UKOER subject strand learners and other stakeholders

subject Strand synthesis – Helen Beetham


In general, projects expressed frustration that they neither had access to, nor were funded to research, what stakeholders actually want from open educational materials. This was particularly true of learners as end-users. The timing of projects, with main release of resources happening in the spring-summer semester 2010, made it difficult to engage learners, though some (e.g. FETLAR, SIMShare Legal) managed to do so by ensuring very rapid embedding of OERs into existing programmes, while others (e.g. TRUE, ADM) involved small numbers of learners in user trials.

Projects have found that improving the experience and access for learners is a major driver of open release by academics. Therefore it will be important to follow up on learner engagement and uptake through any future iterations of the OER programme.

In practice most subject projects were considering other academics as the first end-users and primary stakeholders in the release of OERs. This meant a significant overlap between potential contributors and potential users, so the surveys carried out with staff did present opportunities to ask questions about re-use. In the main there was less enthusiasm for re-use than for open release, suggesting that culture change around OERs needs to encompass the whole development, use, re-use, redevelopment lifecycle.

18 professional bodies or subject associations were involved in the subject strand. Projects have generally found them valuable partners, though they have typically been leading and influencing rather than receiving support from these bodies. Employers, industrial partners, and patients/public interest have emerged as important stakeholders for some of the projects though in only one case (CORE-Materials) were they directly involved in development or evaluation.

What role have learners played in shaping the programme outcomes? How have projects engaged learners, if at all?

Findings from projects

There has been limited engagement with learners as actual end-users due to timing of the project funding. One project (MEDEV) surveyed students as potential users. Others (e.g. TRUE, ADM, Core-materials) involved students in focus groups or trials.

Questions about learners that projects would like to see answered include:

  • How are learners finding, accessing and using OERs?*
  • What skills do learners need to make best use of OERs?
  • How do learners understand and value ‘openness’ in educational resources?

What role have stakeholders such as professional bodies and employers played in shaping the programme outcomes?

Findings from projects

S4S: professional bodies involved with the project have been introduced to OER and one is now considering releasing all its educational materials as OERs. They see the resources released as excellent publicity.

CORE-Materials finding: our industrial partners are very positive about openly releasing a selection of their resources and can see many benefits in doing so. Quote:” ‘The user statistics from having my teaching content promoted through CORE-Materials and its Web 2.0 features, even for only a few months, is truly amazing! And to gain such intelligence through tracking resource usage is an added bonus. My company can clearly see the promotional and potential business opportunities that can be gained…’ ”

What other stakeholders are emerging with an interest in this area?

Findings from projects


  • specific patients and in some cases their families have a stake in any OERs produced that could include their medical data/images etc.
  • patients in general have a stake in the quality of OERs that could be used to support their medical care
  • ” ‘OER solutions needed to be fluid with a strong ethical underpinning’ “to accommodate possible future changes in law and practice

Different criteria for searchability and quality may arise when there is a significant public interest stakeholder group, e.g. C-Change, PHORUS. In the case of C-Change an unexpected finding was that a politicised public interest agenda could make open release more difficult due to risks or perceived risks that material would deliberately be taken out of context or maliciously repurposed.

Project outputs and evidence

PHORUS mapping of resources to the Public Health Careers Framework

CORE-materials: user surveys, questionnaires and interviews to investigate:

  • Are the ‘taxonomy matrix’ and user interfaces appropriate for learners?
  • Has the project team adapted the technology to maximise learner engagement?

TRUE: student focus group to investigate: How effectively do the resources support learning?

C-Change – evidence of stakeholder involvement

ADM-OER: small group trials

FETLAR: user testing to investigate:

  • How far do the project innovations meet the challenge associated with students’ mathematical skills and competencies on transition into higher education and the need to raise the retention rate of first-year students?

SIMShare Legal: involvement of learners as stakeholders in evaluation: observations, interviews, focus groups