UKOER subject strand OER release

Subject Strand synthesis – Helen Beetham


An important and consensual finding is that the OER release process must be seen as part of a larger lifecycle of open content, in which (ideally) materials are produced with open sharing in mind.

The nature of these projects allowed release, the development of guidelines for release, user evaluation and enhancement of the release process to take place iteratively, albeit only over the course of a year. Project partners typically acted as ‘first instance’ users of both content and guidance, and were motivated to give feedback. How this iterative development cycle can be sustained beyond funding will be critical.

Design of open content is technically and educationally challenging. Many projects found it difficult to design and release content when so little is still known about users, their motivations, and their contexts of use.

The release process and the type of materials released will depend in part on the benefits case being made and the intended primary users – whether these are students, potential students, or staff/peers.

Also there are degrees of openness which entail different kinds of investment in the release process. Fully standards-compliant, platform independent, accessible, repurposable and reformattable content requires different considerations from pdf files uploaded to an open repository.

Many issues raised by projects concerned the management of consortia for open release. While this is a particular feature of the subject strand, some of the lessons learned about managing partnerships and securing institutional permission for open release will be of general interest.

Finally, the projects demonstrated that openness should be a key value in managing the release process, as well as in the materials released. Projects invested a great deal of time in managing relationships with partners, in making roles and responsibilities transparent, and in sharing aspects of organisational practice. Projects released many open resources that they had generated themselves in the form of guidance materials for OER release, and built on the work of other OER projects in the UK and internationally.


What have we learned about good practice in OER release? How can effective processes be shared and embedded? What socio-technical infrastructures do we need to support them?

 Project findings

Humbox findings from interim report: there is significant content available within humanities disciplines that can be shared and a willingness among colleagues to share their materials with others. A key success factor has been the availability of an existing and easy to use repository (HumBox), the provision of support (both technical and process-oriented), a peer review (commenting) process, space to experiment prior to release of content and the involvement of depositors in the refinement of the repository.

AMD-OER finding (interim report) benefits of face to face visits to build community TRUE finding (interim report) Meetings and visits help maintain a sense of ‘belonging’ to a community which is working collaboratively towards open release. Issues e.g. technical can be identified and solutions shared

TRUE findings: Prioritise acquisition of the types of material considered most useful Identify specific material needed and potential contributors of this material, and approach them specifically; Solicit material by telephone rather than email;Develop personal contacts and networks Advantages of the topic based approach:

  • Context and “voice”: previous evaluation of the Economics Network suggested that lecturers were frustrated by database-generated lists of resources and would prefer a narrative guide by a fellow academic.
  • Ownership (individual and group): contributors work in partnership with the Economics Network, developing a sub-site which is identified as their own space. Groups can also be partners in the development of a wiki. For example, the Association for Heterodox Economics has officially endorsed the Heterodox Economics wiki and allowed the use of its logo on the site.
  • Natural division of labour: Different participants in a wiki have different working patterns and areas of expertise.
  • Non-linear workflow: Whereas some content management systems have a well-defined process from author to editor, a wiki allows users to build on each others’ work iteratively. If a contributor is not happy with the way their work has been edited by someone else, they can roll back the changes.

FETLAR findings: pdfs widely used but not truly ‘open’ Spread of QTI and similar authoring/repurposing skills needed to support release of OERs. Integrated content and tools (e.g. Virtual Appliance) has potential to support widespread transformations in L&T. Offers some security against legal or technical risks in investing time and effort. Reasonably easy for the “average academic” to use. Creators are concerned about derived works. There is some understanding of the costs and benefits of the “virtuous circle of improvement” in terms of technical and legal feasibility; scalability remains an issue Distinction between freely downloadable and open licenced materials is not well understood.

Bioscience finding/reflection: Tracking the experience of users of the resources requires them to identify themselves. Discipline-focused communities and social spaces are a good way to communicate information between users who may not want to be identified more widely.

S4S findings: OER should be kept in mind whenever an educational resource is created, rather than retrofitting. OER creators and potential users need to be able to collaborate. Institutions should have a clear policy on open content with appropriate support to reduce the time spent by individual staff Distribution options for OERs need to be clearly understood; in an ideal world multiple uploads would not be necessary OERs should be designed to be accessible, regardless of technical skill on the part of users.

OERP quotes from evaluation: ‘Only when OER is considered at the point of resource creation will the OER process become easier. It is therefore vital that the practice of correctly sourcing and clearing third party content is embedded into academic practice, at least in the training of new lecturers if OER techniques are to continue in a sustainable form.’ ‘the following points play important roles in the whole OER concept: making material to be editable, re-purposable and portable; disseminating the materials through appropriate channel so that they will be more discoverable; copyright requirements assessment and seeking third party permissions.’ ‘Use cloud based services to host your resources but make sure you have copies in case the services are shut down due to unforeseen circumstances, use metadata to make resources visible in ordinary searches (using common search engines); provide contextual information on how the resource was used locally; promote the resource on blogs and forums on the web so that it comes up on the search engine results.’ ‘Investigate copyright issues of your materials before engaging in providing OER; look at the ‘granularity’ to make sure resources are available in appropriate size ‘chunks’; provide resources in a format and media that you would want to use yourself; and, providing good metadata (including, level, context and background) is key to encouraging uptake.’

OER-CSAP finding: OER design should follow ‘good practice’ in learning design, based around principles of constructive alignment.

OER-ICS: It is good practice to ensure resources are openly accessible and available for format conversions. The module descriptors embedded withing ICS learning units direct potential adopters to the suite of accessibility tools collated by TechDis.

Project outputs and sources of evidence

Humbox: How to Share and Review resources in Humbox: Checklist for sharing and reviewing resources:

PHORUS conceptual framework PHORUS evaluation: what lessons have been learned about open release of L&T resources?

OERP: Reflections recorded in final report

CORE-materials: workflow for open content release:

S4S: framework for the development and dissemination of OER

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

ADM-OER report detailing current practices in participating institutions and offering guidance on OER release

ADM-OER: OER creation flowchart

TRUE findings on release of different resource types

FETLAR: critical evaluation of OER work flows: report on current practice

Bioscience short guide to Release, Dissemination and Sustainability

OER MEDEV toolkits:, including: Patient and non-patient consent; IPR/copyright; Institutional policy; Internationalisation; Pedagogy/QA; Resource discovery;Resource upload

OER MEDEV: traffic light system for assessing ‘openness’ (not currently available at a separate URL)

OER MEDEV: 14 scenarios/use cases (66 more planned): to be made available from

OER-CSAP toolkit

OER-CSAP six partner case studies:

What issues are presented by the release of particular types of content (multimedia, interactive, student-created content)?

Project findings

Bioscience finding/reflection: Each type of content will appeal for different purposes. Finding it quickly and easily is necessary to enable it to be adopted. Although JorumOpen does expose its catalogue into Google, where most of the academics in our survey currently begin, its ranking is low unless highly specific terms are used. More needs to be done to encourage academics to engage with Jorum as part of their usual search strategy.

ICS finding: Decoupling materials within pre-existing modules can be difficult. Often it is better to develop again than to try and redevelop for open release. GLO-maker is recommended as a tool for developing learning objects with appropriate granularity for repurposing and reuse.

FETLAR finding: Release of complex legacy resources requires many stages: negotiation, technical redevelopment, licensing, pedagogical embedding and testing, etc… However, it is important that this embedded expertise is not lost from the community.

How should branding and presentation be handled? Do we need to protect logos? Are they protected by trade-mark? (Can they be removed by users?) Should projects introduce their own branding?

Project findings

Host institutions generally want to use their own logos on materials for reputational benefit. But they don’t want to see logos changed or misused. How do we respond?

Project specific findings:

ICS: issues over branding need to be resolved at institutional level

C-Change (interim report) reflections on branding and presentation, accompanying information and other pragmatic release issues.

Bioscience (interim report findings): institutional logos present problems: common UK OER style might be a valuable approach?

Bioscience finding: logos need to be excluded from cc licenses or the origin indicated using text instead.

OERP: used project branding on all materials to support identification