UKOER subject strand developing OERs

subject strand synthesis: Helen Beetham


Projects made different choices about how to develop, manage and share OERs depending on several factors. Two important variables can be represented as axes, with different projects finding themselves at different points along them.

Integrity of resources =================================== Reusability of resources

Into the wild ============================================= Community-based

Integrity was supported by resources released in fairly large aggregations with learning activities and outcomes integrated, or by the inclusion of contextualising material explaining the original educational rationale and/or guiding re-use. Reusability was supported by low granular size, open formats, and more minimal accompanying information, i.e. a more agnostic approach to how resources were reused in new contexts.

Releasing resources ‘into the wild’ with the aim of maximum uptake was supported by multiple dissemination/hosting solutions and acceptance of poor tracking capabilities; building communities around resource collections was supported by community repositories with user profiles and social facilities such as commenting, recommending, following and peer review.

Some pragmatic considerations for managing OERs are:

  • It is essential that the repository chosen for hosting (see ‘technical and hosting issues’) is fully open and capable of managing a wide range of resource types with different requirements for description and aggregation. Increasingly this means liaising closely with the institutional repository team.
  • There will also need to be collaboration with institutional experts on IPR (both clearing third party content and licensing for open release), accessibility, multi-media development and web2.0. Without the full set of expertise available, it is difficult to manage OERs successfully.
  • The OER experts will need excellent communication with originators – who have subject knowledge – to assist categorising, cataloguing, tagging and describing correctly.

As described in other sections, OER development is much more efficient when materials are designed for open release – or with open release in mind – from the outset. Retrofitting existing course materials was often found to be more time costly than starting from scratch, a finding echoed by outcomes of the earlier JISC Reproduce programme.

See also the sections on Subject Strand – Sustainability and on Subject Strand – Technical And Hosting Issues.


Which models are appropriate for different contexts? How do different models benefit different stakeholders? Which models are sustainable? What affects sustainability?

Project findings

Bioscience interim finding: Material should be designed for OER, not converted, to reduce adoption barriers. Quotes from partners: Label resources carefully, i.e. if there are several parts to one subject resource. … Package resources with “how to” files and “accessibility”. Review how easy it would be for staff to download and use resources to promote “reuse” as much as development.

OER CSAP: finding (interim report) academics and departments do not tend to consider reusability issues when developing teaching materials

S4S: Retrofitting existing resources to create OERs is extremely time-consuming and generally felt to be unsustainable. OER release needs to be promoted as an aspect of the general production of learning resources.

CORe-Materials finding: with the exception of images, all resources required some re-purposing or re-formatting to prepare them for publication.

C-Change conclusion: we concluded that it was much easier to engage with OER from the start of the development of learning and teaching materials, rather than through repurposing. Quote from partner: “One of the issues in repurposing but not adding to resources is that they are not designed for open access. This is likely to compromise the effectiveness of the resources on-line.”

OERP conclusions from final report:

  • embed ethos of OER at point of resource creation: do not retrofit
  • a core OER team is required to coordinate support
  • they will need excellent communication with originators – who have subject knowledge – to assist categorising, cataloguing, tagging and describing correctly
  • connections to institutional experts on IPR, accessibility and web2.0 need to be formed internally to allow OER practice to become widespread.

FETLAR conclusions:

  • most current models of OER development are inherently unsustainable;
  • different models may be needed for e.g. maths support (inter/extra curricular) and delivery of curriculum maths

Humbox interim findings: the HumBox process is proving highly successful as it allows time for experimentation, reflection and personal engagement by depositors prior to the final release of content to the wider community in early 2010. The sharing of ‘bite-sized’ teaching resources (rather than course sets) is already beginning to encourage cross-disciplinary sharing.

Project outputs and evidence

Humbox process model and pilot workflow for OER release

PHORUS conceptual framework

OERP reflections on project communication activities and impact on ‘sharing good practice’ agenda

OER Sim Legal: Findings/reflections on how the simulation repository and its user interface can be made sustainable i.e. attract users and new contributors.

Bioscience: guides on Preparing, Packaging and Uploading; and on Release, Dissemination and Sustainability. C- Change OER ‘passport’ for STEM disciplines C-Change GEES Teaching resources: open licensed resources that can be used in teaching materials C-Change choosing materials for OER release