Subject disciplines

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

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

The main Development and Release section includes discussion around technical, legal, accessibility re-use and frameworks. This page augments that page with a focus on development and release issues relating to subject disciplines or themes.

Aspects relating to subject discipline or theme

How far does the subject discipline or theme impact on the release of existing resources compared with the release of new resources?

Most projects released a mixture of existing (often re-purposed) and newly created resources.  It is difficult to tease out how far the subject area or theme impacts on these choices, apart from projects with an obvious focus on legacy material. Projects with OER experience may already have understood the complexities and time implications of releasing exisiting resources and instead focussed on new materials.  Decisions like this are impacted by several issues, for example, the availability of new technologies can so transform the pedagogic potential that it makes sense to develop new resources rather then repurpose existing ones – simulations are a good example of this. Other aspects that can impact on these decisions relate to funding and resourcing, particularly as changing economic conditions might affect how resources are developed.

There is a strong compliance culture, with fewer resources for innovative development. However, developing a sharing culture was seen as being possible, thanks to initiatives such as ‘content clubs’ and the national repository (NeLR) and PORSCHE itself. This move is still tentative, with a worry that transition to Foundation Trusts might result in a further monetising of content and the commissioning of more materials from commercial suppliers. PORSCHE Evaluation report

ACTOR raised dissues around the long term usability of OER in healthcare education due to changes in policy, technology and public opinios

some shared resources containing recordings of people (which complied with good-practice guidelines at the time of collection e.g. CyberAnatomy at Newcastle University, and the Bristol Biomed Image Archive) have since been ‘locked down’ to local virtual learning environments (VLEs) or completely withdrawn due to concerns firstly about the clarity of how the people depicted wanted their recordings to be used, and secondly about the clarity of ownership and licensing of copyright. (ACTOR)

Healthcare is particularly problematic in relation to patient and practitioner consent and due to the nature of the challenges of patient consent ACTOR developed a Consent Commens framework 

to support digital professionalism recognising the rights of people to be treated fairly and with respect.  It balances a desire for sustainable open access with protecting patients’ and other peoples’ rights and expectations of how recordings of them, especially if captured in a clinical setting, may be used. Proposing a consent commoms in open education paper

This is likely to be difficult to apply in a retrospective way to existing resources.

Existing resources containing images, particularly of children, sports people or patients, raised issues around data protection and significantly hampered release.

Issues around quality seem more pronounced in relation to repurposing of existing resources that in creating new OERs, both in terms of staff perceptions around the quality of their existing ‘unshared’ materials and also the fact that they were not produced as showcase material.

Sourcing potential OERs can present challenges as these often exist inside closed VLEs. Whether these materials see the ‘light of day’ or not can depend on technical factors such as the ease of releasing Blackboard cartridges, but can also depend on pedagogic factors such as the types of learning activity undertaken (is feedback required??) and whether interactive elements are self-contained or draw on/provide data to other insitutional systems. Other projects noted subject discipline gaps in existing resources when attempting to source OERs for repurposing, particularly in repositories, including JORUM.

In the OMAC strand there were challenges relating to the boundaries between learning resources and guidance material

For example, we have created audio commentaries on many of the resources; the primary purpose was to give more information about how the resources might be used but it might well be that a conversation about educational values, key skills or academic literacies could be used as a learning resource. This is something we only realised through creating the  recordings. (CPD4HE)

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence release | OMAC

What kind of OERs are appropriate for the subject discipline/theme

(eg, affecting format, levels of granularity, etc.)

As expected projects delivered a wide range of OERs ranging from individual assets to whole modules. Projects produced a wide range of different kinds of resource (eg, lectures, assessment banks, interviews, statistics, quizzes, case studies, discussion starters, workshop plans, taster materials, reports, newspaper articles, case-notes, etc.) in a range of formats (video, photographs, pdfs, ODF, ppt, word documents, etc..). There were international materials, commercially published materials, authentic learning and teaching activities, and legacy materials. Some formats presented significant challenges (newspaper articles, photographs, patient data, journal articles).

A total of 25 journal articles was identified by Routledge and released as ‘open access’ resources for this project. Unfortunately it was not possible for Routledge to agree to the release of their resources under even the most restrictive Creative Commons licences, despite their insistence throughout the project that this would be achieved. In June the Routledge funders decided that they prefer ‘bespoke licences’ to ‘protect their investment in developing their [sic] Olympic studies portal’. Whilst this was a major disappointment to the project at the eleventh hour, a number of articles were linked to by the project and Routledge are committed to releasing further resources as ‘open access’, albeit not CC, which will benefit the HLST community. LEARNING LEGACIES

What has been significant, and continuing trends that emerged during the pilot phase, is the number of projects who felt the need to present the resources with surrounding context to cater for different audience needs (other teachers cf learners), such as accompanying information providing metadata, licencing information and pedagocial context. Several projects did anticipate potential users who would want to add their own context – in a sense ‘unknown’ users. A number of projects produced materials for specific groups of learners – particularly non-traditional remote learners and they sometimes developed materials for one particular target audience, with an eye to potential secondary audiences, including ‘unknown audiences.

As I always work very much with the user of resources in mind it has been a challenge to know how to adjust materials and pick what will work best ….. Adapting to EITHER others who will be working to help academic staff to develop as teachers OR writing directly for the teachers themselves so they can work on their own CPD ‐ that has been my dilemma.” Dr. Rosalind Duhs, CPD4HE teacher‐developer

The nature of the subject discipline or theme did impact on the type of resources to some extent (e.g. art and design  – tacit information and rich media; healthcare – patient and practitioner sensitivities and consent issues).

The only type of material that inherently realises the aim of making statistics more appealing and more accessible for social science students is the videos, by very graphically showing how statistics can enhance understanding of real-world phenomena (although this is also true to some extent of the interactive graphs containing worked examples). The other types of material follow on from it by supporting the student in their developing their statistical understanding and skills.  For this reason it seems that the material will be most effective when it is used in an integrated way. DeSTRESS evaluation report

However it is important to note that even within the same broad subject discipline areas that different approaches to using content in teaching meant that materials did not always easily transfer to other departments.

Many existing Art & Design OERs are not seen to be appropriate… we should not rush to create poor quality OER randomly, but should first plan a methodical approach which will take longer, but has the opportunity to enhance the reputation of our Faculty.” (Kingston University) ADM

OMAC strand projects were producing materials for teachers and which were naturally focused on practice. The nature of capturing and recording authentic learning and teaching activies did raise issues around quality of recordings.

We took the view that any loss of sound quality would be more than compensated by the addition of subtitles, that also served to reinforce the inclusive principle of universal design i.e. subtitles help all users.(Learning to work inclusively)

The use of video was fairly widespread but it was noted that longevity issues emerge for this type of materials as they can tend to look outdated and are difficult to update if content and guidelines change. It was felt that embedding recording of practices into teaching would ensure an up-to-date supply of future videos. Lecture capture was used by many of the Cascade partners to produce OER from existing teaching and learning activities.  Documentation and resources relating to the use of lecture capture technology have been created and made available in OER format (

There was a notable appetite for release of generic materials in interdisciplinary subjects such as work-based learning, digital and information literacies, skills and CPD materials which can be seen as supporting sustainability and efficiences within institutions, although strong institutional branding and specificity can make these materials of less value outside the institution.  There was also a demand for generic materials to be made more subject specific and several projects in the Release strand described these as highly valued by their subject communities. On the other hand there was a general openness to adapting subject specific resources for other subject areas.

Subject-specificity is not confined to the development of activities and materials but has changed the culture and methodology of our STEM strand.  We have found that STEM participants respond well to a strongly evidence-based theory and approaches which involve quantitative as well as qualitative measurement and evaluation.  Hence, our approaches to ‘meta-learning’ make this more explicit than in previous cohorts. (OPENSTEM)

Projects working with HE in FE identified OER requirements from stakeholders as being similar to those required generally for learning and teaching materials (ie not open or sector specific).

Granularity has been discussed in relation to accessibility and re-usability and much of what projects said with regard to this did not appear to be subject specific. However the OMAC strand illustrated a clear and definate preference to present resources within a context or framework. This reflects the nature of the strand requirements which focussed on accredited programmes or schemes of professional development. This meant that projects often presented OERs is two or three ways – in their own repository, in Jorum and on the web. Interestingly 4 of the 11 projects chose to use the OU Labspace moodle environment – OPENSTEMRLT for PALearning to Teach InclusivelyIPR4EE and other projects chose to use institutional moodles – ASSAP developed The Pool.

The Moodle development was not part of the of the early project plan, but offered an opportunity to present the materials in a more structured and holistic way than is possible in an OER repository where they necessarily become more fragmented, though more easily retrievable.  By making the learning materials available through both a VLE and two OERs, we hoped to capture the best of both platforms. (ASSAP)

Several OMAC strand projects included student generated OERS. This might be expected due to teachers being their primary audience, but a few Release strand projects also included student generated content.

We soon realised that we had a great opportunity to engage our current postgraduate students in creating the resource. They were keen and so we were able to video many of the sessions in which they discussed the issues considered in each study area. We videoed ourselves discussing issues of pedagogy with them and we videoed colleagues who we felt had important things to add to the study topics.  So a good deal of the material in our OER is made for purpose film. This was a major development of the OER as we realised how interesting it would be for teachers and supporters of learning who often work alone to hear and see their peers discussing the enhancement of practice. (RLT Performing Arts)

Several projects noted that the process of developing and releasing OERs had an impact on learning design practice. see also Practice ChangeSectoral differences and constraints have proved to be very interesting, particularly in relation to NHS, workplace and publishers and these are discussed more fully in the Phase2 Cultural Considerations section.

Cross strand evidence

Strand evidence release | OMAC | cascade

How easily can OERs be mapped to the HEA professional standards framework and what are the gaps?

Several OMAC projects had already mapped their proposed resources to the framework and modified this during the timeframe of the project.

OERs can be mapped in several ways.

  • CPD4HE produced a second map relating to two priority areas – Digital and Information Literacies and Discipline-Specific Learning & Teaching. These also might help people aiming for accreditation against the UKPSF.
  • DELILA carried out mapping workto cross tabulate the SCONUL 7 Pillars of Information Literacy (SCONUL, 2007) and the FutureLab (2010) Digital Literacy model with the UK Professional Standards framework (HEA, 2011) revealed that while digital and information literacy was not explicit in the UKPSF, they did map well. In fact the team concluded that digital and information literacy underpinned much of the UKPSF.

Many of the CPD4HE resources ask learners to create outputs (usually written). In the programmes from which the resources are drawn, these outputs contribute towards assessment, and hence UK PSF accreditation. An additional guidance document, showing in more detail how these pieces of writing might be submitted as evidence for accreditation could be developed and would probably be useful to learners. (CPD4HE)

Mapping to the UKPSF allows for ease of integration within accredited programmes of teaching & learning or academic practice in higher education. (Dundee) (O4B)

Changing UKPSF’s were noted as a challenge

A number of the frameworks used in DELILA are being / have been revised. These include the UKPSF (HEA, 2011) and the SCONUL 7 pillars (SCONUL, 2011). Whilst the DELILA mappings remain useful as exemplars – changing frameworks may mean that new mappings need to be over-laid. (DELILA)

There was a delay in the mapping exercise due to the fact that the new UKPSF was not ready before the project end.  We chose to defer the final detailed mapping of all available resources until the new framework is in place and this would become part of the planned sustainability process. In the meantime we explored alternative approaches to mapping so we were ready to do so when the new framework was available. (ACTOR)

ACTOR mapped a sample set of resources from each partner against the framework in order to help guide its effective use on both accredited and non-accredited programmes.

Whilst we have not attempted to generate resources to cover all aspects of the UKPSF we have sought to produce materials for areas of the framework where there were felt to be significant gaps.  (ACTOR)

Strand evidence: omac

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