Barriers and enablers

There was an understanding that the Pilot Programme would highlight and facilitate investigation of some of the barriers to releasing and using OERs. These barriers were expected to be similar to those impacting on the sharing of learning resources which has been well documented in the following reports: (CD LORTRUST DRSharing e-learning contentGood Intentions report).

It is helpful to look at the literature on ‘sharing of learning resources’ as this has documented many of the barriers experienced by institutions, communities and individuals, and most have highlighted legal and cultural issues in particular. Several point to the notion of ‘perceived barriers’ – anticipated barriers that are not as real as imagined or that are minimised by new developments, such as the introduction and widescale adoption of Creative Commons Licences, or the increasing simpler publishing choices offered by social software/Web 2.0.

One of the most significant barriers to sharing has been that individuals are not necessarily interested or committed to sharing in the first place. Many of the government funded initiatives have at their heart a perception that sharing would prevent duplication and support efficiencies and cost effectiveness. Whilst this is clearly a laudable and sensible goal, busy teachers may need persuading and supporting to devote time to such activities. This is linked to understanding and appreciating the benefits to them as individuals, as well as those to the learners, institutions, and wider global community.

Whilst many of the Pilot Programme Projects had to devote considerable time and effort articulating the benefits of OER release to individual teachers, a refreshing openness to sharing has emerged from project outputs. Several evaluation activities with staff revealed positive responses and reasons for releasing OERs, ranging from altruistic reasons such as helping global teachers and learners, supporting institutional benefits such as improved quality of resources and marketisation, personal recognition and enhancing resources available to their own students.

These evaluation activities did also reveal several barriers to OER release ranging from the anticipated lack of time to a slightly more surprising widespread lack of awareness about OERs in general. Many comments reflect concerns around sustainability and continued institutional commitment to support OER release after project funding ended. However it should be noted that the considerable efforts of the teams to ensure sustainability are highly likely to negate these fears.

It has been noted that teachers often prefer an element of choice in who they share with so providing options for ‘degrees of openess’ may encourage more people to make their resources openly available. (Good Intentions report). This has been discussed in depth in the OCEP Project final report from the University of Coventry who adopted a phased release model. This model presented many technical challenges for the project team but responded to the need of staff to open some content only within the University.

Barriers/Enables identified by projects directly

Critical enablers

  • There must be a real demand, whether because the material is specialist or because it fills a more general need where there is a gap in the market for off the shelf resources.
  • There must be extrinsic and/or intrinsic rewards for engaging with OERs. For example, evidence that it enhances the student learning experience in the discipline; professional recognition and credit for release, repurposing, re-use.
  • It is more sustainable in the long term to support others in repurposing and releasing OERs than to do the work centrally (however note some projects’ experiences that this was impractical due to poor support at partner institutions) (in some institutions existing repository teams may have capacity to offer central support)
  • Including OER across institutional strategies and policies
  • Support from senior managers in institutions and departments
  • In some institutions mandates may enable initial take-up as it removes ambiguity
  • Establishing clarity around institutional priorities in relation to benefits and stakeholders
  • Peer activity and exemplars encourages others
  • Build on previous work and existing expertise
  • Build on existing networks e.g. SCs, learning and teaching champions, e-learning enthusiasts
  • Full support of institutions involved is critical – consortium agreements were painful to achieve but useful to leverage support when required
  • Embrace a variety of media, formats and file types, and a range of options for hosting, syndication etc – at the moment we don’t know what works, we only know that users are themselves various!
  • Establish common protocols for describing objects; make use of existing protocols and schemas where appropriate
  • Having a community of users and opportunities to discuss underlying pedagogic rationale/guidance/context
  • Having a subject/discipline approach: cross-institutional collaboration; the ‘greater good’ outcomes are to the fore; community in existence; open, collegiate way of working suits academic culture
  • Having a thematic approach (where relevant): provides a coherence and profile to the OER resource set; provides a rich set of fully contextualised resources, ready for reuse; supports deep collaboration and detailed reflection
  • Having a generic approach (such as cross disciplinary skills) can appeal to managers looking for cost benefits
  • Taking a community repository approach (where relevant): shared ownership, collaborative development; peer review and commenting, ongoing dialogue oriented on improvement; opportunities to showcase personal teaching portfolio to colleagues; risks of defamatory or poor quality repurposing reduced; appealing interface with similar functionality to familiar social sites

Critical barriers

  • Trust: academics may not trust the quality, IPR status or usability of online resources.
  • Trust: academics may feel resources they release will be negatively reviewed or repurposed in poor or misleading ways
  • Culture of individual expertise: Academics have a general preference for using their own teaching resources. Departmental cultures can reinforce this.
  • Discovery and evaluation of online resources can be very time-consuming, which time could be spent on their own content development.
  • Lack of a coherent strategy on OER at institutional level, meaning release is often an ad-hoc, inefficient, piecemeal process
  • Lack of clear institutional policies on IPR, leaving staff feeling exposed
  • Until a critical mass of users and of valuable materials for re-use both exist, there is unlikely to be huge enthusiasm for reuse
  • Disciplinary silos are barriers to full sharing and exploration of diverse pedagogic approaches
  • Difficulty, complexity and expense of clearing third party copyright
  • Issues of cost – mainly academic staff time
  • ‘Protecting the crown jewels’: pressures to marketise content
  • Concerns about reputation if released resources were not of ‘publication’ quality and presentation
  • Current economic climate is leading to reductions in staffing levels which is likely to impact on support required for OER development
  • Lack of time and pressure on academic workload is an ongoing problem

Barriers/Enablers relating to different stakeholder groups

It is useful to look at barriers to releasing OERs from the point of view of different stakeholders and also to highlight some enablers to help people overcome the barriers or perceived barriers. Linking these to the benefits can also be useful to help people see the value in extending the effort to overcome some of the barriers. This table is not meant to be exhaustive but provides 5 of the most significant barriers for each stakeholder group. The table is informed by the activities, models and approaches adopted by the Pilot Projects




Possible Benefits

Teachers/academic staff Not all teaching staff are aware of the benefits of releasing or using OERs Information and support (e.g. from the Jorum Community Bay)

Awareness activities – workshops, guidance

Enhanced reputation

Improved quality

Peer feedback and new contacts

Time is a significant issue particularly when re-purposing existing materials Institutional support and acknowledgment of time needed to re-purpose materials

Technical support and guidance from central teams

Take advantage of disruptions that are occuring anyway, eg. programme review, or introduction of new technology

Recognition schemes for teachers

Improved quality and checks re legality of content
Skills/competencies – a whole range of new skills may be needed (technical and pedagogical). Training and/or extra support from central teams

Information and support from the Jorum Community Bay

Incorporating OER release into accredited teacher training

Additional skills and experience for staff

Balanced skillsets across institution

Quality – many staff are concerned about quality in relation to technical issues (eg. recording quality) as well as opening their learning materials to outside scrutiny – some are concerned that someone may repurpose their content to a low standard and will reflect badly on them Reassurance, training and support for Institutional managers and support teams

Staged release – degrees of openness

Ensure clear attribution information is available in the licence

Increased quality of learning materials across instituion.

Enhanced reputation

Legal issues – still a significant real and perceived barrier. Existing materials may contain materials that can’t be released openly. Information, training and support.

Creative Commons Licences

Takedown policies

Increased knowledge.

Clarity re attribution and potential use options.

Creator can control types of use.

Learning support Technical challenges – particularly choices around content packaging, branding, version control Dialogue across the institution and decisions supported by strategic and policy documents

Advice and support from JISC CETIS and institutions with existing experience

Clear guidelines across the institution

Increased awareness and understanding

Quality issues – central teams often have to package content on behalf of teaching teams with a range of quality issues (technical and pedagocigal) Institutional commitment to quality

Guidelines for course teams to support production of high quality content

Increased quality of learning materials

Enhanced reputation

Metadata and retrieval – assigning appropriate metadata is still a challenging issue although utilising social software/web 2.0 services can help with retrieval. Staged metadata creation through clear and efficient workflows


Enhanced retrieval of content for all stakeholders
Hosting – where to deposit the content which in turn is affected by issues such as version control, branding, etc. Decisions and guidance on where to deposit

Mandating deposit within Institutional repository

Mandating deposit within national repositories such as JorumOpen

Ensuring that items are retrievable from range of sources

Use of Web 2.0 facilities to support retrieval – RSS feeds

Clarity for depositors

Enhanced retrieval

Legal issues – trying to package or release content that contains material that can’t be released for legal reasons – due to previous licencing restrictions or use of materials not owned by the teacher. Some institutions may have a very ‘risk averse’ approach. Clear support and guidance across all faculties and teaching teams

Releasing smaller chunks of content that doesn’t depend on illegal content

Developing new, legal, material may be easier than repurposing

Reduction in amount of illegal material being used in teaching

Informed staff

Time saving once staff are informed and trained

Legal issues – liability for behaviour of user community in institutionally hosted sites Clear statements of policy (netiquette, licences, etc) in sites

Add dynamic features to national repositories such as Jorum

Greater user interaction
Management Understanding the value and benefits of openly releasing their learning and teaching materials when concerned about competitors and ensuring student enrollment figures Convincing senior managers of the benefits for institutions

Getting key senior champions on board

Including OER release in strategic and policy decisions and documents

Marketisation opportunities – showcase of courses and high quality content

Enhanced reputation

Increased enrollments

Institution wide approach – HE institutions may not have culture or mechanisms to support institution wide dialogue which is needed for OER initiatives Develop new partnerships within institutions

Create mechanisms for cross faculty communication, practice sharing

Case studies to share across the institution to illustrate approaches and benefits


Joined up approaches
Competition – institutions may find it difficult to consider revealing their course content if it undermines a particular strength Point to evidence that OER release encourages enrollment and offers marketing opportunities

Selective release – small amounts of very high quality content

Quality materials showcased

Increased enrollment

Higher profile globally

Managing resources – existing mechanisms for managing learning and teaching materials (such as closed VLE systems) may mean that institutions do not know what they have, or what quality or legal issues may arise if they are made more open Linking VLEs to institutional repositories

Taking an institution-wide approach to support faculties/departments

Providing guidelines on deposit, metadata, formats, etc.

Increased visibility of all learning resources (and therefore likely positive impact on quality)

Opportunities to share across departments

Reduction in duplication for generic materials

Uneven development due to subject discipline focus and cultures – some departments may be more inclined to openness and some may have been more experimental with new technologies Developing case studies of good practice to share within institution

Developing guidelines that are sensitive to subject discipline differences

Utilise support of Academy Subject Centres and other communities of practice/professional bodies

Utilise examples from outside the institution

Accept that uneven development is likely

Supporting disciplines as appropriate to need

Enables a staged approach and encourages development of champions

Communities of Practice (CoP) Institutional practices – many teachers are members of an institution which may already have guidelines, policies and restrictions on what and where a teacher can openly release Sharing good institutional practices with other community members

Sharing good community practices with institutions

Encourage good practice
Legal issues – there may be a perception that legal issues are less of a barrier when sharing within communities Ensure that community members still follow institutional guidelines, particularly when/if the institution owns the copyright Less content released that contravenes copyright law
Ownership – not all teachers own the teaching materials they produce as they may have a contract that gives the institution ownership – this may restrict what teachers can release within communities. Follow institutional guidelines re quality, legality, branding

Obtain institutional agreement re deposit outside the institutional repository

Clarity re ownership
Community/consotia agreements – the complexities of getting all parties to agree to particular aspects (legal, quality, metadata, branding) can be very time consuming Lightweight agreements that are not restrictive

Clear management, support and guidelines

Obtain support from some central agency (such as Academy Subject Centres, Professional bodies

Increased participation
Hosting – communities that cross institutional boundaries need some mechanism for bringing the resources together Community of Practice sharing places (wiki’s, forums, social networking sites, Jorum Community Bay)

Subject repositories/spaces

National repositories such as JorumOpen

Utilising existing CoP mechanisms

Institutional repositories with feeds to other portals/services

Community members know where to go for resources

Resources supported by focus on practice – information, support and dialogue

Learners Lack of skills Guidelines

Integrate into courses

Enhanced skills

Peer critique

IP rights in student work may not be clear Establish policies on ownership of student work to support OER Students as producers

Research-teaching linkage

Barriers/Enablers to OER Use, Re-use and re-purposing




Possible Benefits

Learners Equity re access – not all OERs are fully open, not all learners have access to computers, or to the internet Movement toward fully open resources

Ensure materials will be accessible on alternative technologies (mobile)

Genuine access for all
Knowing what is available – learners who are not guided or supported by a teacher may not know what is available or how to access it. Making resources discoverable by tools that learners use regularly – search engines

Using social software to ‘advertise’ or guide towards content (twitter, facebook)

Increased use of content
Support and guidance – learners may need support and guidance to use resources effectively Provide options to engage with content creator or other content users (peers) – such as discussion forums and opportunities for collaborative learning

Include guidance on use within resources

Encourages peer support and interaction

Encourages dialogue and enhances learning opportunities

Quality – not all OERs are high quality – poor experiences with low quality materials may deter future use User reviews can be helpful to encourage others

Social software services such as Diigo allow users to highlight content and add notes

Quality resources likely to rise to the top of search engine results
Lack of feedback on work Establish systems to enable peer/community critique Developing critical skills
Teachers Knowing what is available and how to find it Utilising peer networks and CoPs to find out what is available in their subject area

Utilising services which pull resources together either physically or as a catalogue

Mandating deposit within national repositories such as Jorum

CoPs and networks support practice and dialogue as well as resources

Improved access
Time – concerns about wasting time looking for content and then adapting for their own purpose Central support teams to help with repurposing

CoP support as above

Providing educational context as ‘wrappers’ to support users of resources

Using small chunks or individual items to supplement own materials rather than trying to adapt a large package of materials

User reviews which describe how resource has been used by others

Easier retrieval

CoP support as above

Time invested is valid due to positive results

Educational context – perception that each context is unique and that it is too difficult to adapt others content Make generic content open to support several courses (eg. introduction to statistics)

Allow for context specific aspects to be easily added/taken away

Flexible use of content as appropriate