OER Synthesis and Evaluation / Cascade: Practice Change
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Cascade: Practice Change

Page history last edited by Lou McGill 12 years, 5 months ago

Part of Phase2 Cascade strand synthesis


'Practice change' in this section refers to the practices of developing, sharing and releasing open educational resources which have been directly targetted with UK OER funding. How are these practices evolving, and what role are projects playing in that evolution? Under impacts and benefits we explore changing practices in using and re-using OERs for learning and teaching. These uses/re-uses provide the background and context for UK OER funding, and are also where potential benefits and impacts will be seen. They are not directly funded activities.


These links  allow you to jump to the appropriate section on the page




What are the main motives and barriers to practice change in this area?


Motitations to engage in OER development and release are still very diverse, from personal commitments (e.g. to widening opportunity, to a threatened subject area, to the value of public education) to pressure from managers and the promise of career enhancement. Note that personal motives are not the same as benefits, though there is some overlap in these categories. A person may be motivated by anticipated benefits, to herself or other stakeholders (e.g. her students), if the likelihood and value of these benefits is high enough. People are also motivated to avoid negative consequences, as we see in this list, or by simple expediency.


1. At many institutions there is pressure on staff to make efficiency savings in content production i.e. not to reinvent the wheel (OERCafe), and there is evidence that OERs can offer such savings if they are considered over a long enough timescale and a broad enough area of content production.

Staff believe OERs can save time and money (OSTRICH FE college staff survey) 

Related to this, there is a 'belief that OERs could relieve the pressure on staff in terms of workload and teaching procedures which could free up time for more student-centred activities' (ADM final report)


2. The value of OERs is clearly recognised when material must be delivered across disparate courses, sites, or subject areas (OERCafe). An ADM survey found staff 'generally enthusiastic about developing open educational practises particularly in relation to cross-institutional and inter-institutional collaboration'


3. Teachers are beginning to recognise the potential for personal reputation enhancement (OERCafe, ADM)


4. There is also a drive to use OERs to promote the institution to external markets (OERCafe - which cites impressive impact figures from the University of Coventry) and additionally to evidence the impact of institutional research (Ripple)

The RAE used to measure impact by the quantity of research publications in reputable journals; now [with the REF] there is a new impact in the open arena via Google, and it provides a great marketing tool. One of our resources now comes top of a Google search. We are repurposing formerly turgid research into something usable that gives you credibility that other materials could never give. (Ripple final report)


5. Institutional VLEs are currently the main mechanism through which staff share teaching materials with students. The near-ubiquitous use of VLEs means that a steady stream of potentially suitable content is being produced and uploaded. However, there are both technical and psychological hurdles to overcome if staff are to make these materials available for global access. The existence of an institutional repository and/or strategic approach to content management seem to improve the motivation to release OERs, along with appropriate technical support.

EdShare is viewed as an important facility by some staff within the institution.  (ADM final report)


Barriers are often simply the flip side of these motivations.


1. In practice, at least in the short term and from a local perspective, staff expected an increased workload if they were required to adapt or develop and quality assure materials suitable for open release (ADM, OERCafe)


2. This is coupled with an ongoing lack of real incentives or recognition for that work:

For many staff the efforts required to meet the perceived external requirements of open publication outweighed the possible benefits. (OERCafe FE college survey)


3. Many staff lack confidence in their own material and/or believe that OERs should show high quality production values which they would struggle to achieve. Among RIPPLE partners, there was initially a sense of discouragement at the quality of Oxford University's open content. At the University of Southampton, an ADM partner institutions, 'The university has an iTunes U account and this has set a standard, this can discourage staff engagement with [release of more informal] open resources' (ADM final report)

4. There are concerns about how OERs can change professional roles and relationships, and might even threaten jobs in a time of staff cuts.

“Does it add depth or take away from what we do?'
'Threat to jobs … the concerns over redundancy.'

'Is it a replacement for what we do?' (all ADM)

Beyond the concern for jobs, ADM partners discussed whether open content was really the right focus for a discipline that is developed through practice. Similarly 'at Derby one academic in Education withdrew from the project because she felt that her teaching materials were inappropriate as OERs as they were not content-centric but rather based on directed study'. (OSTRICH final report) 


5. One project noted a concern that if learning and teaching materials were openly available, this might actually discourage attendance at University in subject areas where formal qualifications are less significant to employers than experience and expertise: 'by sharing we may risk people not coming here to the University' (ADM focus group participant)


Barriers operating particularly in the FE sector include:

- Even greater pressures on staff time than in HE

- A lack of staff training and technical assistance (OERCafe)

 - Typically, no in-house repository or content management system

- Confidence gap: FE staff who understand 'shared resources' to be the high production-value, nationally branded and quality assured materials previously produced by Becta are unlikely to feel confident in the quality and value of their own materials.

- Credulity gap: staff who do not find resources of a high quality when seeking OERs, and who do not trust their provenance or the motives for releasing them, are unlikely to be motivated to release OERs themselves.


The main barrier at the individual level limiting generation of OERs by staff working in the HE in FE sector is lack of confidence. In order for OERs to take off in the HE in FE sector it may be necessary to promote greater cross-institution collaboration. This would build on the culture of sharing resources which already exists within FE colleges. However, it is unlikely that such collaboration would emerge “bottom-up” given the pressures on staff in the sector. (OER Cafe final report)


How is practice changing?


From the pilot phase of UK OER we concluded that informal sharing of learning and teaching materials is common practice, though carried out through different channels by different departments and subject areas. This continues to be a theme. Academics seem most likely to look for teaching materials when they are dealing with new or unfamiliar subject matter.


As confirmed in much greater detail by the OER Impact Study of the University of Oxford TALL team, both teachers and students make extensive use of online content, though they may not think of this as 'sharing' or 'reuse', let alone be familiar with the concept of OERs. The ADM final report noted that, in the art and design subject community at least, 'these practices are driven by individual need rather than institutional practice'. Apart from those closely associated with the funded projects, there appears to be a low level of OER awareness and limited understanding of licenses. Google, and extensions of google e.g. scholar, remain the most popular means of finding content (C-SAP study finding, confirmed by the OER Impact Study).


Other findings on current practice from the C-SAP study - bearing in mind that this is among a particular subject area, though generally well supported by the OER Impact Study):


- Trust is key – people prefer in-house resources or those from reputable publishers

- Licensing is not seen as an issue within academic institutions

- Own data sets are preferred for teaching

- Disciplinary origin less important than using examples which resonate for students (this may be particular to the CSAP disciplines which make use of a wide variety of data sets and make a virtue of interdisciplinarity)

- Most academics are not keen to develop, release, submit OERs


1. Against this baseline, the most significant area in which practice appears to be changing, under the influence of UK OER funding, is towards greater awareness and use of open licenses. The pilot phase developed a range of free-standing materials to guide individuals and teams, which continue to be adopted and used. In this second phase, good practice in copyright clearance and  licensing is also being built into institutional policy.

Ripple has broadened the relevance and appreciation of the legal aspects of material offered under open access to a wider group of academics and this is improving the embedding of the surrounding work practices. It has also highlighted the value of appropriate and pragmatically applicable metadata and it is now apparent to teaching colleagues that cataloguing their assets effectively improves their discoverability. (Ripple final report)

Bath’s intellectual property policy guidance document now includes reference to OERs, as a direct result of OSTRICH. Bath also created a “Deed of Licence” which academic staff are required to sign to permit the university to release materials as OERs, and consent documents based on JISC and Web2rights templates (available here). Bath and Derby have created a joint takedown policy for OERs, which has been developed from the existing Bath research publications repository takedown policy, and amended to take into account good practice from the OTTER and JorumOpen repositories. (OSTRICH final report)


2. A secondary area of practice change has been towards a greater awareness of branding, corporate identity, and marketing opportunities around OER release:

Awareness of the implications, obligations and limitations of branding during the generation of materials has been a useful outcome of the Ripple project and has influenced the pragmatics of corporate identity management in the production processes at Harper Adams. (RIPPLE final report)


3. Phase one identified the considerable costs of open release in terms of time and expertise. In phase two, Cascade projects tried to build open release into existing processes, and to exploit opportunities such as course review and revalidation when content development was being undertaken anyway.


4. UKOER funding has undoubtedly influenced the direction and speed of travel at funded institutions, not least in promoting collaborative development. As a direct outcome of the Ripple project, for example, the two Cascade partners are now working together to develop resources of mutual interest and benefit.


In terms of effecting practice change - of which more evidence appears in other sections of this report - the OSTRICH project concluded that 'both top-down and bottom-up engagement are necessary for success, right from the beginning' and 'evidence is the key to credibility'. This project's final report includes a useful table of changes to attitudes and practices observed among its key stakeholders. 


What kinds of expertise are key to changing practice? 


In a climate of constrained funds and anxiety about staff employment and roles, it is increasingly difficult to recruit, develop and retain the specialist expertise required for OER initiatives. Projects commented on the expertise they had been able to gather and draw upon, but it was not always clear how this expertise was being embedded and whether it would be lost to the institution once funding ended.


Academic teaching staff need experience of using OERs in their own teaching to support good decisions about development/release and 'help to situate themselves in the OER landscape' (OERCafe). The OSTRICH team identified a need for expertise in developing 'content to benefit the wider community, including prospective students and self-learners' and in '[reviewing] OERs from elsewhere ... as an integral part of curriculum design process'. Ripple were concerned that staff should understand the value of tagging material to aid discovery, even if they did not address complex metadata requirements themselves. All Cascade projects offered workshops for teaching staff, covering a range of OER issues from basic awareness to technical aspects of IPR and hosting. In some final reports there was evidence that this expertise was being embedded into more generic staff development and training, though usually at a lower level of detail and complexity:

Generic training offered re. Moodle, setting up modules, assessments etc. ...Ironically, some staff manage well without training and they find their own tools etc. (OER Cafe)


Professional/support staff were identified as critical in a range of roles: 'where OER facilities and support are already in place there is a strong sense of the benefits of open educational practice' (ADM). The kind of support required included:

- e-learning/content production: support for open design and production, reaching a global audience (OSTRICH); flash and multimedia design (ADM)

- IT infrastructure: a range of background issues, e.g. 'the bandwidth, the servers' (ADM) 

- IT services/content management team: support for and hosting of open repository (OSTRICH)

- marketing/communications: awareness of branding issues and corporate identity management (Ripple)

- legal: a broad appreciation of legal aspects of content use, release and re-use, not limited to open licences and third party IPR but for example around consent for image capture (ADM, Ripple)

- library/content management: appropriate and pragmatically applicable metadata' (Ripple) 'greater awareness amongst library staff about open content [including] discussions with research publications repository manager' [OSTRICH]


Senior/strategic managers were referenced in several final reports. ADM staff expressed a need for 'greater coordination' to support open educational practices; Ripple advocated addressing 'key decision makers... before developing technical and legal expertise ' as 'policy decisions can be an obstacle to allowing new activities to take place'.


Projects were often able to facilitate new conversations and ongoing partnerships across different roles and departments, extended for example to finance, human resources, and the research/knowledge transfer office. A clear recommendation from the strand is for institutions to take a strategic view of the expertise required to engage with open content: it cannot be found or developed in a single location.


How have different means of sharing expertise proved effective?


All five final reports expressed the view that the sharing of expertise was not a one-way street. The subject-based projects by their nature were more able to define events as fairly open-ended discussions or focus groups, and in this context both queried whether 'cascade' was an appropriate metaphor. Openness to ideas, recognition of contextual differences, negotiation of meanings and co-creation of materials were important to the ADM and CSAP projects just as they are to learning and teaching in those subject areas. The ADM project worked across: 'six sites, each with a local action plan that was discussed, commented on, developed iteratively, and with ownership of the process devolved to a local lead. Six associated focus groups with the aim of engendering critical engagement with the pedagogic, technological and other cultural implications of open educational practice'. Evaluation reports from the partner sites record that the OER agenda was successfully aligned with local priorities and educational practices. The main evaluation report concludes that 'it is important to maintain a balance between institutional ‘regulation’ and staff ‘autonomy’, in the context of a more wholesale push towards open education.'  Similarly the C-SAP project final report notes that 'the success of the project partly derives from a team model constituted by locals (C-SAP staff/agents) who possess institutional knowledge, and outsiders (non-C-SAP staff) who bring on board experiences from the wider disciplinary context).  


The other three projects were hosted by leading OER institutions, and the engagement of partners was at least partly predicated on an expectation of 'knowledge transfer' from leaders in the field. Two of these - Leicester and Oxford - used workflow models to support OER release in the new contexts. The Leicester CORRE framework proved directly transferable to one of the partner institutions, but in the second was revised to support more ab initio development, becoming the DORRE framework. In both cases, integrating OER development into the workflow of existing academic support teams proved highly successful as a change strategy. Evidence about the implementation of CORRE by projects beyond the Cascade strand is collated elsewhere on this wiki.

The depth of detail CORRE gives in the checklists and tracking sheets about the decisions that need to be taken during each stage of the conversion formed a useful starting point for informing and guiding participants in the project. (University of Bath, internal evaluation) 


All five approached the sharing of expertise through variations on the theme of workshops/events with supporting resources.

The Ripple project had considerable success with workshops held in the cascade institutions, to foster a sense of ownership and collaboration. These developed a CAMEL element in that different topics attracted different members of staff. 'Some participants attended a number of the workshops and seemed to form the ‘core team’ from that partner, but a number of participants attended just one event which was most relevant to them and partners found a significant benefit from this arrangement'. Lessons learned about running workshops included:

- general persuasion and awareness raising should come first, before more technical issues (IPR can be particularly intimidating) 

 - not everyone involved needs to have the same expertise - respect specialisms

- include opportunities to share practice and ideas

Materials to support practice change are detailed in the page on outputs, along with evidence of their impact.


Word of mouth is a key driver of change in institutions, which is another reason to ensure that projects reach people in a wide range of institutional roles and locations.


C-SAP was typical of Cascade projects in taking up a wide range of web 2.0 technologies both to communicate about available OERs and project progress (blog, twitter, wiki, slideshare) and also to develop collaborative resources (prezi, mindmeister). This ties in with emerging practice towards the end of Phase 1 when projects began to see raising awareness of released OERs as a critical aspect of the release process and of future discoverability. The project notes that 'our engagement with Web2.0 tools is closely related to our attempts at modelling best practice with regard to copyright and open education'.

Ripple also noted that communication with partner/cascade institutions can itself challenge practices to be more open: the blogging system at Oxford University could not be set up to allow external team members to post, forcing use of a third party solution.


Joint public communications also helped to cement relationships and - by fostering reflection - to embed practice change. Among the six ADM partners there were examples of joint conference presentations, the showcasing of pedagogic research work, and the collaborative development of case studies.


There were many asides in project reports which suggested that partnership arrangements had helped to transfer technical expertise and so support technical developments - from interactive guidance at De Montfort University to an institutional repository at the University of Hertfordshire - that were critical to future open educational practices: 'We need external and internal systems in place' to do this.

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