UKOER subject strand institutional issues

Subject Strand synthesis – Helen Beetham


There were no cases where institutions explicitly refused to release content because they wanted to realise its value commercially. Resistance to releasing content was much less common that a simple lack of awareness, support, time to engage, and appropriate policies. Some institutions were concerned about their reputation and in particular about the possible misuse of institutional branding if it was included as an identifer.

It is not surprising, then, that Consortium Agreements occupied an enormous amount of project time and effort. To some extent this was due to the large number of partners (up to 21) and to some extent it was because questions about institutional attitudes to OER were being asked in some cases for the first time. Often it was very difficult to identify who in the institution had responsibility to sign the CA, and what institutional policies should be consulted. The fact that all 14 projects finally achieved a signed agreement, even with the loss of a small number of potential contributors, means that no less than 77 UK HE institutions confronted the question of open release and reached a positive conclusion.


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

Project findings

Resistance to releasing content is less common than lack of institutional awareness, policy and support. In some cases the impact of the project has been clearer policies in place, better communicated to staff. In other cases the issue has simply been avoided, making the project a one-off case (S4S). Anecdotally (projects not identified) just ‘asking the question’ can be seen as risky, making it more difficult to share resources ‘under the radar’. However, the trend in institutional policies is currently towards greater openness. For example, most institutions stated that they would not exercise any rights over teaching materials authored by academics.

Bioscience: no institution has seen the request from a Project Partners for IPR release (for their OER) as significant enough to overhaul the IPR policy to academic staff and recognise OER production explicitly

How are learning resources currently managed and made available within institutions?

Project findings

Most institutions involved in the strand either have or are rapidly developing an institutional repository with open access capabilities.

Bioscience (interim report finding): accepted practice appears to be that a ‘reasonable’ amount of exchange between academic in different institutions is expected (e.g. lectures and notes) but whole courses or significant blocks of material have rarely been considered

C-Change: Institutional repositories are an important route to sustainability by embedding OER into institutional practices.

Who is identified as responsible for legality, accessibility, re-usabillity and quality of open content?

Project findings

All projects found that responsibility for these issues is extremely variable across institutions, and within one institution it can be impossible for even well-informed and motivated staff to find support. In practice, because of the complexity of each case, expert advice on hand is of more value than guidance documents.

NB in subject strand some impacts are departmental rather than institutional due to the focus of the projects.

Bioscience findings/reflections

  • Clarification of institutional IPR policy specifically for OERs would be beneficial.
  • Learning technology support and staff development in ELT needs to expand to include consideration of OER. Learning Technologists and other support staff i.e. Librarians are not currently used for support as much as we had expected.

S4S: evidence of a range of institutional changes as a result of involvement in the project e.g. new departmental policies, new staff practices, new subject centre commitments

Humbox: evidence of institutional/departmental change:

  • bringing staff together
  • building links between research and teaching
  • inclusion of OERs in departmental strategy

ADM-OER: evidence of institutional change in terms of:

  • amendments to IPR policy to include reference to OERs;
  • processes in place for agreeing CC by=nc=sa licences;
  • clarification of staff employment contracts and of student status wrt iPR, emphasising institutional commitment to OER;

How do existing management and departmental structures and staff roles need to be transformed to facilitate the opening of existing content?

Project findings

In the subject strand, the most significant capacity building has taken place in subject centres and their close partners, who now have the expertise to support others in developing and releasing OERs. In the case of SCs, this is already being offered as part of the portfolio of services to the community. Other funded projects are being encouraged and supported to release outcomes as OERs. In the case of partner institutions, support staff and academic champions are much more aware of the issues involved in (e.g.) clearing third-party materials, branding, and hosting issues.

ADM-OER is among the projects noting a general requirement on staff to undertake CPD and keep abreast of developments in learning technology.

However, different projects have found a different balance between upskilling academic staff and capacity building among support staff. ADM-OER is among the projects noting that:

  • institutional IPR policies are undergoing review due to the availability of open educational resources
  • better institutional support is essential to give staff confidence in open release, and to alleviate the time-consuming work involved in e.g. third-party IPR clearance.
  • part-time fractional staff may be in a different situation to full-time staff i.e. may perceive themselves as having more to lose by open release of teaching materials.

with budget considerations the time provision for the creation/digitization/uploading of resources is expected to be part of the normal prepration time of teaching practice

Which existing institutional strategies does the opening of learning resources impact upon?

Project findings

HEIs are increasingly mandating staff to deposit in their own local repositories Several projects identified host institutions as benefiting from enhanced expertise as well as a large body of materials deposited into their local repository, sometimes kick-starting this process (e.g. S4S)

All projects engaged with institutional policies for IPR, licencing and copyright.

Other strategies that might be impacted include learning and teaching; e-learning; content management; content development; marketing and recruitment; learning environment.

C-Change: evidence of organisational impact at partner institutions including the following:

  • New digital learning resources will now be routinely uploaded to web-platforms as a method of making learning resources accessible.
  • Partners and their colleagues are starting to use the C-change guidelines as a basis for good practice in developing online materials, whether intended for OER or not.
  • Several partners are already in discussion with their departments on use of C-change OER in the marketing of specific distance learning courses.

”“There is clear enthusiasm amongst some colleagues for having their course material available for open access, for purposes of disseminating work on a wider front.” “It is intended that the online databases containing all of the materials are ongoing, and any new materials that are collected are added to them.””

Project outcomes and evidence

Institutional case studies

Institutional workflows for OER release

Humbox case for (and evidence of) more active support for staff engaged in OER release

CORE-Materials: evidence of changed policies and practices in partner institutions / organisations relating to the release of open learning resources and wider use of Web2.0 technologies; outcomes of survey of partner institutions

C-change evidence of new or enhanced open licensing policies, processes and work flows at consortium institutions through case studies of practice

ADM-OER reports detailing current practices (IPR, VLEs and repositories) in participating institutions

FETLAR: identify partner institutional processes and policies which are supportive of, or are obstacles to, programme aims: evaluate whether changes have been made which enable and sustain future OER releases.

OER Sim Legal: evidence of change in the partners’ long term institutional policies and processes encouraging the release of open educational resources

OER MEDEV: toolkit on Institutional policy

C-Change: institutional case studies (x3) showing contrasting institutional approaches and impacts