Developing, managing and sharing OERs
As anticipated, raising awareness of the benefits of releasing OER was a significant early step for project teams and there are some excellent examples of resources to support the ‘winning of hearts and minds’ of various stakeholder groups. These are discussed in the Business cases and benefits realisation and the Cultural Issues pages.
There is evidence that an open sharing approach – addressing issues of release, hosting and re-use in tandem – can be more effective and sustainable, particularly where communities share clear common interests. Even within close-knit communities such as sub-disciplinary consortia, sharing is problematised by the existence of different institutional quality processes, different levels of institutional commitment to OER and to OER production, and different levels of institutional support and expertise. Projects made significant use of conferences, journal articles, twitter, google rankings, blogs, Intute catalogue, British Library, and other public and/or scholarly sites to share and publicise open content. There are clearly implications for sustainability and management if third party sites are extensively used to share open content in UK HE.
Many projects explored models of technology-enhanced learning alongside models for supporting the OER lifecycle, implying the two may be closely connected. A shared model of technology-enhanced learning (including protocols for developing reusable content) may help OERs to be effectively shared, and make the OER lifecycle more sustainable. Projects have developed, for example, the use of templates to support the creation of Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) in their communities and sub-disciplines.
The OER approach must clearly synchronize with and support established curriculum processes, and begin to demonstrate benefits to learners (e.g. enabling more learners to access quality resources, freeing staff time to support learners responsively). Many projects are finding that design for open release, rather than repurposing of existing resources, can be more efficient. Whilst several projects are interested in whether and how learners can become involved in the lifecycle as both producers and reusers of educational content, a few actually did release student content during the pilot phase.
There are tensions relating to the size or granularity of materials with recognition that bite-sized resources may be preferable to encourage repurposing and are easier to develop. However institutions may prefer more sophisticated materials for showcasing and also some academics and institutions prefer to maintain the pedagogic integrity of materials. Drivers and motivation for release do have a significant impact on the types of materials released. ‘Pedagogic wrappers’ emerged as a way to provide context to granular items and also served as a meta-record which could be deposited in a range of sources pointing to the actual OERs hosted in a primary store.
The wide range of materials released as OERs as a result of this funding is impressive, both in terms of covering a range of subject disciplines and in terms of the variety of resource types that have been released. The range of different approaches to subject coverage reveal specific advantages and benefits:
- Subject/discipline approach:
- cross-institutional collaboration
- the ‘greater good’ outcomes are to the fore
- existing Community of Practice
- open, collegiate way of working suits academic culture
- 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
- Generic approach (such as cross disciplinary skills)
- can appeal to managers looking for cost benefits
- can engage a range of faculties
In terms of the types of resources produced these ranged from small individual assets to whole course modules. Podcasts were found to be particularly cost effective to produce and also received very positive responses from learners. Because projects were not focused on use per se, it is not possible to disentangle the different types of resources favoured by teachers for reuse or repurposing, from those preferred by students to support their learning. Several projects have started to tease these issues out through evaluation activities but this is an area needing further investigation.
‘OER can be made or released at various levels of ‘granularity’. There is a distinction between material that has been aimed at the end-learner and developed to be used in its entirety, as a whole ‘module’ or ‘series’ and material that has been released as a ‘bundle’ of resources, which teachers can use with a ‘pick and mix’ approach for creating their own teaching materials.’ C-change Project Final report
Projects have listed the OERs released in final reports and they have also been drawn together as links on the OER Infokit
Institutional repositories can be key drivers for open content release, but they are not always the best hosting solution and sometimes can present problems, such as poor management of complex Learning Objects, poor integration with other institutional technologies, resource duplication, branding and unhelpful presentation. Institutional policies are required to clarify and support processes around branding, hosting, quality assurance, and IPR but these can be perceived as barrier to release. Many projects also used social media sites to host and promote content and clear policies on these are helpful. Robust take-down policies are essential to provide some security and reassurance if the status of a resource changes or is challenged. This is clearly linked to issues around IPR and quality.
Institutions need to take an integrated approach to the management of content including educational resources, research and innovation outputs, learner-generated content, but technical challenges of different systems can be burdensome and act as barriers to both deposit and use. Although the possibility of interoperability with learner-related and course-related data to support personalised learning paths offers interesting pathways, the challenges around ownership and balancing openness with privacy needs makes this a significant challenge.
All of these issues are discussed in more detail for each strand on the following pages: