Subject Strand Business Cases and Benefits Realisation


Summary

Projects found plenty of enthusiasts ready to attest to the benefits they had experienced from involvement in OER. However, surveys tended to surface doubts that the business case for OER has yet been made, that mainstream academics would be willing to devote the necessary time, or that engagement could be sustained without additional external funding.

 

Many academics involved in the subject strand stated that they were motivated to improve student learning or access to learning, or just because they felt open release was 'the right thing' to do. There seems little reason to disbelieve them, particularly as the same academics were pessimistic about the likelihood of any institutional recognition or reward in the future.

 

A large number of projects and their partners stated that 'sharing' was a given in their community, or an essential part of their ongoing role, and that OERs represented a further opportunity to realise this value. Perhaps because of the subject focus the strand did not uncover many examples of reputational enhancement as either a separate driver to engagement or an actual outcome of it. Share and share alike within a defined community of learning and teaching practice was the explicit business and benefits case for most of the projects. This was more often stated in terms of benefiting from shared learning and teaching ideas than in terms of time saved in materials development.

 

Question

What are effective business cases for different stakeholders?

Project findings

Bioscience: findings

 

S4S: evidence that institutions have seen enhanced reputation through release of OERs and involvement in high quality project. However... S4S: evidence that individuals are not highly motivated by business cases but by practical issues such as saving time.

 

Humbox findings

 

OERP: There are incentives for engaging in developing OER, which are not financial, and these are different for each academic. Quote: '‘Determine motivations for individuals and the institution in advance, and only proceed with a full understanding of the time involved’

 

Question

What benefits could HE and wider society expect to see from open educational resource release?

Project findings

Bioscience final report findings/conclusions:

 

C-change – type and level of OER released will be dictated by intended benefits e.g. for institutional reputation, level 1 resources will be more appropriate: to meet demand for specialist materials, level 3 will be more appropriate

 

OERP: benefits of sharing (quote): ‘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.’

 

TRUE: potential benefits from OER:

 

OER-CSAP benefits of sharing: the opportunity to openly discuss and share [educational ideas] at this level of detail has been highly valuable. NB the CSAP project focused intensively on describing the educational rational and context for released materials.

 

Question

What particular benefits do subject communities, institutional communities and other communities receive?

Project findings

Humbox interim findings:

 

OERP interim finding: in the current economic climate and the uncertainty over funding for HEI’s, staff levels are being reduced, and the remaining staff are facing increasing workloads and therefore focused on core activities with less time to commit to additional projects

 

PHORUS interim findings:

 

S4S: evidence that involvement in the project has led to better understanding and practical experience of OER release which is being cascaded to others at partner institutions and in the professional body.

 

FETLAR: there may be topic or skill specific benefits e.g. taking a collaborative, inter-departmental approach to 'the maths problem'

 

Bioscience final findings/reflections:

 

SimShare Legal findings:

 

C-Change finding: the reputational case/benefit creates an argument for professional design and high quality, integrated, finished resources with clear branding. This can run counter to the demands of re-use.

 

ADM-OER findings

 

TRUE evaluation suggests that open content benefits new lecturers and those teaching unfamiliar areas more than others.

 

ICS: Benefits experienced:

 

Question

What are the costs of OER release and who typically has to bear them?

Project findings

Costs of release are currently borne by the staff involved. These include staff time for: resource selection; repurposing, quality assurance/review, description/tagging, uploading, and ongoing updating/QE. In addition, if support is not available, staff will have to invest extra time in the early stages upskilling in the areas of copyright, metadata, repositories and open content design.

 

Projects distributed these costs differently, in some cases bringing most of the additional activities into the core team, in other cases devolving as many activities as possible to partners in the interests of capacity building across the consortium.

 

Few projects felt that the cost and time implications of OER could realistically be borne by academics in the subject community without additional funding.

 

Bioscience final finding/reflection: Each OER originator has an overhead in learning how to produce OERs for future development. Contributors have not only to learn how to adapt the materials but various ‘deep’ technical skills may be required for some more popular resources e.g. Flash programming. The institution will have to provide some support for developing an OER approach to avoid originators having to spend extra time on resource development for the ‘open’ market. However, early costs are highest because staff are gaining skills: once these barriers are overcome, future costs will be lower.

Quotes: potential funders [need to] realise that development of open educational resources is a time consuming process that needs to be planned well in advance to allow sufficient staff time to develop/repackage resources. Producing open content requires a significant individual effort for currently no reward, or incentive

 

S4S: None of our Project Members indicated that they would receive any formal recognition or reward for their work releasing OER or expect any in the near future.

C-Change and others: Starting development of an OER ‘from scratch’ may well cost less than repurposing Level 3 and M-level materials might be reaching a more specialized, 'high stakes' but smaller audience and are associated with higher redevelopment costs.

 

ADM-OER: with budgetary pressures staff find it increasingly difficult to find time to digitise and upload resources. At the same time they are under pressure to commercialise outcomes. Fear that open resources might make teachers redundant. Quote from academic partner: There are no specific reward strategies in place

 

TRUE: main reasons for academics not releasing materials despite an interest in the OER project: time/cost, followed by IPR concerns and concerns about sensitive material

 

Question

What proportion of these costs has been borne by the project: are the costs sustainable without project funding?

Project findings

Biosciences: costs are not sustainable without project funding at present. Quotes from partners: '''each new 'unit' has to be justified financially on a course-by-course basis. However, if we are producing units for use by courses in (eg) 10 universities then the costs should be spread across the sector. But there is no mechanism to do this.' '…I suspect that our funders may see OER as a way of producing cheaper teaching – ie, the unit is produced by one group or individual and then given away to everyone – this is completely the wrong way to improve the quality of teaching material.'''

 

OERP: Funding levels to support OER in the short term must be commensurate with those found elsewhere in academia, such as in research, to sustain the practice in the future.

 

Project outputs and evidence

OERP: outcomes of interviews and focus groups

CORE-Materials: evidence of benefit in promoting / marketing the discipline and quality of Materials Science in UK HE

TRUE: evaluation of specialist community engagement in and benefits from relevant wikis

MEDEV: collaboration toolkit investigating Downes (2006) business case models in the context of 17 MEDEV partners