Developing OERs

Authors: Isobel Falconer and Karen Smith


The models of OER apparent in the individual strand may be mapped onto three different axes:

  1. Who does the initial development? Two models are evident – development by academics, and development by students, often as part of project work. In the latter case, pedagogic approach and course (re)design may be the driver for OER release rather than vice versa.
  2. Main intended audiences: ranging from other teaching staff who will reuse the materials in new contexts or repurpose them; students for use in the context of a specific course, generally within the originating institution;potential students; and informal lifelong learners among the general public.
  3. Who, if anyone, will develop the materials further. A spectrum is evident from materials whose integrity is intended to be preserved – they can easily be reused but not repurposed (eg. MMTV, ChemistryFM), to those where ongoing development by the user community is explicitly solicited and functionality for doing so is provided (eg. Java BreadBoard, openSpace)

These axes appear independent, with little correlation between the position of the projects on each. Thus, for example, MMTV, developed by academics for institutional and potential students has videos that cannot be edited, whereas openSpace, also developed by academics for potential students and lifelong learners has deliberately chosen a video player that permits learners to edit and remix video. ChemistryFM has videos developed by students embedded in a course and preserving video integrity, whereas JavaBreadboard, developed by students, are depositing code in sourceforge for ongoing community development.

Integration of OER release with course redesign, or another significant disruption such as introduction of new technology, can aid release. Building OER development into course design student project work is one way of improving sustainability and overcoming lack of an institution-wide mandate or resource.

Other factors affecting sustainability are:

  • the IPR awareness of authors of materials for repurposing, which is generally low at present
  • the OER expertise of others in the institution, also generally low at present
  • ease of discovery of materials
  • the strength of the community that can be built around the materials
  • the purpose of the community built around the materials (eg. marketing or ongoing development) has implications for how onging work is sustained (eg. by increased recruitment to the institution, or community development)

Detailed questions and evidence

Which models are appropriate for different contexts?

Many projects are exploring models of technology-enhanced learning, alongside models for supporting the OER lifecycle. Implying the two may be closedly connected, eg.

The unbundling of packages to allow re-use and re-purposing and the design of the repackaged materials has implications for the development of e-learning materials at UCLAN … and the new JISC funded TELSTAR project will use the guide and EVOLUTION model to develop re-usable e-learning study skills OERs (EVOLUTION final report)

However, OERs may be perceived as at service of pedagogic and cultural change, rather than vice-versa: eg.

the department’s broad agenda has been to re-engineer the relationship between research and teaching, the academic-teacher and academic-student and the university and the public.(Chemistry FM final report)

Integration of OER release and course/assessment redesign can aid sustainability. Although such redesign is frequently is associated with e-learning, it need not necessarily be confined to development of e-learning, eg.

In the case of this project, Nathan is able to submit one of the radio programmes he produced towards his final degree and has said he would have been happy to have worked on the project without the incentive of funding, as it provided him with experience and tangible evidence of his learning. This suggests that the role of student-producers collaborating with staff, can not only improve the teaching process through the critical development of new resources but also the learning process, by producing publicly accessible (and therefore informally ‘peer-reviewed’) materials which can be submitted as partial fulfilment of coursework (Chemistry FM final report)

the approach of using final year projects as development vehicles is proven and useful. By making available the open source code, the expectation is that this effort will multiply across the community and achieve a far greater collective impact than York alone. (Java Breadboard final report)

Can OERs or OE project design influence an OE student’s motivation to persist? It is our hope that our proposed research addressing how OE students create self-directed learning goals, assess their own outcomes and persists through this process will add to the OE movement. (openSpace final report)

Integration of OER development with course design can be a way of overcoming lack of institutional buy-in or resource: eg.

Having previously worked to establish an Institutional Repository at the university, CERD was aware of the difficulties in obtaining resource to institutionalise support for the creation of OERs. The responsibility would therefore be with the teaching staff and students, with guidance from CERD via the Academic Commons website and staff training events. (ChemistryFM final report)

Course redesign can also be an easier way of producing OERs than revising existing material, eg.

Mark and Jose now believe that rather than simply revise existing resources, it would be better to start from scratch, using the opportunity to radically overhaul the materials used and in doing so, re-design the way the course is delivered and assessed. (ChemistryFM final report)

How do different models benefit different stakeholders?

Benefits to non-specialists of generalist materials were articulated in the BROME final report:

The specific opportunities within the legal domain such as the exploitation of topics that are widely studied (such as business law, mediation and arbitration) have been capitalised on by trying to widen the generalist areas of law to allow repurposing for other areas. As most degree routes have an element of law within the mode of delivery academics who are not in the legal area may be able to take benefit from the repurposing of materials

Which models are sustainable? What affects sustainability?

Providing templates as exemplars of how to create reusable learning objects (allowing others to create their own) eg.

In addition to the materials the project has also made available its methodology for the creation and re-use of open educational resources. (EVOLUTION final report).

Authors should be made aware of IPR issues when materials are written: eg.

Checking for third party copyright and IPR was time consuming and would have been easier if the authors of the materials had been made aware of the implications of this when the materials were written.(EVOLUTION final report)

There is a real need to broaden out expertise in OER release if initiatives are to become sustainable: eg.

At present, the technical knowledge about the openSpace VLE, its structure and organisation, fully resides with two members of staff…. Processes require discussions in order to train additional members of staff … to ensure and safeguard the future development and management of the OER repository (openSpace final report)

Some have noted that re-use is likely to be more sustainable than re-purposing; this implies that relatively small, but high value, assets are the most useful

The project also discovered that most users registered to use the OERs preferred to use the materials as they were packaged and only a few were interested in re-use or re-purpose where this involved editing materials. One commented “I don’t feel the need to edit the materials to suit my particular context… the materials are small enough for me to set the scene around the materials instead” Others saw a use for the lectures as standalone components “I would like more of the mini-lectures released so I can use them separately” (EVOLUTION final report)

Much emphasis in the individual projects on the importance of community and social networking for sustainability, eg.

In many instances the scope of the project widened and scope creep occurred, for example the social networking aspect and various community groups received more attention than was initially planned for. (BROME final report)

In order to develop a sustainable model for OER production and use, openSpace’s publishing strategy will incorporate OE students and HEI institutions wishing to make use of the specialist Art, Design, Media & Performance OE platform. Creating a community of learners, or social learning space, is an important component for the sustainability of the pilot….Similarly to open source software developers, learners and educators within this framework are both users and producers, which provides strong motivation for their own investment in the continuation of the project.(openSpace final report)

The development of specialised chips or helper tools for use with the bread-board is a deliberate feature of the system. Therefore third parties, or ourselves, can develop further features to extend the use of the toolsets into new areas. This is indeed the case at present, A Final year student has recently completed a new interface tool which allows industry standard tools such as Xilinx and Altera FPGA tools to generate designs to simulate on the Java Breadboard. (Java Breadboard final report)

Discovery of materials is an issue affecting sustainability.

Reuse would be facilitated by some sort of national index system, eg.

Although some materials do exist in an open format these are difficult to identify as there is no index system or other database to point to their location. The development of such a system may be worth exploring or perhaps an extension to INTUTE to point to relevant materials. JORUM will assist this search but OERs elsewhere also need to be included. (EVOLUTION final report)

The importance of networking for discovering materials is also stressed, eg.

Identification of existing materials to be released as OERs is extremely difficult and only really achieved through networking and discussion with other academics. (EVOLUTION final report)

Initially we felt under enormous pressure to get more and more content onto the site. However we began to realise that it is just as important to be “finding” good content from other OER providers. It is vital when trying to build up links on social networking sites that you are “engaging” with the other members of your social network, tweeting their content, adding links to their content on your pages and highlighting good blogs and articles. This is very helpful as it means you don’t always have to be adding your own content but rather you can be linking to content that others have released.(MMTV final report)

This, MMTV, feel, can be the key to sustainability began to develop from a site offering OER content from the University of Westminster into a portal that was linking to good OER content related to multimedia. This is very much the direction we see ourselves going in as we move forward. (MMTV final report)
Links to other tutorials and relevant blogs on MMTV site:

In most cases, the community or social network that developed was a student one: eg.

Students are likely to use social networking sites, the material that has been cleared was released in its entirety to a proportion of the students, both on a networked USB drive, through links hosted at the University of Bradford and from a separate site. There was success as students’ subsequently added the link to their “home” social networking site. The most popular social and business networking sites were used and evidence that the links had been transferred through this method of dissemination was seen. Also student “mash-ups” were produced, not by request of the course team, which incorporated the material into revision, using mixed media to revise. This media was released to the other students. This outcome was not planned for the material. (BROME final report)

Ongoing funding for sustainability may be sought by:

  • widening the funding base to include local authorities, professional organisations, etc., eg.

There are four funding proposals that continue the work undertaken both by this project and the other projects within the OER sphere. The first is a small research bid, the second involves an e-learning service agreement with a local council, the third is an internal bid, and the fourth will include the The Centre for Education in the Built Environment (CEBE) and will bid for the second phase round of the OER programme. (BROME final report)

  • marketing budgets, and a cut from the student fees generated, eg.

There have also been some high levels meetings … about the way that could be financed in the future ( for example by being provided with part of the marketing budget or financed through number of students who subscribe to the MSc in MM course). (MMTV final report)

  • donations and sponsorship (particularly from alumni) building on the model of the open source movement, eg.

Our donations and corporate sponsorship component has been created with a view towards income generation to assist in financial sustainability… The Development & Alumni Manager will also announce openSpace’s launch to UCF alumni. (openSpace final report)
openSpace home page showing prominent “donate” button
openSpace “support openSpace” page
openSpace , corporate sponsorship page

Chemistry FM’s “public teaching” model integrates the pedagogic benefits and the marketing benefits for sustainability:

In terms of sustainability, the project has made several things clear to us. A small project like ChemistryFM was not intended to change practices across the institution, although it has allowed us to develop a good example to showcase and get a sense of the work involved and skills required. Within the framework of Teaching in Public, we have seen that in preparing OERs for public re-use, enrolled students benefit from the emphasis placed on improving the overall communication of chemistry. In one sense, ‘students as first public’ may be taken literally as students being the teacher’s immediate audience, but by making resources public, the counterpart to this is that of the ‘public as first students’. The relationship between the university and the public has the potential to be radically changed, in particular for first year courses where the students are literally ‘the public’ one week and ‘students’ the next, following enrolment. By taking this view, where both students are ‘the public’ and the public are ‘students’, the creation and sharing of OERs has the potential to be sustainable and transformative within and outside the institution, leading to greater positive feedback in terms of the effects of public peer-review (Chemistry FM final report)
ChemistryFM presentation on sustainability

Summary of main developers of OER materials

Brome: project leader (academic)
openSpace: HE educators
ChemistryFM: academics and postgraduate students (initiated and guided by Centre for Educational Research and Development)
Evolution: HE teaching staff
MMTV: HE teaching staff; portal for other OER sites
Java Breadboard: educators; final year project students

Summary of intended audience for use and reuse

Brome: HE educators; “wider usage” (students within institution)
openSpace: CPD; lifelong learners, prospective students; HE institutions
ChemistryFM: public, enrolled students
Evolution: existing enrolled students on e-Evolve modules; academics with an employability focus
MMTV: prospective students; enrolled students
Java Breadboard: educators; enrolled students for self study; independent lifelong learners

Summary of intended repurposers and further developers

openSpace: HE educators in other institutions; learners
Java Breadboard: educators, enrolled students for self study; independent learners (anywhere); open source community

Summary of innovations in practice

openSpace: peer feedback and critique via assignment forums
ChemistryFM: development by postgraduate students collaborating with academic staff; cross-departmental collaboration (journalism and science)
Java Breadboard: user-developer community model; simulations as OERs