The Pilot Programme funded three separate strands with an expectation that the models and approaches adopted to release educational content would demonstrate a long term commitment to OER release and would establish appropriate and sustainable business models to support this. Whilst the nature of the three strands – institutional, individual and subject consortia release implies three different models, there was an interesting overlap across the strands in relation to choices of where and how to deposit and manage OERs.
The approaches adopted by projects were influenced by mutiple and sometimes complex factors including stakeholders and their requirements, sustainability, existing policies and practices, practical issues around technical infrastructure, and staff skills and understanding. Issues such as institutional branding of individual OERs, version control and metadata/resource description all affected decisions around approaches for release.
All projects had to consider institutional factors affecting and supporting OER release, because individuals and subject consortia members were also connected with an educational institution. This was beneficial to projects where institutions were already engaged with the concept of opening educational content, particularly if their own institution had, or were in the process of developing, an institutional repository. Some of the individual and consortia projects encountered more barriers where institutions had not embraced the notion of OERs or had taken a particularly risk averse approach to OER release.
‘There is a clear model now for content to be stored locally and surfaced nationally. Institutional repositories first, then surfaced via links in subject portals and national repositories.’ OpenSpires Project (University of Oxford)
Many projects have developed a model of depositing once and then utilising a range of mechanisms to support discoverability through more accessible sources. Several projects, across all strands, used institutional or community repositories as their place of ‘primary’ deposit. Project funding has helped to strengthen the case for using institutional repositories for learning and teaching resources, although several institutional strand teams preferred to use content management systems, which they felt provided better support for complex learning objects. Whilst institutional mechanisms can provide stable and supported spaces to deposit, many institutions have not even started to consider open access for learning and teaching materials. Individual strand projects experienced difficulties around deposit access for non-institutional collaborators and reluctance to support collaborative forums associated with dynamic resources. As institutions integrate support for a range of open resources within their technological infrastructure individuals will be able to take advantage of a reliable and supported place primary deposit whilst continuing to utilise web 2.0 mechanisms and other portals to publicise and encourage use.
In addition to alternative hosting solutions, use of JorumOpen was mandated in the call for funding. Whilst projects have, in most cases, deposited either content or metadata linking to content held elsewhere, there have been significant challenges to deposit due to perceptions around issues relating to version control, ongoing management and how resources are exposed. There is still much discussion required around how a shared national repository, such as JorumOpen, supports the process of OER release and re-use, particularly in relation to the increasing use of institutional repositories or other mechanisms for learning and teaching resources.
There is a strong indication that building communities around open learning and teaching resources is as important in relation to release as it is for encouraging use. Awareness raising approaches to embedding effective processes was common across all strands evidenced through the high level of use of social networking and web 2.0 services to support release of and publicise OERs. A community repository approach has been highly successful bringing shared responsibility and tangible outcomes of shared development activities. The addition of web 2.0 features into repositories or content management systems enables individuals to create a profile and identity within the community, whether that is within, outside or across institutions.
Trust has been identified as a crucial factor in enabling and supporting open release throughout the programme. OER release requires new partnerships and approaches, as well as reconsideration of roles and the development and deployment of new skills. New Communities of Practice are emerging inside and across existing communities, drawn together by a genuine desire to change learning and teaching practice through the opening of materials. Embedding open thinking into curriculum design processes is seen by many to be a significant factor in ensuring long term sustainability of project activities. The impressive level of cross-project dialogue, practice sharing and resource creation has been mirrored across institutions and subject communities to create new partnerships. It is hoped that the next phase of projects will be able to build on and ‘tap into’ these rich communities. International partnerships have been a feature of several institutions’ strategic approaches to OER.
‘OER has potential to glue together so many areas of the University for a particular purpose and Its skill has been to link things together – disparate parts for one common goal. Individuals have their own goals but they have needed to see their role in the bigger picture.’ OpenExter Project
Sustainability has been supported by the development of new teams, partnerships and communities across institutions and subject consortia. These are not entirely new, in that they build on existing connections, relationships and practices, but these communities are engaging with each other in different ways, particularly within institutions. The awareness raising approaches have supported this development and have been built into staff development and guidance materials to ensure sustained practice change.
The short duration of the pilot programme has meant that projects have had to develop models with sustainability in mind, but with a short implementation time. Embedding OER release and use into institutional strategy and policy has been seen as crucial in supporting sustainability, but devolved institutional models, where teaching staff take the lead in developing OERs, have been identified by several projects as an ideal model to aim for. This model is harder to achieve as it involves significant change in practice and all projects needed strong central teams to move things forward in the early stages of development.
As already identified throughout this report we have sought to embed all aspects of OER creation, submission, retrieval and use as part of the fabric of the institution. What we have been able to implement is an institutional approach which embeds the content collection, quality checking and ownership of the process within already established networks within the institution. Alongside this we encouraged ownership of OER development and use from within the Faculties and areas at a “grass roots” level.’ Unicycle Project Final report
All of the strand approaches have something to offer the wider community with emerging connections between an individual approach with support from both subject communities and institutional processes – these models do not operate in isolation but offer a multifaceted approach to OER release.
All of these issues are discussed in more detail for each strand on the following pages: