UKOER subject strand sustainability

subject Strand synthesis – Helen Beetham


Sustainability was not originally a topic in our synthesis framework but it has proved an important issue for projects because of their short timescale. As several pointed out, the real benefits would only start to become apparent after the end of the funding period, when it would be possible to assess both sustainability and the actual long-term value of project activities. Sustainability is also a helpful way of understanding the unique contribution of the subject strand.

If the process was right then the desired outcomes in terms of numbers of resources uploaded would naturally follow, and continue into the future …Therefore a critical aspect of sustainability must be to follow up on the benefits and ensure they continue to be disseminated. Medev partner

The resources themselves will be sustained for at least three years, as part of the commitment projects made to JorumOpen and the terms of funding.

Projects themselves made the following observations on sustainability:


We attempted to achieve sustainability by: • Driving down the costs of involvement/going OER; • Pooling intellectual capital; • Adding value to academic ‘bartering’ through increasing the availability of shared materials; • Seeking to reach a level of critical mass able to ‘tip’ the sector into new ways of working (this was not achieved in the pilot but may be in sight within 5 years); • Creating an environment of collective defensibility though marshalling widespread buy-in to the recommendations; • Appealing to movers and shakers (educational leads) in a large number of UK medical, dental, veterinary and related programmes schools; • Clearly highlighting the intrinsic (often unstated) or other costs or risks associated with current practice; • Working with partners / others in the sector to ensure convergence of approach.


The UK Centre for Bioscience will support the development of OERs in the long term by:

  • inclusion in the Centre’s events where possible/appropriate
  • using the initial project to provide exemplars of approaches and lessons learned
  • supporting OER use at partner institutions in accordance with each project’s exit and sustainability plan.

Skills for scientists

Project members are now fully able to produce and share OERs without support from the project team. They are also able to support their colleagues and so to cascade skills into the community. The project web site and wiki will continue to be supported by the Subject Centre for Physical Sciences.

Those currently holding Subject Centre funding for development projects are being encouraged and supported to release the outcomes as OERs. This will be an expectation on future projects.

Support for the production and use of OERs will be build into support from the Centre for new and aspiring lecturers.

SimShare Legal

Community repositories require separate consideration as examples of sustainability. The SimShare final report points out that such networks are ‘remarkably tolerant of failure (cheap failure enables the creation of multiple possibilities)’ and require minimal infrastructure to be maintained. They do require strong ‘social capital’ and a perception of mutual benefit.


There has been a significant increase of awareness of OER in the current round of bids received for the Learning and Teaching Development Fund. Future criteria for proposals will include advice on development of OER.

Institutional repositories are an important route to sustainability by embedding OER into institutional practices.

Depending upon particular contexts (institutional/departmental attitudes and culture, internal support available etc.), external funding is not always necessary for continued engagement with OER. However, it is unclear as to whether initial engagement would have occurred without the Programme funding.

All partners utilised internal support: without such support, success may have been harder to come by. Potential reduction in such support, due to, for example, cuts in drawing offices, IT support etc., may result in problems for those engaged with OER.

Support for the discipline OER networks will be essential in fostering further engagement and future collaboration within this agenda across the community.

It is still unclear how OER will be used by the academic community: this programme provides a unique opportunity to follow use and re-use of material.


Discipline-based approach is most likely to lead to sustainable long-term change in academic practice

However, this will not take place without sustained funding for community-based activity at all levels i.e. nationally, institutionally and within departments

Discipline-based communities have different sustainability concerns to institutional sharing communities, especially over who will host and maintain resources in the medium and long term.


The project has made a more sustainable impact on resource creation and release than on re-use. Indicative quotes: This project has made colleagues start to think about better ways of creating their teaching resources, which would be suitable for use as OER, and to avoid relying on certain books or publishers. I have become much more aware of the wider teaching community. We tend to be a bit isolated when teaching HE in FE so this experience has been helpful. It has also helped me reflect on some of my materials and delivery methods and hopefully improved them for future use.’ ‘[OER release is sustainable] if any of the following imperatives exist: further funding; opportunities identified for marketing taught programmes; other drivers specific to an academic (e.g. increasing citations, developing funding opportunities etc).’