP staff/agents) who possess institutional knowledge, and outsiders (non-C-SAP staff) who bring on board experiences from the wider disciplinary context).  

The other three projects in this strand were hosted by leading OER institutions, and the engagement of partners was at least partly predicated on an expectation of ‘knowledge transfer’ from leaders in the field. Two of these – Leicester and Oxford – used workflow models to support OER release in the new contexts. The Leicester CORRE framework proved directly transferable to one of the partner institutions, but in the second was revised to support more ab initio development, becoming the DORRE framework. In both cases, integrating OER development into the workflow of existing academic support teams proved highly successful as a change strategy.

All five approached the sharing of expertise through variations on the theme of workshops/events with supporting resources. Word of mouth is a key driver of change in institutions, which is another reason to ensure that projects reach people in a wide range of institutional roles and locations. C-SAP was typical of Cascade projects in taking up a wide range of web 2.0 technologies both to communicate about available OERs and project progress (blog, twitter, wiki, slideshare) and also to develop collaborative resources (prezi, mindmeister). This ties in with emerging practice towards the end of Phase 1 when projects began to see raising awareness of released OERs as a critical aspect of the release process and of future discoverability. Joint public communications also helped to cement relationships and – by fostering reflection – to embed practice change. Among the six ADM partners there were examples of joint conference presentations, the showcasing of pedagogic research work, and the collaborative development of case studies. There were many asides in project reports which suggested that partnership arrangements had helped to transfer technical expertise and so support technical developments – from interactive guidance at De Montfort University to an institutional repository at the University of Hertfordshire – that were critical to future open educational practices: ‘We need external and internal systems in place‘ to do this.

Strand evidence: cascade

Engaging stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement has been secured with a range of approaches, from strategic input to sustainable support for content and curriculum development. Stakeholders have been diverse including learners, a range of different staff within institutions, across institutions and across sectors. Cultural differences in practice across sectors has proved particularly challenging and a range of approaches have been adopted to engage and collaborate within these new partnerships. Workshops, advice and guidance were used successfully by pilot programme projects and some of their materials were used/adapted by phase 2 projects. Events provide opportunities for awareness raising, community building and training.

Other colleagues are unclear about their institutional policies in relation to sharing and disseminating learning and teaching materials that they use as part of their practice. Events that explore concerns, outline legal responsibilities and train colleagues to produce materials they feel confident in sharing with their peers could potentially encourage greater distribution of OERS. (Partner progress report, 2011). SWAP

Continuing professional development (CPD mechanisms) were also seen as highly important for long term engagement and to support sustainable practice change

The majority of the EDOR Project team thought that engagement with OER (and the EDOR Project in particular) provided good professional development for any academic. In particular, it was considered useful in terms of own research publishing, not just for learning and teaching. It was also felt that it developed self-awareness around learning and teaching good practice in general (not just open access), such as accessibility issues and future engagement with distance learning (what makes „good‟ distance learning resources?). (EDOR)

Cultural change around sharing was recognised as important for embedding OER related practices (either release or use). OERs help to make public the sharing philosophy, encouraging engagement or stakeholders, and encouraging sharing of practice as well as OERs.  

There is still scope for more extensive sharing of OERs for Digital and Information Literacy. This will save time and effort on the development of material. In order for this to become more widespread the mechanisms for sharing material need to be embedded further into local practice – in particular the continued use of institutional repositories and Jorum. (DELILA)

Cultural change of institutions was encouraged through examination and review of existing practice and models and in particular encouraging collaboration and partnership approaches (ACTOR)

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: release | omac

How are different means of engaging academics in disciplines effective?

Projects employed a number of techniques to raise the profile of OERs within their disciplines.  All projects provided a focus for developing a community of academics around OER release and reuse, drawing them in through surveys, focus groups, workshops, blog and wiki discussions. They involved a core group of experts for selection and quality assurance for their static collections, and sometimes supplemented this by drawing a wider user group in with user surveys.  Some projects supplemented these methods targeted at known potential users, with prominent invitations to contribute on their collections sites, targeted at users who were not previously known to the project (eg. OF (GEES)).

User surveys by C-SAP, Triton, and OF(GEES) suggested that trusting, and even knowing the creator of an OER is a critical issue in OER uptake and use, though, as noted above in theMotivations section , it is one that may ultimately limit the release and uptake of OER. Building trust in loosely aggregated online communities – in which individuals know just enough people to develop trust and feel there are mutual benefits to sharing – is an important issue for open practice in general.

The C-SAP collections expert group also noted a number of academic identity issues, founded in shared community values, that might limit sharing and uptake of OER. These included student expectations of what constitutes academically respectable sources; student and teacher expectations that research active teachers will use their own research in teaching, and fear by teachers of potential negative judgement by their peers for putting themselves forward:

A concern was also raised that making materials openly available might open oneself up to negative judgement from colleagues because of the perception of putting oneself forward as a self-appointed expert without adequate peer review. (C-SAP collections) 

Projects modelled the practices of OER release, adaptation and repurposing to engage users.  Much of this work was through personal contact in team working, bringing together the necessary skills of learning technologists and academics, or to incentivise the academics (Oerbital and Triton).  C-SAP collections built on ideas of vicarious learning in asking experts to choose and review resources on its website, to be observed by the rest of the community 

Projects provided support for practice change in the form of guidance notes, particularly todescribing resources (metadata and tagging).

The project front-end aims to develop a consistent minimal system of tagging that will provide a model that could be adopted by others to improve discoverability.  The emphasis on review and quality is intended to raise the consciousness of the academics of tagging issues and encourage the requisite skills to be developed (C-SAP) 

This was particularly important to the OF (GEES) project for describing fieldwork resources and including location information for subsequent automatic collection and searching through its map interface. The Oerbital project also provided guidance on how to cite digital resources, having discovered that user uncertainty on this issue might be a barrier to uptake.

All projects disseminated their work via conferences, publications and blogs.  OF (GEES) in particular was emphatic that guidance notes needed to be taken to the practitioners.

Awareness raising around licensing and copyright was a second major area of guidance, as several projects (Delores, C-SAP collections) found that uncertainty about these inhibits users from using freely available resources.

Focus group participants, although they assumed that copyright was not an issue when using materials for educational purposes, participants expressed a concern that sharing materials online could breach copyright (C-SAP) 

The Oerbital project felt that the architecture of OERs released – providing OERs with an appropriate extendable architecture – was important in engaging users in repurposing

Projects found that it was important to build on current user practice, in particular in providing a search and find experience that was “google-like 

The importance of Google and other popular commercial sites cannot be underestimated; both in terms of the resources they produce and the expectations that they provide the use(C-SAP)

Similarly, interfaces should be appropriate to the discipline, and OF (GEES) went to considerable lengths to develop a map-based interface, involving the fieldwork community in its development, while Triton associated its political resources with a timely blog and news feeds.

Several projects (OF (GEES), C-SAP collections, Oerbital, EALFCO) felt that to engage users they needed  to increase the critical mass of resources in their collections by inclusion of “non-OERs” or “grey OERs” – freely available resources that lack clear CC licensing. They developed clear means of labelling them and providing guidance on their use. OF (GEES) developed a traffic light system by which non-OERs were instantly recognisable.  The Delores project, instead, approached repositories that were clearly set up with the aim of sharing but not couched in formal CC license terms, and supported their authors to conform to OER standards, working in this way with the SEED Curriculum and CDEN-Ryerson University.

Social software was used by all projects for dissemination, while Triton used google analytics to assess impact.  The Oerbital project and C-SAP collections used social bookmarking for community formation and to discovers using similar resources.

Strand evidence: collections

How are different means of engaging partner organisations (professional bodies, learned societies) effective?

Projects engaged formally with stakeholders largely by recruiting them into the project in some way, either as expert consultants (Oerbital, OF(GEES), Triton), through user testing (C-SAP collections, Triton) or as members of a steering group (Triton).

Non-formal engagement with stakeholders was ensured by OF( GEES) by placing support and guidance in the stakeholder domain, and by Triton through the timeliness of its blog postings:

this focus on timeliness, as well as people, networks, and open-access learning objects will be what makes the blog unique for the target audience” (Triton)

Strand evidence: collections

What mechanisms support effective student engagement?

Involvement of stakeholders in review processes and evaluation proved very effective, and the ALTO project took this further with students by setting up a competition to represent the message of ALTO

we decided that a good way to reach the staff might be through their students. In September of 2011 the project announced a competition for students to create work in any media or format to interpret the message of ALTO, with 3 prizes of £1000 each, judged by a prestigious jury. This style of competition format is commonly employed at the UAL often with the support of external sponsors and usually results in widespread interest and involvement. Students become involved and the competition brief becomes part of their practice-based work and is therefore discussed with staff. ALTO

Student engagement in OER production and use was also addressed by the ADM and C-SAP projects in the Cascade strand, with mixed success. 

OER uptake

What makes discipline-based collections usable across institutions?

Key characteristics that made discipline-based collections usable across institutions were theadaptability of resources to different pedagogic contexts, and clear licensing information attached to all components of the resource.

Adaptability to pedagogic context could be enhanced by reviews and examples of adaptation (C-SAP collections), and by preparing resources with an OER framework in mind for disaggregation into components (Oerbital)

Strand evidence: collections

How far has release/collection of OER influenced uptake by course providers and students?

OMAC strand projects tended to highlight that the process of release rather than the OERs themselves impacted on uptake. This may reflect that by the end of the project they were not really in a position to provide evidence of this, although an inherent motivation in producing OERs was to encourage the uptake on the courses themselves. Many projects felt that the mechanisms to engage their stakeholders were important for this. Several projects developed frameworks around their OERs to provide context for use and it may be that this activity is as important to the uptake as the resources themselves.

Motivations and barriers to practice change

Projects provided evidence around motivations and barriers to

  • engaging with the concept of open or OERs
  • releasing OERs (as individual assets, modules or collections)
  • using or re-using/adapting OERs

Motivations described by projects are very diverse and are closely linked to anticipated benefits for institutions, individuals or communites/sector partners. The Impacts and benefits section also includes additional benefits, and benefits of being involved in OER projects as well as benefits of OER release and use.

What are the main motivations for, and barriers to release and use of OERs?


In most cases motivations or intentions to engage with the concept of OER reflect perceived or anticipated benefits. Many projects had previous experience from the pilot programme and motivation to engage was strongly evident from project teams and project partners.

…. very strongly identified with the project and the impact they believed it would have on learners. Some of the values expressed most strongly were: open access to HE; work based learning; entrepreneurship in HE; save resources that would otherwise be lost; research/teaching linkages and pedagogic research; enhancing the experience and independence of learner; enhancing the know-how of SMEs/enterprises in the SW; (leading to) better economic recovery. (Interim Evaluation Report) Learning from WOeRK

Altruistic intentions around sharing are seen as a powerful driver and staff from several project partners also referred to opportunities for reputation enhancement and personal growth and development. OERs are seem by many to offer significant value to non-traditional students such as remote learners. An interesting notion to emerge during this phase is the contribution that OERs can make towards legacy materials – saving resources that would otherwise be lost.

One of the main lessons learnt was the potential of OERs to breathe fresh life into learning materials which already exist in other, less easily discoverable forms.  The Project has given us the opportunity to take materials that we have already developed and re-present them in more coherent and easily retrievable ways. With the closure of the English Subject Centre in July 2011, we see the availability of materials in The Pool, HumBox and JorumOpen as being a key element of our legacy, ensuring that they are available in a way that means they can be used and re-purposed widely. ASSAP

The current economic climate was also noted as an impetus by some projects, with OER release and use being seen as offering potential efficiency measures (although costs also emerge as barriers).

People are increasingly pushed for time and are recognising that there is a lot of really good stuff out there on the web being shared under Creative Commons.  However, there is a paradox, with the short-term costs of building resource sharing capacity, and in the long term potentially reducing cost, being out of the reach of currently cash-strapped departments. PORSCHE evaluation report

Institutionally reducing duplication, showcasing taster learning materials to potential students and using OERs as promotional materials (marketisation) continue to be strong motivators.

A showcase for individual students and staff at the UAL for promoting our work, networking and attracting new students; Helps students making well-informed application choices by providing windows into the world of the UAL = better retention and satisfaction rates; Link with national and international communities of practice to create longer-term collaborations and partnerships ALTO

Institutional repositories and strategic approaches to content management are often enhanced by engagement with OERs but can also act as motivators to make content more open, both inside and outside the institution. Links to institutional research was noted in the pilot phase and continues to be seen as a motivator.

The RAE used to measure impact by the quantity of research publications in reputable journals; now [with the REF] there is a new impact in the open arena via Google, and it provides a great marketing tool. One of our resources now comes top of a Google search. We are repurposing formerly turgid research into something usable that gives you credibility that other materials could never give. (Ripple)

Subject and sector communities identify OERs as having potential to enhance existing communities and building new networks. Increasingly projects have talked about the importance of broader activities around OERs – the community networking, curriculum development and student engagement. Motivations are very diverse ranging from institutional, personal or community led. Projects often start with one or two main motivations but other emerge as individual preceptions and activities develop. See also Impacts and Benefits.

Gaining motivation from other stakeholders was achieved by explaining concepts, articulating benefits and demonstrating the potential to change learning and teaching practice (awareness raising).    Evidence from projects appears to confirm the long held acknowledgement that teachers do use other people’s content but do not necessarily consider IPR aspects and do not share them afterwards. The lack of awareness of OERs and IPR issues means this existing practice is under the radar, fraught with issues relating to quality – from issues around quality of resources being used, and also to the quality of the learning and teaching experience. So while motivation to use OER is low – in practice the use of other peoples resources is widespread.

Informal discussion with various project partners confirms the impression that OER use within the sector has been very low, and awareness of availability and use of OERs is correspondingly low.  This contrasts with a culture in education of free resources use and sharing that is often outside the more formal environment of OERs.  The project has undoubtedly brought OERs to the attention of a wider community, but there is little evidence at present for a ‘step change’. OSIER

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence: release | cascade |  omac


IPR issues, cultural practice and traditions, (lack of) necessary expertise and, to a lesser extent technological challenges were described as significant barriers to the release of open content. Given that projects across both UK OER phases have confirmed that staff do share content informally, we conclude that the barriers are around the time and expertise required to develop high quality, accessible content that meets the additional quality criteria for open release, and anxieties around the additional visibility accorded to open materials. Some of these barriers can be overcome simply by raising awareness, and a key benefit of project activities has been the capacity to engage new communities in the idea of open release. However, once academic staff have been inspired to release content more openly, a lack of technical and legal support becomes the main barrier: this seems particularly to be the case in FE.

While community trust and positive recognition are clear motivators, the lack of such trust and the fear of negative recognition – content ‘not being good enough’ or laying the producer open to legal scrutiny – are barriers to making open content practices sustainable.

It should be noted that whilst projects identified a range of barriers they often found imaginative ways to overcome these. Identifying barriers is seen as a step towards reducing their impact. 

The Economics Network’s lecturer survey revealed that, while some constituents seek out and remix open content, about half are unfamiliar with the basic concepts of OER. This demonstrates that we need to make it a priority not just to promote the resources arising from OER projects but the working practices that drive them. This will be the emphasis of the next phase of DeSTRESS dissemination, with the project’s resources used as examples of a broader revolution in educational resources. DeSTRESS 

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence release | cascade | omac 

What are the main motivations for, and barriers to creating static or dynamic collections of OERs?


Many of the motivations evident in the projects that were collecting OER were very similar to those for OER release more generally.  Particularly evident were an altruistic belief in making knowledge openly available and in enhancing pedagogy:

Those with experience of sharing resources cited belief in open education and a desire to enhance their students’ learning as the main motivators for doing so (OF (GEES)) 

Anticipated benefits of collections in particular, expressed by all projects, were the enhanced visibility and discoverability of a collection of cognate materials.  To gain such enhanced visibility is a motivation that was posited in the call for funding and formed the rationale for this strand of projects.

Capacity building and understanding the characteristics of OER better was a motivation mentioned by Delores, and implicit in a comment from Triton:

currently more contributions are made by Oxford but this is due to more active administrative support within the Oxford Politics Department. Cambridge has been encouraged to replicate this administrative structure to ensure a similar level of engagement. (Triton) 

One project (Delores) was explicit that a motivation was to develop greater expertise and capacity in the underlying technologies as well as in OER pedagogy:

members of the project team have developed particular skills relating to the use, application and development of the core software applications used to support the OER delivery, namely WordPress, sux0r and Waypoint, and an increased familiarity with the use of XML (Delores)


Similarly, many of the barriers were common to OER release and use, rather than to collections specifically.  These include: teacher lack of awareness and lack of confidence in IPR status.

responses indicate quite a low level of awareness of copyrightissues and indicate that there is still a lot of work to be done to remove barriers in sharing content in order to change academic practice which to a large extent relies on tacit assumptions about copyright and licensing with regard to educational resources (C-SAP user survey)

Other barriers expressed by users were ones that the OER collections strand set out to address.  These included teacher lack of time, and the variable quality of available OERs.

academics were clear that they need to be able to find relevant materials quickly in the context of a busy teaching schedule (C-SAP collections)

These were both issues that the collections projects attempted to overcome through an emphasis on discoverability and their explorations of appropriate quality assurance.

The increasingly competitive environment  in higher education was felt to be a barrier, inhibiting sharing of potentially valuable content and putting limits on how much material might be released.

The drive and motivation within communities was also ambiguous in its effects, with many teachers happy to share within a trusted community of users but not more widely.

Strand evidence: collections

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