OER Synthesis and Evaluation / Individual Strand Cultural Issues
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Individual Strand Cultural Issues

Page history last edited by Lou McGill 13 years, 8 months ago


Culture, whether institutional, pedagogic, disciplinary, technological, or national, is affecting both the willingness to share openly, and the form which such sharing takes. The individual projects show the complexity of these influences particularly in the impact of subject area on the form of openness. Subject area can be seen to be influencing: the degree of localisation of the subject and hence the potential audience for OERs; the perception of risk; the danger of losing commercial benefits; and the technology/medium for release. Cultures surrounding different technologies also affect openness and the choice of technology for release.


As these were individual projects, led by academics who are enthusiastic about OER, getting initial academic buy-in was not an issue. However, spreading their enthusiasm to other academics met with mixed success. Barriers included the "not invented here" syndrome, fear of becoming redundant, worries about the adverse impact on personal reputation if materials are poorly repurposed, but above all lack of staff time and institutional pressures for efficiency - which are too great to bear the short term cost in the hope of long term efficiency. Enablers include the perceived ethos and excitement of OER release, and the prospect of enhanced personal reputation and skills. The time barrier can be overcome if coupled with some other disruptive and time-consuming change such as course review, adapting content for a new business partner, or implementation of new technological systems, and in these circumstances staff seem more willing to be open.


In many cases, even individual projects are defining the norms for their institution or community, and find themselves as the local OE experts. In some cases they are achieving institutional buy-in and changes to institution-wide strategies and policies that will affect the culture throughout the institution. In others, projects are more focused on building an active relationship with learners, spreading an OE culture to a community outside the institution; in this latter case, senior level mandates are not seen as necessary to ongoing sustainability.


All individual projects were working within an institutional context, where IPR culture and attitudes can present a barrier to openness. Use of like for like licences has supported sharing in a number of projects. A good understanding of IPR within the institution is essential to support individuals, and having open practices and open licenses recognised in Institutional IPR policies would support openness. The IP rights in student work are a particularly grey area in some institutions that needs clarifying if student production of OERs is to be embedded in courses. Liability for the conduct of users in forums is another institutional legal concern that held back one individual project (Java Breadboard); they advocate a national solution based in Open Jorum.


Two individual projects have established links with international partners. While neither articulated the ethical concerns that some projects in other strands have expressed about OER release by UK HEIs in the context of a global market for education, they do evidence different approaches: donation, and sharing of experience.

The main beneficiaries of OER release, so far, appear to have been the OER originators, largely through reflection gained via student/user feedback. All projects have commented on the benefits gained in this way, and the improvement to their materials.


OER release may also affect the roles of their originators. Several projects evidence a changing relationship between teachers and learners, to a less hierarchical, more equal one. This is particularly true of projects that have involved learners as producers of OERs. For ChemistryFM, the desire for such a change was a driver for production of OERs at the outset. Where the project has realised a marketing potential, the academic role has acquired a marketing component it did not previously have.


Detailed questions and evidence

What are the current norms for sharing educational content in different communities? What global or local trends are in evidence?

The ethics of OER release by UK HEIs in the context of a global market for education.


Two models of internationalisation are apparent among individual projects:

  • donation of materials to other countries (EVOLUTION)
  • dialogic sharing of experience (openSpace)


In many cases the pilot projects are defining the norms for their institution/community

There has been a change in attitude at an institutional level with some of the OER related protocols being channelled upwards... Other outcomes that require further mention include the alteration of school policies, procedures and processes to support the sharing of educational resources... The capitalisation of the existing projects such as the repurposing of some of the clearance and takedown protocols used in the Bradford University Repository (BROME final report)
BROME take down policy

  • EVOLUTION design method used by UCLan academics
  • Guide to re-use and use of OERs available to all registered users (EVOLUTION final report)


During the course of the project, another member of staff approached CERD for help making her teaching resources, ‘Pencils and Pixels’, available as OERs (Chemistry FM final report)
Chemistry FM reflection on "Pencils and Pixels"


Subject area influences openness in a number of ways:

  • the degree of localisation of the subject: eg.

The state of release was minimal in the area of law; this is due in part to the heterogeneous nature of the various international legal systems...There is not a huge amount of legally related material currently available on line, as for the most part law is specific to nation states and this worldwide usage is unlikely unless focus is place in the legal skills aspect of provision of themes of law that are more generic and thus can be transferred to different countries (BROME final report)

  • disciplinary culture: eg.

One of the internal review team mentioned that lawyers may be more aware of the risk and issues related to copyright than other areas, this was not agreed by all the members of the review team however it does deserves some thought (BROME final report)

  • the commercial nature of the subject – in this case as evidenced by the type of CC license agreed upon:

We have opted for a more restrictive ‘Non-Commercial’ Creative Commons license for a number of reasons. UCF academic staff are largely active practitioners within their creative fields. The work they produce has a commercial value and is commercially sensitive. Particularly with MA Professional Writing, tutors provide examples from their own practice. Unlike an algebra equation, which is more than likely constant and ‘universal’, a script is a highly individual piece of work with a value that is not only derived from the actual words or ideas – but from the author. What is being protected has an intellectual ownership as much as intellectual property rights. The value of what a tutor could earn in their professional practice could be harmed by the perception by a television or film production company, a magazine, newspaper, etc that they ‘give their work away for free’. Such a perception could negatively impact on a tutor’s ability to negotiate fees for their work. (openSpace final report)

  • choice of technology/medium for release: eg.

Vimeo was chosen because of the quality of the videos. They can be loaded at a higher quality than those on youTube (though this has now changed with the introduction of HD). It was also felt that Vimeo was the choice of many other organisations offering screen casts. We wanted to link up and connect with these people. We felt that many professional/industry multimedia people might use Vimeo. We were able to load the same MPEG4 videos that were used on MMTV.com. (MMTV final report)


Cultures surrounding different technologies also affect openness and the choice of technology

The only deviation from the bid proposal was the substitution of forums for wikis. It was felt that forums would be more ‘recognisable’ to OE users – and the rules governing the appropriate and correct usage of forums (i.e. ‘Netiquette”) would be better known and understood than those for wikis (openSpace final report)


Staff are often willing to be open if ties in with/triggered by other needs (such as course review, adapting content for new business partner)

One particular example that is worth noting is the recent activity within our department in reformulating curricula in advance of introduction of new modular degree programmes (Oct 2010). A number of staff in the digital electronics domain have been working together on revising and restructuring the digital electronics curriculum content. It was noted that having an equivalent capability in JBB tools to those in our own labs would be very useful for teaching purposes. As a result we started a new final year student project, during the OER project, which will provide the ability to include specific FPGA/CPLD chips that are to be used in the real lab-work. We are now hoping to use JBB in several parts of the 1st year curriculum as a common study tool. (Java Breadboard final report)


What motivates and supports/enables individuals to make their content open? What are effective mechanisms of reward and recognition?

Achieving academic staff buy-in continues to challenge projects


The “not invented here” culture may be a barrier to achieving staff buy-in: eg.

A change in culture is needed in many academic departments to avoid the “not invented here” objections to the use of OERs (EVOLUTION final report)


Another barrier to staff buy-in may be the fear of being no longer needed: eg.

On discussing open educational e-learning an internal response from an academic was “yes and they [management] will employ us as part timers to update our own work for an hour a week.” (BROME final report)


Ethos, philanthropy and innovation are enablers:

So at present future release of OERs is based in a general interest in open education, philanthropy or a view that open education is exciting (openSpace final report)


Having found a way of resourcing OER production through integration with tuition design, ChemistryFM are sceptical about the value of mandating at senior level:

At the conclusion of the project, we remain convinced of the importance of sharing teaching and learning resources under a license which allows for re-use, such as Creative Commons. However, we are sceptical as to whether the production of OERs should be institutionalised in a formal way. (Cheimsitry FM final report)


A range of more global trends and institutional factors may present barriers: eg.

OER is simply about sharing and that much can be achieved with the technologies already in place, without further investment. The biggest barriers to sharing are factors not directly related to OER, such as the increasingly commercial nature of education, the workload pressures on teaching staff, the increasing ratio of staff to students, and the lack of professional incentives in the sector for teachers to share their work (Chemistry FM final report)


Lack of staff time, and institutional pressures for efficiency, may be a barrier where the institution has not bought-in to OERs:

Barriers to achieving impact largely relate to the lack of staff time to adopt different working practices and the competent use of technologies. Collaboration with students has helped overcome both of these issues to some degree, but the creation of OERs has always necessarily been secondary to the running of the course itself and therefore subject to the pressures of the academic timetable. Aside from the general pressures of efficiency on staff, there are no specific institutional barriers to staff creating OERs if they wish (Chemistry FM final report)


The prospect of enhancement of personal reputation as well as acquiring new skills motivates some individuals: eg.

Due to the success of TTV.com many members of staff were keen to release their content and so Savraj Matharu, Mike Taylor and Paul Trotter all released content onto the site. We agreed on a payment for any re-purposing or production work that had to be done, based on contact hours... The staff felt they were going to learn something ( and many did as they became involved in much wider aspects of the project) and they felt it may benefit them professionally ( especially as they had seen the impact of TTV.com for Russell Stannard) (MMTV final report)


What are the institutional, legal, cultural barriers to open content?

Use of third party content is a barrier – but the process of reflection forced by overcoming this barrier may be a benefit: eg.

Previously, the course materials used third-party copyrighted illustrations and drawings, which we could not license for use. Therefore a great deal of effort was put into creating our own versions of these resources. This process is now complete and the long-term benefits of having done this are clear. This is an intensive and detailed process which forces teaching staff to examine their existing work in detail. (Chemistry FM final report)


This project has not been able to keep to the non creation intention as often as intended as it has been easier to rework or create a workaround in regard to material that had been embargoed by rights being asserted by other parties. However once you have proceeded through a rights clearance exercise it indentifies some of the sticking points that can arise. These sticking points can then be worked around when designing the next batch of materials. Starting the creation of materials with an agenda or intention to release within the parameters of OER will remove many, if not all, of the problems found with retrospective rights clearance. (BROME final report)


Concern about the impact on the reputation of the originating author and institution when OERs are repurposed is a barrier:

If an academic’s teaching materials were used badly i.e. changed so they were incorrect or became out of date (as certain areas of the law is always changing) intuitional brand damage could take place also the perception individual academic could be affected. An argument could be made that this could happen anyway whether the material was released under OER terms or not, however it is less likely to happen if only your students and colleges can see it and there is not an invitation to repurpose the material. (BROME final report)


Liability for the conduct of forums is also an institutional concern that has affected individual projects: eg.

One of the issues we have encountered is the issue of developing a user community using appropriate technical tool such as discussion groups. Although these facilities are of course widely available and technically do not present problems, the issue is of ownership – if a university employee sets up a discussion group then the university is ultimately responsible for its content, and this would imply a level of monitoring and support that could not be justified or supported. It would make the university legally responsible to ensure that the user forum does not contain anything illegal or defamatory in nature.It should however be less problematic to establish a closed forum, which UK academics can join. This is also an area we may investigate in the future. If Jorum were able to provide a facility to set up discussion threads aligned with each Jorum Deposit, this would remove a significant obstacle for wider engagement with the potential user community. The idea being that the community would ideally ‘help itself’ by virtue of the discussion process, and occasional input from experts. (Java Breadboard final report)


Who benefits from release of content? How do they perceive and understand those benefits?

The OER originator through reflection gained via student/user feedback Staff perceive the value of reflection and increased quality: eg.

It is one of our assumptions that sharing course materials in an open fashion invites feedback from the end users: students, professionals, academics and higher education institutions using our materials to supplement their course materials... Feedback fosters tutor reflection, encouraging our tutors to approach their subject with a fresh perspective. Tutors gain new transferrable skills when digitising their course materials. eLearning pedagogy is enhanced through discussions between academic teams and departments which include Learning and Teaching, Learning Technology, Academic Services and Senior Management. We perceive that this supports academic rigour and the quality of the learning and teaching experience at UCF. (openSpace final report)


How does the opening of learning resources affect the roles of individuals?

May enhance the reputation of some – and give them an increased marketing role:eg.

It was found that the website [teachertrainingvideos.com] was giving the author, Russell Stannard, a bigger educational profile and lots of marketing and publicity opportunities (MMTV final report)


OER production may be used deliberately to help change the role of students and their relationship with staff: eg.

The idea of the 'student as producer' has been discussed in detail elsewhere and is central to the direction of Teaching and Learning at the university, led by the Centre for Educational Research and Development (Chemistry FM final report)


Specifically, OER production and licensing may be used to flatten the hierarchy between staff and students, building a commons according to the “Teaching in Public framework” philosophy at Lincoln:

This project confirms our belief that the flattening of hierarchy between teachers and students can be scaffolded through the use of open licenses for research, teaching and learning materials, in the way that open licenses help define working relationships in open source software development (Chemistry FM final report).


Evidence of changing culture in institution

Brome: "it has also succeeded in facilitating an institutional change in the perception towards open educational resources ....Other work in the form of learning and teaching research grant applications, consultancy and subject specific grant applications has used the skills that have been acquired in this project."

openSpace: "In the short to near term, the openSpace project team are advocates for open education and release of OERs. The team is speaking to a number of courses interested in releasing OERs."

ChemistryFM: "During the course of the project, another member of staff approached CERD for help making her teaching resources, ‘Pencils and Pixels’, available as OERs." [[ http://joss.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2009/10/29/pencils-and-pixels-publishing-oers-using-wordpress-and-eprints/|Blog post about Pencils and Pixels]]

Evolution: "design and development workshops for UCLan and the wider academic community"

MMTV: "Due to the success of TTV.com many members of staff were keen to release their content"

Java Breadboard: "...third parties, or ourselves, can develop further features to extend the use of the toolsets into new areas. This is indeed the case at present, A Final year student has recently completed a new interface tool..."


Summary of international working


Potential partners (in contact with)



Brazilian OER project; Press release syndicated by Chines and Indian agencies



Unesco; OER Africa Possible translation into Chinese



British Council; Beijing Central Normal University



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