OER Synthesis and Evaluation / Collections: Institutional Issues
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Collections: Institutional Issues

Page history last edited by isobel.falconer@... 12 years, 8 months ago

A page to record the Institutional Issues evidenced by the Collections Strand.  This is a section of the Phase2 Collections strand synthesis


Unless otherwise stated, all references are to project final reports


You can use the links below to jump to the appropriate point on the page:





How do cultures of OER release, adoption and use differ between different subject disciplines?

Projects generally noted the lack of a culture of OER release, adoption and use across institutional boundaries. 

  • OF (GEES) noted, "a culture of sharing (by traditional methods) within institutions, and enthusiasm for reusing and repurposing the work of others, but less for having own work reused and repurposed in other institutions" (OF (GEES) final report) 
  • "need to encourage the development of a culture where individuals and institutions default to making their material available to others under appropriate licensing" (Delores final report)


Cultural differences noted were not generally between disciplines, but between types of stakeholder.

  • The Delores project argued that the OER requirement of a CC licence is appropriate for teachers, publishers, etc, but is over-restrictive for student users who may need only to read, not to repurpose or publish (Delored final report)
  • The C-SAP project noted a culture gap between the academic community generally and the OER community:
  • Oerbital,, however, noted this culture gap as one between those with a computing background and those from the biosciences: 
    • "Academic culture in Bioscience is not the same as computer science (perhaps less so with bioinformatics and computational biologists) so modifying and building on existing resources is less attractive and unrealistic as no significant credit is obtained" (Oerbital wiki, issues page)


OF (GEES) noted a subdisciplinary cultural distinction in fieldwork between using online resources to enhance in situ experience, and using (different) online materials to replace in situ experience (OF (GEES) final report)


How are existing academic/subject discipline cultures being challenged, strengthened, contested, changed etc through the availability of OERs?

A challenge to the OER community

  • The importance of Google and other popular commercial sites cannot be underestimated; both in terms of the resources they produce and the expectations that they provide the user.  OER repositories are judged in this light and, when this is coupled with an assumption that copyright is of little significance, accounts for the low use of such repositories.(C-SAP final report)

The challenge is not realised

  • The potential challenge of sharing openly is not realised because of low awareness of copyright/licensing and low incentives to share (C-SAP final report, OF (GEES) final report, Oerbital final report)
  • “There is no strong culture of OER provision at individual or institutional level except in a very restricted set of institutions. The default position continues to be that of guarding rights to intellectual property, rather than of finding ways to share and add value to existing material"(Delores final report), from which it would appear that any challenges are to institutional cultures rather than discipline ones.


  • Student expectations and/of academic culture mitigates against using digital resources; use of the resources challenges current assessment methods (C-SAP final report)
  • Student distrust of the academic credibility of digital resources, and lack of the digital literacy to use them, challenges the assumption of academics about "digital natives" (C-SAP final report)
  • A concern was also raised that making materials openly available might open oneself up to negative judgement from colleagues because of the perception of putting oneself forward as a self-appointed expert without adequate peer review. These views illustrate how the topic of licensing touches on sensitive issues of professional identity “  (C-SAP expert group in final report)
  • Bringing academics and students together on content creation (and flattening the traditional hierarchical relationship between the two) (Triton final report) 


What issues arise in collecting together and sharing disciplinary collections of OERs across institutional boundaries


Institutional issues in collecting together and sharing across institutional boundaries fall into two broad categories: legal and technical. These categories are impacted by institutions' overarching concerns with quality and trust.


Legal - copyright and licencing

  • Projects have noted a lack of institutional awareness about copyright and CC licencing.  This results in many "grey", "non-", "quasi-" OERs (C-SAP, Delores, OF (GEES), Triton,, EALFCO, Oerbital final reports), 
    •  “grey OERs” are Resources that have been created and/or deposited with the intention of being shared within an institutional context, yet lack the distinctive features of OERs such as a creative commons licence.(from C-SAP paper ‘Creating and finding research methods OERs in the social sciences: The role for a community of practice’  submitted to Journal of Interactive Media in Education
    • Awareness raising: "The majority of materials that academics describe they already use and those we have identified as relevant to a resources collection fall into [the grey OER] category. By highlighting how many institutions are not clear about licensing we hope to make the practice of applying CC licenses more common and to make the ... community aware of current limitations in licensing practices. We have evidence that one major university that produces methods related social sciences videos are currently discussing applying the CC license to their outputs." (C-SAP final report) 
  • Institutional barriers may be due to lack of will, or caution regarding IPR, as well as lack of awareness 
    • a number of approaches were made to institutions who were known to have resource repositories the contents of which might be suitable for provisions as OERS. Encouragement to make these available were unsuccessful. It is thought that the reluctance to do so was either because there was no institutional will to go through the process, or because of default behaviour of caution regarding intellectual property rights(Delores final report)
    • institutional ownership of copyright in teaching materials is a barrier in some places (C-SAP final report)
  • Licensing of material from non-academic institutions is a further issue, particularly maps for fieldwork resources (OS maps, digimap, google maps, sketch maps): For example, a common component to fieldwork resources is Ordnance Survey maps. Often it is not possible to release these elements under a CC licence. Following consultation with the OS, however, it has been agreed that authors may publish sketch maps derived from OS materials and release them under a CC licence, providing the appropriate acknowledgements are made (OF (GEES) final report) OF (GEES) blog "Use of sketch maps based on OS materials in OER"  


Legal - responsibility, liability, and datasharing

Legal responsibility is a big issue, especially where institutional reputations are at stake

  • Projects developed letters of agreement for their expert groups, eg. Oerbital: letters of agreement, and simple guidelines of do’s and don’ts, for discipline consultants prepared collaboratively on wiki:
  • Triton, a collaboration between Oxford and Cambridge, both keenly aware of risks to their reputation, found they needed to develop complex legal and oversight agreements: 
    • Development of the legal documentation and processes to support the blog have taken longer and been more complex than anticipated." (Triton interim report)
    • "To ensure the DPIR’s concerns regarding potential risk to the reputation of both universities were addressed the project team consulted with Legal Services at the University of Oxford. This led to a lengthy process of consultation between the two universities legal departments to resolve issues of site ownership and the legal documents required on the site. ...in summary:
      • as the domain name was registered to Oxford, Cambridge was not directly responsible for the site and therefore Oxford could arrange to meet the obligations of running the site itself
      • Cambridge provided permission to use its branding on the site
      • the project would amend the standard Oxford website terms and conditions, the accessibility statement and privacy policy in order to meet the needs of the project site 
      • Cambridge also suggested that the two Universities would need a brief data-sharing agreement to cover the fact that shared site administration would mean that registrant email addresses would be available to both institutions" (Triton final report)
    •  Triton developed an oversight team from both collaborating institutions with responsibility for policy on scope and for signing off posts
      • "Editorial guidelines were developed plus a number of documents were produced to help contributors understand clearly their responsibilities, the ownership of material, the channels for dispute if material needs to be declined and the licences that the material will be released under" (Triton final report)

Technical - Expertise

Several projects evidenced the effect of presence/absence of technical expertise

  • The Delores project chose to use technologies (Waypoint and sux0r) with which they already had considerable expertise (Delores final report)
  • Delores noted the need for support in using technologies with which they were less familiar  “If WordPress is chosen as the front-end more support might be necessary at the programming level to incorporate the necessary OER elements” (Delores interim report)
  • Oerbital noted lack of familiarity in wiki editing by their Design consultants, and developed support pages to help themhttp://heabiowiki.leeds.ac.uk/oerbital/index.php/Help_with_editing 


Technical - Access

Access for non-institutional participants is an issue 

  • Access to Delores dynamic collection through university firewall for external users, “Delores Extensions is currently hosted on a stand-alone server. The through-firewall access to this server by external users is based on a special short-term dispensation by the University of Bath Computer support unit (BUCS) that is subject to review at short intervals. Additionally, use of such a stand-alone server is non-standard provision, which conflicts with BUCS operating policies” Thus the current solution may not be sustainable (Delores final report)
  • Access permissions to the Triton blog are managed by Wordpress, based on policies devised by the oversight group


What issues arise in curation of discipline collections?


  • Training needed for library staff, on whom curation is likely to fall (Delores final report)
  • Expertise in wikis (Oerbital final report)
  • Expertise required within the OF (GEES) team::technical including development of the map-based interface, exploration of the use of Ordnance Survey and other mapping data, and the geo-tagging / geo-parsing of dynamically harvested resources; IPR (including establishing the traffic light system); fieldwork pedagogy; social theory; research methods; community engagement (OF (GEES) final report)




  • Exportability or relocatability of collection (Oerbital final report)
  • Deposit of resources in a central open repository (eg. JorumOpen) with an rss feed (OF (GEES) final report)




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