Subject strand outputs- pilot phase
Subject Strand synthesis – Helen Beetham
All of the projects reviewed have released resources totalling approximately the 360 credits specified in the programme call. In some cases this total has been significantly exceeded. In a couple of cases it had not been reached by the end of the funding period but looked likely to be reached soon after. In all but one case the released resources have been uploaded – or are in the process of being uploaded – to JorumOpen.
There are some problems with using credits or hours of study to assess the amount of material released. All projects released some resources, such as images and bibliographies, which stand apart from any specific learning activity or textual content. Some projects focused heavily on resources at a low granular level to be re-aggregated by users, particularly those that were taking a community repository or community of practice approach. One project (SimShare Legal) released simulations only. In these cases it is inappropriate to associate the resource with any specific time taken to ‘work through’. It could be argued that a feature of OERs is their freedom from any specific learning context in which they are anchored to a time-limited learning activity or study requirement.
Some projects undertook significant repurposing work. Although this was not the focus of the OER pilot programme, in practice an end-to-end approach to release often demands disaggregation and technical reformatting to meet the demands of accessibility, discoverability and future re-use, and can demand substantial redevelopment if, for example, third-party rights clearance proves impossible. Repurposing for open use represented a significant investment of project staff time had not always been fully anticipated.
All projects developed detailed guidance materials for internal use by project members and partners, commensurate with the need for common working practices across the often large consortia involved. Typically these involved licensing, copyright clearance, and metadata tagging/resource description. Most projects have also released versions of these materials, and/or newly developed materials, aimed at a wider community of users. In some cases e.g. across the STEM subjects there have been valuable collaborations in production of guidance materials. See the guidance page for a complete list of outcomes in this area.
Many though not all projects have evidence of institutional change as a result of participation in the OER pilot programme. This evidence is patchy and driven by local opportunities. In comparison with the other two strands of the programme, the subject strand was focused on change across a subject community rather than at the host institutions, so this patchiness was to be expected. Significant progress has been recorded on the ‘institutional change’ page.
Significant developments have occurred in the skills and practices of the subject centres involved in the pilot programme. These have included: developing new staff skills and expertise to support OER release; developing new partnerships and contacts in the areas of IPR, licensing, accessibility, and technical repurposing; offering new advice and guidance relating to OER; making open release a new condition of subject centre project funding. Several projects have reported success in generating interest from their relevant professional bodies. Skills for Scientists reports that one body is now seeking to release all of its educational materials as OERs.
All projects have been involved in dissemination activities beyond the original consortium, typically in their subject communities via blogs, newsletters, workshops and presentations, but also in the wider academic community via conference presentations and publications. These dissemination activities are not separately recorded for the purposes of evaluation and synthesis: it is recommended that a separate study could assess the overall impact of the programme on awareness of OER. A clear picture emerges from project evaluations of already-increasing awareness and organisational repositioning, suggesting that while the actual impact of the programme may be difficult to assess, its timing was well judged.