UKOER institutional strand recommendations

 author: Lou McGill

BERLiN Project (University of Nottingham)

Recommendations for research communities

Research focus on potential cost efficiencies available through the re-use of open resources within institutions would provide hard data to either support or reject this notion. Many feel that cost efficiencies can be leveraged and it was identified in the staff focus groups facilitated during BERLiN as a driver for involvement, but no research data is currently available to contribute to the discussion. If it could be proved that cost efficiencies were possible, it would place OER in a position of strength within institutions. If it were proved cost efficiencies were not realisable, then OER projects would at least have data outlining why, and could work to address the issues or focus on more tangible benefits.

Certainly the issues faced around copyright through the clearance phase of release, strongly indicates academic staff are routinely willing to re-use other people‘s content within their teaching. Therefore, alongside this research, investigations into what content is most useful for re-use would also be beneficial. At Nottingham, the online staff survey in March 2010 indicated that PowerPoint slides (66%), reading lists (53%) and lecture notes (49%) to be the three main types of resources academics would publish openly, whereas PowerPoint slides (59%), lecture notes (46%), images (46%) and reading lists (43%) were the main types of resources academics wanted to reuse openly. However, further exploration is needed to determine whether these resources are genuinely the most useful in re-use, or simply indicate which resources are the easiest to re-use.

Research into end users of OER would also be valuable, in terms of who they are, what they need and what they consider to be effective resources. Central to this strand is the debate around whether OER can meet the needs of both a promotion-centric approach and a cost-efficiency-centric approach. As discussed, a promotion-centric approach assumes a highly polished end-product and lends itself to the marketing and promotional aspects of OER. On the other hand a cost-efficiency model possibly supports a more rough and ready‘ version of the resource enabling educators and learners to break apart‘, re-contextualise, mix up, and rewrite as their needs dictate. The Open University, the UK‘s biggest provider of open materials provide areas for both types of users, with OpenLearn40 and LabSpace41 and further research in this area would help inform the longer term strategies for OER active institutions. Recommendations for teaching communities

Teaching communities already have at their disposal a rich source of online educational resources. The focus may be best put on helping those involved in teaching and learning to understand what is available, how it can be used appropriately and the benefits that can be realised by doing so. In particular, fostering re-use and repurpose at institutional, school and individual level, harnessing the cost efficiency benefits, supporting the establishment of connections between end-user and provider and developing sustainable models of OER creation and support based on mutual need.

However, it is important to understand the restrictions imposed by copyright law which is the single biggest barrier to publishing and hence reusing OER. In order to address this, it is recommended that institutions consider the delivery of training that focuses on sourcing, using and attributing images and resources correctly. One way of achieving this would be to include in the PGCHE (accredited either locally or nationally) the effective and appropriate use of web and open resources. This would introduce all new lecturers to the issues involved in such use and reuse, and in the longer term increase the number of resources suitable for open publication by institutions. Recommendations for JISC/Higher Education Academy

Much of the focus in the area of OER has been placed on the creation and publication of resources. This is a natural starting point and has resulted in a diverse range of materials being made available. To aid the sustainability of OER practices, consideration could be given to initiatives that support the routine use and re-use of resources within institutions. Encouraging institutions to adopt a ‗re-use‘ model rather than focussing on a publication model could help institutions and the HE sector understand how to make better use of the so far unproven cost-efficiency benefits. In order to do this JISC/HEA could support initiatives focussed on the creation of tools and frameworks designed to remove existing barriers to wide-spread re-use.

JISC/HEA may also consider discussing the implications of a significant change in the funding of the HE sector through the introduction of a ‘teaching excellence framework‘, akin to that already in the research arena. If funding were more closely linked to teaching quality rather than simply headcount and course completion, institutions would align their strategies to focus more on the quality in teaching. It is recognised that this is a major cultural shift and a significant policy change in this area which is outside the scope of the UKOER programme, but influencing a shift in teaching culture would have an impact on the consideration given to OER (along with other mechanisms) as a vehicle for achieving increased quality.

OCEP (University of Coventry)

  • Future policy and processes should concentrate on ways of incentivising our best learning and teaching staff to develop open resources ab initio rather the current situation in which we “chase the game” by converting existing resources
  • Openness not only increases the range of resources available to teachers and learners but can also raise their quality
  • The use of open resources should be encouraged in the curriculum design process; the question should be “why should we develop new resources?” rather than “why should we use open ones?”
  • Both subject and institutional repositories are important; whilst institutional repositories are now part of the accepted ICT infrastructure of most HE institutions, subject repositories will need continual external nurturing if they are to survive
  • The effective use of open resources needs to be included in courses provided for new HE teaching staff and the HEA should take account of this in relevant standards
  • Whilst cost considerations are always important, the widespread use of open resources has the potential to invigorate learning and teaching through the sharing of the best pedagogic practice and bring new ideas into institutional development, departmental teaching practices and course design

OpenExeter (Univesrity of Exeter)

  • The JISC funding enabled us to cover the capital costs of establishing a technical infrastructure and establish many key processes and in e.g. obtaining essential legal advice.
  • The JISC model of converting existing materials is not sustainable / scalable. It is feasible when courses are being newly designed and created or substantially revised.
  • Build appropriate OER staff development as part of scholarly endeavour in learning design / delivery. For early career staff, this could be within the institutionally-accredited HEA programmes. For more mature staff, it could form part of their regular Continuing Professional Development.
  • Attempting to calculate the cost of OER in monetary terms is notoriously difficult to do. It would be useful to have Full Economic Costing estimates regarding the cost of e.g. producing digital material for our institutional VLE. If this is unavailable, it is somewhat meaningless to attempt to calculate what the marginal cost would be on an unknown base cost. A more promising strategy is to focusing on the ‘benefits’ and ensure that the OER agenda is tightly coupled with how the University views itself, i.e. its core values and mission.
  • Argue the case of the cost of not engaging! It is unlikely that any costing model will really swing an argument, though they may be used by those who already have made up their minds.
  • Build upon a hub and spoke organisational model, in order to both bind in departmental commitment together with central organisational oversight.
  • Ensure that your repository is embedded within a much large supportive infrastructure.
  • If would take the focus off the ‘costs’ of OER if copyright clearance was regarded as a necessary stage before material can be uploaded to an authenticated VLE. Whilst it would not address all copyright issues, it would address many, and also highlight the importance of this agenda.
  • The sort of quality assurance / enhancement (if any) you wish to pursue will be heavily influenced by the extent to which the marketing agenda permeates all considerations.
  • Reward and recognition must be present in policy, and observable in practice.

Recommendations to University Senior Management

  • Awareness of other repositories and how they may assist staff in the design and delivery of their own courses, thus potentially saving time.
  • Creating a limited volume of high quality OER resources based upon the University’s primary research themes, as a means to market the institution to potential e.g. international students.
  • Making available a small sample of high quality OER course material as part of each programme specification, again to improve their marketing visibility.
  • Identify OER as integral to our educational scholarly practices, embedded within our design and delivery of research-informed courses.

OpenSpires (University of Oxford)

  • Audio material is cost-effective and an easy starting point for institutional OER. The OpenSpires team recorded video because of the perceived quality benefits for education, our findings suggest that users prefer audio for downloads (our experience with iTunesU suggest a ratio of three or four to one in favour of audio).
  • Skills and research methods materials have the highest internal reuse as these are topics that are desirable on many courses across the University.
  • Building on an existing content creation workflow was key to the success, particularly within a project timeframe of only one year.
  • To aid content acquisition and generation there must be proactive client relations ‘agents’ in place with each department.
  • The public good is incentive enough for content contributors particularly if they see benefits for the future students of their subject and there is a great goodwill for this work from academics providing it has minimal impact on their time.
  • Similar activities by peers fosters activity (seeing other people ‘like us’ also doing it).
  • OER / Creative Commons are not yet widely understood terms so outreach to internal stakeholders through training sessions is essential to building open content literacy.
  • RSS is fit for purpose for providing syndication of sets of open audio, video and related documents.
  • Web 2.0 (iTunesU/YouTube etc) offer a global audience which leads to high visibility of the content and potentially the very highest possible downloads. High downloads means more reuse and feedback from users. Feedback from users provides the best possible motivation for academics to participate.
  • Material needs to be placed as near as possible to the subject communities to drive reuse.
  • Increased marketing of the OER work is key to success at a national level by JISC/HEA – UK Open Content.
  • Success comes more easily if the activity is aligned to institutional strategic priorities.
  • Academic colleagues will question licences and need clear information in order to make informed decisions.
  • The demand on content production resources should not be underestimated, e.g. the unexpected time/cost implications in proofing descriptions, names of contributors etc., the time to obtain sign off/approval by contributors, and other quality assurance.
  • Contributors are concerned about how they are represented and therefore seem to expect the highest possible production values.
  • Providing transcripts is currently unsustainable because of the high cost. However, in the future it will be possible to provide methods for the user community to provide material back (translations, transcriptions etc.).

OpenSTAFFS (Staffordshire University)

  • From the perspective of sustainability it is clear that a number of other uncertainties will need more exploration, for example the real actual demand for OERs is not fully understood, in particular the demand from employing organisations. The degree to which companies might wish to draw on OERs and how that might generate revenue creation for higher education institutions needs much further investigation.
  • Although the project has struggled with overcoming technical and organisational barriers, nevertheless the overall approach has led to a position where both the use of OERs and the provision of resources locally via an institutional repository appear to be sustainable. In particular policy and governance issues have been successfully addressed and although the reorganisation of the University’s Information Services has caused the project enormous problems, the fact that this reorganisation coincided with the project, has enabled many issues around the management and support of both an Institutional repository and the use of OERs to be addressed as part of the reorganisation process.
  • As has been discussed in detail elsewhere in the report Staffordshire’s approach to ensuring that any JISC project is fully aligned to local strategy and business goals has been firmly validated. Without this approach the high level support that the project has enjoyed would not have happened.
  • The experience of the project has shown that the release of existing resources as OER can be both labour intensive and time consuming. This has led to the conclusion that the internal processes for the creation of learning resources (along with associated guidance and policy) in the future need to take into account the possibility of their subsequent release as OER.
  • The project has also shown the importance of local champions within faculties and the need to engage faculty e-learning support staff in these processes. Without this OER could become viewed as a centrally imposed approach, with resulting negative perception.

OTTER (University of Leicester)

  • Feedback from learners, lecturers and tutors is essential for the ongoing development and improvement of OERs. We would urge all who use OERs to take every opportunity to give feedback to the creators of OERs.

Recommendations for the research community

  • The focus in the UK OER projects was on supply-led production of OERs. More research needs to be carried out into the ways in which learners and educators around the world are using OERs. It would also be useful to research the ways in which future OERs might be able to meet identified learning needs.
  • How OERs are going to be used outside of the release institutions is as yet unproven, but this should be researched very soon.
  • Need to look beyond the obvious platforms for releasing OERs and alerting potential users to their existence, e.g. use social networking sites.

Recommendations for JISC and the Academy

Based on the achievements by the UK OER programme so far, we strongly recommend continuation through longer-term projects, focusing on the following outcomes:

  • Cascading the skills throughout the sector
  • Increasing the range and quality of OERs available
  • Researching the impact of OERs
  • Enhancing visibility of OERs
  • Researching and applying standards to OER production
  • Embedding OERs into curricula through learning design

Unicycle (Leeds Metropolitan University)

  • Gain support from senior institutional mangers (ideally with an assessment, learning & teaching remit). This helps to communicate the value and importance of OER from an institutional perspective.
  • Embed OER as institutional practice in the development of new courses and modules
  • Seek to agree OER targets for staff/areas/subject groups.
  • Realise OER outputs with support from institutional PDR process (encouraging staff to take ownership of OER release but giving them reward for doing so).
  • Implement long term staff development programme to support OER (IPR/OER searches/OER submission etc)
  • Implement OER as part of institutional ALT (assessment learning and teaching) strategy.
  • Faculty/Subject areas to take ownership and quality control of OER development, thus negating the need for a potentially costly centralised unit.
  • Utilise current institutional support mechanisms for OER (e.g. staff development programmes, events schedules, copyright services, repository and central services teams.)
  • Identify specific areas of need for OER (e.g. colleges & delivery partners) – this can help provide focus for the content to be released and identify particular audiences.