UKOER subject strand recommendations

subject Strand synthesis – Helen Beetham

Not every recommendation from every project is included in this list as some addressed very specific issues which were not replicated in other projects. Similar recommendations have been amalgamated, leading to an inevitable loss of detail. Project teams are working in their own communities and institutions to ensure that their separate and more detailed recommendations are acted on.

Recommendations to funders

  • Recognise that timescales for the pilot projects left much to be done, and fund further work to: increase volume of content; continue sharing practice with other communities and organisations; act as advocates for OER approach; raise profile and credibility of CC licenses; participate in further studies/evaluation (see specific recommendations below)
  • Make long-term commitment to JorumOpen and properly fund its development as a national service (see specific recommendations on JO development separately)
  • JO should develop more of a community around open resources, with commentary, sharing of practice, teaching tips etc: this will need significant funding, at least in the early stages.
  • There may be a case for an international OER portal that would allow users to find material in multiple repositories and allow contributors to upload common core metadata once only
  • Synthesise and test toolkits/guidance materials. Rationalise into a smaller number of credible and proven versions for widespread dissemination.
  • Recommend a standard protocol for description and release to maximise discoverability.
  • Investigate national agreements with publishers for re-use of materials in OERs; similarly, investigate generic release arrangements for materials such as maps and databases
  • Explore and articulate of links between teaching and research in OER (open scholarship agenda)
  • Review incentives to share, which are currently fairly weak, and make recommendations
  • Support potential OER users more effectively, e.g.: simple generic guidelines with reference to exemplary projects; clear guidance on different licenses; continue to develop communities of practice in the disciplines by working with the Subject Centres; support OER champions in institutions and subject networks; provide training to these and other critical staff, able to cascade expertise to their institutions
  • Consider involving learning technologists more directly in future funding rounds, recognising their pivotal role in coordinating OER development and use (e.g. work with ALT)
  • Consider funding targetted development projects that develop OERs to meet specialised topic requirements or meet another identified need: these can become showcases for what is possible in collaborative OER development.
  • HEFCE needs to provide clear guidance to institutions and an expectation that they will clarify policy on OER (as below), with examples of what this looks like in practice.
  • Support more interdisciplinary and/or cross-institutional initiatives – change takes place more rapidly at the boundaries between.
  • Require Creative Commons licensing and commitment to OER (where appropriate) in all future funded projects
  • Work with third-party service providers e.g. Google and Apple to ensure education-facing services e.g. YouTunesEdu and i-tunes-u meet the needs of innovators
  • Communicate outcomes of the programme widely and deeply, focusing on senior staff in institutions, and delivering a coherent message across all levels
  • In communicating outcomes of pilot programme, establish links with other agendas within HE (OER agenda is not yet persuasive on its own).

Recommendations for further study

  • Investigate the lifecycle of open resources i.e. how quickly they date, how often they are repurposed and reused
  • Track download, adoption into practice, adaptation and re-release of resources, ensuring mechanisms such as common tags are in place to support this: possibly a narrow-deep, shallow-broad approach investigating selected resources in depth, but also investigating general practices around OERs in selected communities?
  • Investigate how staff involved in projects are working with OERs one year into the future – whether they are still releasing and using OERs, whether they have cascaded skills to others, whether their roles have changed.
  • Investigate whether and how OER use supports particular kinds of educational collaboration, and what value this has.
  • Investigate the possibility of mapping OERs to benchmark statements and/or learning outcomes, and any impact on take-up
  • Investigate impact of OERs on student learning, both OERs they access personally, and OERs specifically mandated or integrated by teaching staff into the learning experience.
  • Continue to develop standards and infrastructure to support a distributed model of OER repositories
  • Follow-up study on the different approaches to metadata and content description and their relative effectiveness
  • Follow-up study on the different approaches to hosting and repository development and their impact

Recommendations for institutions

  • Clarify and if necessary rewrite IPR policy to acknowledge the new digital realities and to better support processes of licensing and clearing IPR
  • Provide central clearance for third-party copyright
  • Ensure that academic staff feel protected by these systems and are clear about the limits of their liability as well as their responsibilities for due diligence
  • Adopt clear CC licences for all materials produced, as a default assumption
  • Explore and enhance the role learning technologists could play in OER work, e.g. as coordinators of expertise, as sources of advice about (re)developing for online delivery
  • Develop means of recognising and supporting staff who generate OERs, e.g. through ‘buy out’ of time from other activities, or sharing practice in how best to credit such work in future REF assessments; recognise and reward departments as well as individuals
  • Review the support needed to release OER – perhaps by using or developing an OER workflow model – and ensure this is available to staff at appropriate points.
  • Provide staff development in the technical, legal and pedagogic aspects of OER
  • Provide ongoing support for multimedia developers, graphics officers and learning technologists to assist with digitisation.
  • Develop an institutional benefits model, relevant to institutional aims and objectives, e.g. by considering branding, marketing, development costs, and sustainability of course materials over time.

Recommendations to users of open content

  • Use what guidance is available, including generic guidance on OERs, subject-specific (e.g. pedagogy, user needs, resource-type), and insitution-specific (e.g. IPR, licencing, workflows, using local repositories).
  • Seek out the support you need
  • Engagement with OER can be light touch: learn to source open materials, and to fully reference all other assets in teaching materials; release digital assets such as images, podcasts, presentations and video under a CC licence to web 2.0 sites.

Recommendations to developers, contributors and managers of open content

  • Develop content with licensing, IPR clearance, accessibility and reusability in mind, don’t try to retrofit later
  • Be clear how much time it is worth investing in clearing a particular piece of content: if this is exceeded, abandon it or consider redeveloping from scratch.
  • Consider how community features can add value and sustainability to content e.g. commenting, reviewing, following, rating etc, but consider also how that value can be shared ‘beyond the garden gate’.
  • Remember that peer review, user comments, reviews and star ratings require time to be invested, either by a core team or by a community with the commitment and time to spare
  • Resources can still be effectively reused with no comments or ratings, and are arguably more ‘open’ without requiring log-in to a community.
  • Have robust take-down policies and ensure they are exercised in a way that is ‘reasonable and fair’.
  • Ensure software formats are freely and widely available and genuinely editable; ensure resources are, as far as possible, not complicated or labour intensive to implement
  • Consider adopting unicode (utf-8) to support international use of web-based resources
  • Use cloud-based services to host your resources but make sure you have originals locally; use institutional repositories as a way of raising profile of OERs as part of general content management agenda.
  • Use metadata to make resources visible to common search engines and syndicate to raise google rankings; promote the resource on blogs and forums.

Specific recommendations on JorumOpen

  • Develop clear take-down policy, and practice around it
  • Improve bulk upload processes – improve use of aggregators so syndicated resources can be uploaded and searched by keyword, module code etc
  • Streamline upload process and support range of different external interfaces (e.g. institutional) so upload can be embedded into everyday practice
  • Provide templates and concise guidance on the whole process including: IPR and copyright clearance; metadata and tagging – which could be adapted by e.g. institutions and subject centres
  • Add user profile pages and community facilities e.g. comment/review to support user engagement
  • Consider kitemarking or star-rating resources (not agreed by all)
  • Consider ‘hallmarking’ resources e.g. with unique identifier, CC licence, date of upload
  • Provide sub-admin accounts to allow editing of records by authorised contributors after upload
  • Work on role-based authentication
  • Improve user access to syndicated resources e.g. subject repositories and other significant sources of high quality, relevant OERs
  • Consider mirroring resources on other sites (referatory model rather than repository model).
  • Encourage external linking to JO resources, especially from those who contribute and download, to ensure better Google (etc) rankings
  • Make better use of keywords e.g. sharing common searches with depositors to guide their use of keywords; use of dynamic tagging via thesaurus.
  • Better tracking information – at least download stats as well as views
  • Full support for content packaging, resolving problems of how uploaded content packages display
  • Refine resource discovery and presentation for subjects which are not discovered well by JACS codes.
  • Provide option for materials to be owned by and associated with a project as well as a person (e.g. RAs may be very temporarily employed on a project, personnel may change).

Critical success factors

  • There must be a real demand, whether because the material is specialist or because it fills a more general need where there is a gap in the market for off the shelf resources.
  • There must be extrinsic and/or intrinsic rewards for engaging with OERs. For example, evidence that it enhances the student learning experience in the discipline; professional recognition and credit for release, repurposing, re-use.
  • It is more sustainable in the long term to support others in repurposing and releasing OERs than to do the work centrally (however note some projects’ experiences that this was impractical due to poor support at partner institutions)
  • Build on previous work and existing expertise
  • Build on existing networks e.g. SCs, learning and teaching champions, e-learning enthusiasts
  • Full support of institutions involved is critical – consortium agreements were painful to achieve but useful to leverage support when required
  • Embrace a variety of media, formats and file types, and a range of options for hosting, syndication etc – at the moment we don’t know what works, we only know that users are themselves various!
  • Establish common protocols for describing objects; make use of existing protocols and schemas where appropriate
  • Having a community of users and opportunities to discuss underlying pedagogic rationale/guidance/context
  • Having a subject/discipline approach: cross-institutional collaboration; the ‘greater good’ outcomes are to the fore; community in existence; open, collegiate way of working suits academic culture
  • Having a thematic approach (where relevant): provides a coherence and profile to the OER resource set; provides a rich set of fully contextualised resources, ready for reuse; supports deep collaboration and detailed reflection
  • Taking a community repository approach (where relevant): shared ownership, collaborative development; peer review and commenting, ongoing dialogue oriented on improvement; opportunities to showcase personal teaching portfolio to colleagues; risks of defamatory or poor quality repurposing reduced; appealing interface with similar functionality to familiar social sites

Critical barriers

  • Trust: academics may not trust the quality, IPR status or usability of online resources.
  • Trust: academics may feel resources they release will be negatively reviewed or repurposed in poor or misleading ways
  • Culture of individual expertise: Academics have a general preference for using their own teaching resources. Departmental cultures can reinforce this.
  • Discovery and evaluation of online resources can be very time-consuming, which time could be spent on their own content development.
  • Lack of a coherent strategy on OER at institutional level, meaning release is often an ad-hoc, inefficient, piecemeal process
  • Lack of clear institutional policies on IPR, leaving staff feeling exposed
  • Until a critical mass of users and of valuable materials for re-use both exist, there is unlikely to be huge enthusiasm for reuse.
  • Disciplinary silos are barriers to full sharing and exploration of diverse pedagogic approaches
  • Difficulty, complexity and expense of clearing third party copyright
  • Issues of cost – mainly academic staff time
  • ‘Protecting the crown jewels’: pressures to marketise content
  • Concerns about reputation if released resources were not of ‘publication’ quality and presentation
  • Current economic climate is leading to reductions in staffing levels which is likely to impact on support required for OER development
  • Lack of time and pressure on academic workload is an ongoing problem