These recommendations are presented by the Evaluation and Synthesis team, having considered the diverse recommendations of the funded projects in their respective strands of activity, and the evidence in support. They are only a sample of the future activities that could be undertaken to enhance the value of existing open educational resources and to ensure sustained practices of OER development and release, if time and funding were limitless. Recommendations from projects are directed towards specific stakeholders such as institutions, interest groups, subject areas, teacher educators and so on, as well as more generally towards JISC and its services, and other sector bodies. No summary can do justice to them, so readers are directed both to the strand recommendations below, and to the final reports of the separate projects for more detail.

Release strand recommendations  | OMAC strand recommendations | Cascade strand recommendations | Collections strand recommendations

Programme and project management

1. Consider the timescale and timing of programmes carefully

  • Many projects felt that the timescale allowed was insufficient to: develop committed partnerships; source or develop suitable OERs; publish or share OERs via appropriate host services and with appropriate formats, licenses, metadata etc; raise awareness of the OERs available; evaluate the uptake and use of OERsMore time, with better alignment of project cycles with the curriculum cycle (new ideas tending to be introduced in October or February and evaluated in the following weeks) would allow the exploration of alternative approaches, better stakeholder engagement, and an enhanced pilot/testing phase.

2. Future funding should focus on embedding, benefits realisation and impact, and developing a stronger evidence base.

  • Echoing some of the frustration felt by projects in the pilot phase, several argued the need to‘move the OER agenda away from the ‘how to’ of OER production and development towards the ‘how true’ of OER impact on learning’ (CSAP) or even to ‘consider moving away from offering funding for OER production and evaluation in favour of the generation of evidence through structured research projects’ (OSTRICH).
  • One way to do this would be to continue to fund cross-sector research projects alongside project-level tracking of OERs in use (suggestions in the following section).
  • Another would be to require future projects to undertake a genuine evaluation of the benefits of using and re-purposing OERs, with commensurate timescales and funding.

3. Focus funding on proven benefits of and demand for OER (though some of these remain to be ‘proven’!):

  • Facilitating access to learning; enhancing student experience and skills through diversity of challenging content; efficiencies in design or delivery; sharing of ideas and practices, including across sectors; promotion and marketing of courses and of institutions.

4. Amplify the value of existing programme resources

  • High quality workshops and guidance materials have been produced in both phases of funding, and these could be repackaged into a more coherent staff/professional development resource, perhaps linked (via OMAC?) to the new Professional Standards framework. Available materials should certainly be reviewed and consolidated, ideally within the OER infokit, and made as discoverable by teaching staff as possible.
  • UK OER resources themselves enjoy very different levels of visibility and use: consider means of enhancing discoverability and awareness of the UK OER brand.

5. Build on the expertise acquired through UK OER funding

  • The Cascade projects proved that it was possible to transfer expertise across institutional and even sector boundaries, but projects outside of this strand also recommended that their members should be used as a resource for future projects.
  • In addition, several projects asked JISC to maintain a database of expertise, extending beyond the funded services provided by e.g. SCORE, CETIS and JISC legal, both to provide specialist support to projects and institutions, and to provide work to people with specialist expertise who might otherwise be lost from the sector.

6. But – take new risks to support inter-institutional, cross-sectoral work

  • A key benefit of engagement in OER projects is the opportunity to share ideas across subject, institutional and sectoral boundaries. JISC should continue to break down such boundaries and fund projects that are engaging in challenging new kinds of dialogue, including bringing new communities to an awareness of OER.
  • The use of OER in the FE sector and by employers working in partnership with Universities and Colleges to deliver work-based learning are areas of particular potential.

7. Focus future funding on sustainability

  • This will involve working at a high level across the sector. Means of linking OER release to reward and recognition mechanisms, professional frameworks, and research excellence via impact, are negotiated at institutional level but can be influenced by national policy and examples.
  • Embedding of OER awareness into initial accreditation and CPD of university/college teachers is one means of ensuring sustainability of OER practices in the longer term.
  • On a more cautious note, JISC needs to be aware that some institutions are in retreat from a more open position of only a year ago, and will require strong messages about the value of OER if that ground is to be made up. The loss of HEA Subject Centres as catalysts for subject-based development in OER is a serious blow to sustainability of UK OER resources: the JISC needs to consider other partners such as professional associations.

8. Negotiate on behalf of the sector

  • It would be well received by institutions, and by OER projects in particular, if JISC was seen to conduct negotiations with publishers, distribution platforms, and other key players on behalf of UK OER as a whole. Examples include iTunesU, Apple Bookstore, major textbook publishers; Ordinance Survey and other holders of map data; video and graphic libraries such as the NHS photo library.


1. Support or directly fund studies to develop our knowledge of the OER lifecycle:

  •  Research evidence (such as tracking statistics on OERs and data on how academics and students use OERs) is what academic contributors relate to as they consider further involvement in OER initiatives, and is also what senior managers request in order to make strategic decisions about resourcing future OER work. (OSTRICH)

2. The Learner Use of Online Educational Resources for Learning (LUOERL) identified major gaps in our knowledge of how online content is (re)used by students and teaching staff, and what features of content make it (re)usable for learning and teaching. This is borne out by projects. Some recommendations for new research studies that could be supported, if not directly funded, by the JISC, include:

  • who uses OERs, and what for?
  • what is the relationship between release and (re)use?
  • how is the availability of quality open content impacting on learners and on learning?
  • how can we assess costs, benefits and impacts more rigorously
  • what is the relationship between sharing of open educational content and other open educational practices?
  • what are the features of an OER-based curriculum design? (‘fund a series of projects that combine the lessons learned from the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery projects with those from the OER Programme).

Technical recommendations

1. Develop open, shareable, highly useable tools that support download and management of OERs

  • Teaching staff need highly useable tools, ideally as simple as a Google search to discover OERs, and as easy as ‘right click’ to download openly licensed materials into a similarly useable editing tool for repurposing.
  • Repository managers also need lightweight tools that allow content to be effectively managed by a wider range of people with less specialist expertise.
  • Projects agreed that the use of existing tools for discovery, development and hosting is much to be preferred over the development of new solutions: however, tools that have been produced by UK OER funded projects should be strongly recommended to future funded projects, and should be better joined up to optimise their impact.

2. There is a real need for work on standards for representation and exchange of OERs (Delores).

  • While the Delores team recommend the development of definitive best-practice guidance and an OER standard, other projects make more modest suggestions such as clearer labelling of OERs and open licences, guidelines on the provision of RSS feeds, and recommending/requiring projects to provide OERs in machine readable format (xml or rdf?).
  • The use of EPUB and OpenTextbook formats is also recommended to be investigated in more depth.

3. Explore ways in which existing repositories… can be developed to support more explicitly open access. (ADM)

  • Specifically, many projects recommended enhancements to VLEs which could support ‘more open’ access, such as building on OERCaFE’s work with Moodle 2 as a host system, or semi-automating the release of high quality materials from a VLE to a suitable repository.
  • There is a clear need to enhance the useability of JORUM by teaching staff, for example by providing useable desktop tools, by integrating JORUM with library catalogues and/or institutional VLEs, and by developing the capacity to search across repositories. (Note that further recommendations on  JORUM are being discussed with the JORUM team before appearing here).

4. Support cross-repository searching

  • A repository of spiderable URLs at which OERs may be found would be a very valuable resource. (Delores)
  • Investigate how resources contributed by academic staff within social spaces could be aggregated and surfaced alongside more formal repositories.

Learning and teaching recommendations

1. (Funders do more to) raise awareness of OER use, reuse and development

  • Do more to raise awareness among departments and teaching teams of the benefits of OERs to learning and teaching (e.g. through national workshops, development programmes and opportunities, and further development of the OER infokit with appropriate branding and publicity around these developments)
  • Do more to publicise and raise awareness of the UK OER brand, and of the resources collated under its banner
  • Use outcomes of the UK OER programme to inform the Developing Digital Capabilities programme, recognising that the development, evaluation and use of OERs are important digital skills for both staff and students

2. (Departments) align OER with existing cultures of learning and teaching

  • Use of OER needs to be aligned with the underpinning values of different courses, departments and institutions
  • Utilise the strengths of different disciplines when designing open materials, e.g. ADM practitioners have strengths in communication design
  • Recognise, however, that the use of OERs can imply a particular pedagogic perspective: typically a more open, collaborative, co-constructive approach in which content is no longer the preserve of the lecturer

3. Embed OER into curriculum design

  • Promote and reward creativity in learning and teaching, one aspect of which may be the use of OER and other open educational practices (see briefing paper)
  • Embed OERs fully into the process of curriculum design, including assessment
  • Share learning and teaching ideas and design processes alongside content, to support successful embedding and reuse.

4. Engage students

  • Focus on students as critical commentators on, and co-producers of open content relevant to their learning
    • ensures curriculum relevance of the resource
    • increases the focus on useability
    • models inclusive practice
    • adds richness, authenticity and vibrancy to the learning experience
  • Follow where students lead e.g. trends in using personal technologies for recording lectures and learning events: ‘existing student practices can help inform the rationale and process for developing open educational practice in the department’. (ADM)
  • Understand, however, that students’ digital and information literacy, and their expectations of university/college study, impact on their ability to use open content successfully. The idea of learner involvement in OER was widely supported by projects, but examples of successful co-production were limited and not always popular with students. More needs to be known about how students use online content generally, and how they perceive the respective roles students, teachers and content in the learning process.

5. Enhance the quality of materials openly available for learning and teaching

  • Explore what types of teaching and learning resources are best suited to open release.
  • Explore what types of material are particularly valued and shared as OERs, e.g. generic (skills-based, dealing with interdisciplinary topics of study), specialist (difficult or expensive to produce), in threatened fields of study.
  • Provide technical and other support to staff to develop high quality materials for closed teaching contexts first: then they will have the confidence to release more widely. 
  • Consider what extra steps would be needed to convert routinely produced learning and teaching content into OER: make the threshold of open release as low as possible – bearing in mind that built-for-open resources are much more cost effective than repurposed.
  • Do not underestimate the time which will be needed by staff who create and release OERs. Provide support structures such as suitably skilled copyright officers and Learning technologists

6. Continue to support community repositories where is a genuine community of learning and teaching practice exists

  • In some subject and special interest communities, a collaborative approach to educational resources is proving sustainable, with trust and shared ownership developing behind a ‘turnstile’ gateway. While these resources may not be as visible or accessible to those beyond the community, the practices of open production are being sustained at a relatively low cost and low risk to all involved.
  • A variety of social functions such as profiling, following, recommending, favouriting, commenting and curating are technically possible and may enhance the sense of community ownership and therefore the sustainability and ongoing development of these resources.
  • The evidence suggests that there is real value in focusing and developing OERs on subject-specific communities. Many valued resources are already widely shared and can be openly licensed. C communities are also more likely to use the same tools and platforms, and to share learning and teaching philosophies, all of which make sharing more possible.
  • Working across institutional boundaries through disciplines needs a supporting infrastructure which is efficient and effective. The restructuring of the HEA must not lose the successes of the UK Centre for Bioscience in developing small projects based on community needs and interests. (Oerbital)

7. Address digital literacy of staff and students

  •  Further work needs to be done with HEA, JISC (including the Academic Integrity Service), SEDA and academic and educational development units to
    • embed awareness of OERs into PG Cert courses and into the new Professional Standards Framework
    • develop opportunities for academic and support staff around IPR and copyright
    • integrate open practices (including open licencing) into sessions, modules, CPD resources etc that deal with design of materials, whether aimed at students, academics or specialists
    • ensure library staff have appropriate development around the specialist requirements of open content

Recommendations on building partnerships with stakeholders

1. Focus future funding on partnership and community development of OERs to maximise uptake and impact

  • Further fund projects that build partnerships across sectors and between institutions – essential to develop the open communities and practices that sustain OER
  • Consider how OERs can be embedded into existing academic practices such as peer review, and assessment of research impact
  • Review how subject communities can be sustained as sites of shared expertise and content, as HEA Subject Centres reach the end of national funding
  • Consider where and how the agendas of commercial and community organisations are closely enough aligned with educational organisations to build partnerships around OER, e.g.
    • OER initially as a vehicle for networking and opening dialogues
    • OER for delivering teaching/training and the support of learning in workplace and community settings
    • OER for building partnerships around employability
  • (But) take account of the proven difficulty of persuading non-academic organisations of the usefulness of creative commons licences
  • And ensure guidance is sector-appropriate.

2. Work more closely with professional bodies to identify requirements, build resources mapped to professional frameworks, and raise awareness of available OERs (e.g. NHS, Royal Geographical Society / Institution of British Geographers, Geological Society of London, Institution of Environmental Sciences)

3. Work with publishers to identify effective business models for reuse of small elements of published material in open teaching resources

4. Work with platform and service providers such as YouTube and iTunesU to improve support for OER licences and cataloguing (e.g. as initiated by the Triton project with Apple)

Institutional recommendations (embedding and sustaining the development and use of OERs)

1. Further investigate alternative models of cascading expertise

  • Projects that were involved in developing and implementing workflow models recommended that other institutions should also adopt them.
  • Projects that were involved in a more reflexive, discursive approach to enhancing practice similarly recommended that these approaches should be adopted.

2. Develop credible business/benefit cases for OER recognising that these may be different in different parts of the institution

  • Clear institutional business cases for the use of OERs need to be developed; these will not necessarily be the same as the macro business case or mirror the individual benefit/cost relationship. (OERCaFE)
  • Investigate how and whether institutions can value OER release as a form of publication or research impact (CSAP)
  • Build on existing motivations to develop open education practice – for example, individual lecturers’ enthusiasm to enhance online professional profiles. (ADM)

3. Take an incremental approach and pick low-hanging fruit first:

  • Explore ‘tiered’ approaches to releasing resources developing staff confidence in the creation of resources by the controlled release and sharing of materials through the institutional platforms. (ADM)
  • new material with generic internal reuse [via the VLE] is a good set of material to release early and test workflow and repository frameworks. (RIPPLE)

3. Reward and recognise OER contributions:

  • Staff need time to innovate and embed open practices creatively
  • The development of open educational practice should be considered as part of staff professional practice. (ADM)
  • Rewards and recognition structures already in place at an institution can be expanded, to include requesting an OER component through the licensing of any online outputs (RIPPLE – though NB other mechanisms of reward are described by other projects – see e.g. HE and FE differences)

4. Nurture your experts

  • The following institutional support needs to be in place for effective OER development: technical support, technical infrastructure, quality processes, IP/copyright support (both via library and specialist legal team), pedagogic expertise, content/communication design, content/repository management. Experts in these areas are valuable: they need professional development and recognition if they are to stay in post.
  • Opportunities for dialogue between academic staff/programme teams and other experts are critical.
  • There is a real danger that posts funded through UK OER projects are being lost from the host institutions once funding comes to an end. Projects therefore need to consider whether expertise could be developed across a range of roles and part-funded posts, which may prove more sustainable, even if less efficient during the funded period.

5. Embed OER strategically

  • OER considerations need to be embedded into strategies such as the technology enhanced learning strategy, and become part of the organisational vision (e.g. enterprise, open scholarship etc)

Licensing recommendations

1. There is a need for clarification on the restrictions of Non-Commercial (NC) licenses, particularly given the new funding regime with its emphasis on HEIs increasing their income from non-government sources.

2. Issues relating to copyright and licensing need to be more integrated into standard academic practice. This may be through:

  • Staff development
  • Study skills curriculum for students
  • Developing tools to easily allocate a CC license to digital materials
  • Encourage those producing “grey” or “non” OERs or unlicensed online materials to assign a CC license

3. Clearer guidelines are required by UK OER content providers on how licences are presented in metadata sources – the different formats are difficult to parse and present when aggregating multiple sets of material. Much more clarity is needed and some clearer pages for UKOER content providers would help. It may also help to have more validators for checking metadata fields. (The Xpert project at Nottingham was acting as an unofficial UKOER feed validator.) (Triton)

4. Using non-OER to compare OER should be developed further.  Additional details should be provided to users to advise them that there are alternative OER available.  This would reduce the threat of copyright infringement and encourage users to produce resources to fill any gaps where no suitable open resources exist. (EALFCO)

5. Further develop the Consent Commons, developed by the HEA MEDEV Subject Centre with UK OER funding, to hallmark content which has been collected ethically and with open consent by all participants for reuse.

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