Institutional issues

Individual Strand synthesis – Isobel Falconer and Karen Smith


Individual projects have been getting institutional buy-in to OER release, particularly where it can be shown to support other, existing, priorities and strategies, such as sustainability, lowering environmental impact, or marketing. Good early engagement with key institutional stakeholders is essential for developing such synergies.

Obtaining rights clearance from institutions or departments may be an issue, especially where the institutions are not very OER aware. In general individuals have been prepared to release their materials if their institutions allow it. Institutional IPR policies need to be more supportive of OER release. IPR policies on student work are often particularly undefined at present and this hinders inclusion of learners in the OER lifecycle.

Even where there are agreed institution-wide processes that enables OER release, projects have found that there is a long way to go before this becomes an explicit policy and an expected part of course creation – working towards this within the timescale and funding of a small individual pilot project has not been a major concern.

Institutions also need to ensure that technical infrastructure is in place to support OER release. Inadequate hosting, and permissions for collaborators from outside the institution are among the issues mentioned by projects.

Detailed questions and evidence

To what extent do existing policies and strategies support the opening of learning resources?

Institutional buy-in where OER release supports other institutional strategies and institutional identity. In such cases the outcomes of the pilot projects may also be taken up by the institution in ongoing strategy development: eg

Bradford due to its permeating sustainability and Ecoversity agenda has been able to understand that OER links to the aims that form the sustainability strand of the corporate plan…[the project] will serve as part of an institutional pilot program that ties into Bradford University institutional goals, the final report and accompanying materials will feed into the e-Learning and ecoversity strategy of the institution (BROME final report)

From the outset, the project meetings with key UCF stakeholders were paramount. Policies, such as IPR, were influenced by more than one department and these meetings ensured that key policy makers were involved, could voice queries or concerns, and could input into the policy making process. This approach enabled openSpace to be tied into the UCF Strategic Plan and ancillary institutional objectives and goals (openSpace final report).

Early involvement of key individuals, and a clear communications structure, can be important for ensuring institutional uptake, eg.:

An initial meeting about open education and openSpace was held with the following representatives: the Project Manager, Director of the School of Media, Course Leader for MA Professional Writing, Head of Learning and Teaching, Learning and Teaching Fellow, Reader in Digital Media Publishing and Learning Technologists. At this stage, the relevance to UCF, initial aims and outcomes, resource identification and how the pilot could be embedded into the institution as part of UCF’s Strategic Plan was discussed…. A further meeting was held to discuss the openSpace concept in relation to the JISC/Academy’s call for bids. During the course of this meeting, a communication structure was agreed, including lines of reporting to the Deputy Rector, Pro Rector External Relations and Knowledge Transfer, and a budget was drafted. Involving this group of individuals at a very early stage was an important part of gaining support for the project with academic and senior management input (openSpace final report)

Similarly, openSpace established a clear plan for integration with the institution’s internationalisation strategy and marketing plans:

The PM and Course Leader had a meeting with UCF’s International Office to discuss how openSpace could be incorporated within UCF’s internationalisation plans. A way forward was agreed which would include disseminating information about openSpace to UCF international education programmes, Erasmus partners and international education publications and journals… The PM met with UCF’s Marketing Department to ensure that openSpace’s branding fit into the overall context of UCF branding. During the meeting, it was outlined how openSpace could be included in UCF marketing materials (Prospectus, UCF website, leaflets, brochures and other materials) (openSpace final report)

In what ways do institutional practices (need to) change? How is transformation best approached?

IPR policies are commonly regarded as unhelpful and need to be changed Obtaining rights clearance from institutions or departments may be an issue, especially where the institutions are not very OER aware: eg.

There has been some right clearance issues at the institutional level whereby universities have been reluctant to allow use of segments of work if lecturers were previously employed by the institutions and have now left. Generally author permission has been easy to achieve however at times this has not been followed by agreement at the School and Institution level (non Bradford). Those institutions with a background in OER or who are part of the OER strand have without exception been happy to share materials… (BROME final report)

A distinction is apparent between the willingness of individuals to rights clearance, and that of institutions eg.

Letters were sent out at an early stage within the project requesting the clearance of the work that had been produced while I was working within other organisations. The law schools that were contacted were on the whole negative to the idea of the release of open educational learning, whereas the individuals involved in the development i.e. other members of the previous course teams were on the whole positive to the concept (BROME final report).[sample replies from 2 institutions given in final report as evidence]

Institutions are also having to review how open, flexible, and/or distance learning is managed at institutional level – may require new centralised approach, or more integrated strategy More work is needed in many cases before an institution-wide OER policy is adopted: eg.

While there is an agreed process in place to release OERS and cover IPR, there are no immediate or near-future plans to make open resources release an expected part of the educational resources creation cycle. This would require more discussion with senior management. (openSpace final report)

Technical support needs to be in place for OER design and development, server/hosting issues, and content management Institutions need to ensure that hosting services are adequate for OER requirements: eg.

All of the OER packages were unbundled into raw materials and then zipped back together for uploading into the repository and JORUM. This unbundling and zipping required large amounts of storage space and unfortunately some raw materials package were lost when the shared server space became too full. However this was recoverable from back-ups and the materials could be unbundled and packaged again. In addition the project then discovered the packages were too large to upload as they exceeded the file size limit on the server. A new host for the server then had to be established before unbundled materials could be uploaded. (EVOLUTION final report)

Where OERs are being developed collaboratively across institutions, access permissions for material hosted on institutional servers may present a challenge that also affects management of the OERs: eg.

we had several problems which initially started because we had moved the domain of onto the University Server and we were having problems getting permissions for outside members from the university to have access to the servers. This is a lesson learnt from this project. In December we moved the site outside of the University and set up a server. This allowed easy access by all the team member and allowed us to track the use of MMTV much more easily (MMTV final report).

Summary of institutional policies and intiatives affected

openSpace: Internationalisation; IPR; UCF strategic plan; external relations; knowledge transfer, marketing; development and alumni (re donations and corporate giving)
Brome: e-Learning; IPR; ecoversity
ChemistryFM: IPR; Learning & Teaching; Teaching in Public;
Evolution: Employability and careers; institutional repository
MMTV: Marketing