OER Synthesis and Evaluation / Cascade: Institutional Issues
  • If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Finally, you can manage your Google Docs, uploads, and email attachments (plus Dropbox and Slack files) in one convenient place. Claim a free account, and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) can automatically organize your content for you.


Cascade: Institutional Issues

Page history last edited by Lou McGill 9 years, 8 months ago

Part of Phase2 Cascade strand synthesis


Jump to the appropriate section on this page



In what roles do we find OER advocates and how are they effecting change?

What new capacities and expertise do institutions require?

These questions link very closely to the issue of expertise covered in Development and Release


A few additional points:

Ripple found it important to win over key champions at a high level, even before people in technical and professional roles. ADM likewise targeted course leaders as champions and conduits of information.

Because the roles involved in open development and release are so diverse, different approaches are needed and different messages must be crafted. The OSTRICH project found that tasks identified in the CORRE and revised CORRE workflows did not map closely to institutional roles. However, the project did map changes in attitudes and practices among a range of different stakeholder groups, corresponding to institutional roles.


C-SAP project partners have developed technical skills in formatting, tagging, licensing and depositing OERs but need more support with repurposing and managing/maintaining resources. The OSTRICH project also found a need for more support to create or convert materials for open release, and ADM noted a lack of staff confidence to use emerging technologies and to think more broadly about what an 'open educational practice' might involve. In general, then, institutions need to move beyond a technical approach to expertise and take a more strategic perspective. This could involve supporting individuals in a range of roles to explore the potential of OER and wider open educational practices, and to take ownership of any changes to their professional practice that might be entailed. This is at least in part also a research agenda that could (should?) continue to be pursued by phase 3.


How do different institutions manifest 'OER readiness' and how does this change through engagement with UK OER?

There were slightly conflicting messages about institutional readiness emerging from the Cascade strand. On the one hand, several projects emphasised the need for a strategic vision and senior buy-in.


Lack of management buy-in can cause difficulty for future OER cascading (C-SAP final report). C-SAP specifically suggests that academic managers are critical.

'[We] need a more systematic approach, the relationship between staff and the institution needs to be clarified.' (ADM final report)

Engagement of high level stakeholders [allows] the professional and technical champions to be given the time and resource necessary to engage (Ripple final report)


One area in which a strategic approach can reap clear benefits is in offering staff reward and recognition for their investment in OER:
institutions need to think about budgeting time for OER development and also how best to recognise the efforts of staff involved in OER development as a legitimate teaching and learning activity. (C-SAP)


On the other hand, projects described open educational practices emerging at an individual or departmental level, or being embedded into professional activities in a low-key way. At both Coventry University, where OER is well established, and Lewisham College, where it is not, sharing was progressed by including open approaches into standard staff development (OERCafe). ADM found that even within allied disciplines, different departments might take very different approaches:

Participants in four of the focus groups expressed the view that the term ‘open’ is misleading and there are degrees, and conditions of ‘openness’ that need to be explored in the context of the department. (ADM final report)


The other subject-based project, C-SAP, also found a disciplinary basis for the practices that were emerging, and argued that more needs to be known about, for example:

- information and digital literacy (student ability to use external and internet based resources and the barriers that prevent them from doing so effectively)

- the conditions under which staff are prepared to be innovative

- students’ willingness to engage with OER


Ripple summarised it thus: Each institution has its own policies, politics, and embedded processes for change..... If there is no institutional driver (i.e. top‐down support) achieving change is more difficult but not impossible; it becomes more focussed on the individual rather than the institution... If you are a lone innovator you get ground down. But an initiative that helps people to focus and to realise that they are part of a groundswell gives a threshold effect.


Projects also noted some intermediate stages en route to OER 'readiness'

(From Ripple partner Oxford Brookes) 'We can’t go straight to open release with many items but now there is increased activity, and some new items will now go straight to OER or via the intermediate stage of the teaching collection within RADAR.

The most open CC licenses (e.g. CC‐BY or CC‐BY‐SA) can be challenging for early adopters to accept, and a more cautious approach may be required to gain acceptance from risk‐averse institutional policy makers.(quote from?)


The section on impact provides more detail on how projects have advanced institutional readiness.


How do institutions differ in terms of OER release, adoption and use?

Findings from the Cascade strand confirm those from the phase 1 institutional strand, that there are different cultures of openness at different institutions. This is not as simple as a single dimension from closed to open: rather there are many different ways in which institutions can support open educational practices and start to move towards more open policies wrt educational resources. An attempt to characterise these organisational factors – arising from the interim programme meeting of the Cascade strand – was as follows.

  • Open licensing of content: how far is this allowed, assumed, actively supported? (Impact measure – how much learning and teaching content is openly licensed in practice?)

  • Hosting and managing of learning and teaching content: how well does the institution support this and how open are its resources? (Impact measures: investment in institutional repository and other content management systems; open repository?)

  • OER awareness/use: to what extent are OERs seen as an integral part of the digital resource environment? (Impact measures: engagement of library and learning resources with OER issues; institutional guidance to staff/students on use of digital resources includes OERs)

  • Curriculum design: to what extent are OERs integral to curriculum and course design?

  • Reputation management: to what extent are open educational resources an aspect of marketing and reputation management? (Impact measures: data on downloads etc is actively collected by marketing or similar unit; any evidence of OER use influencing choice of course/institution)

  • Use of web 2.0 services to host and access content: to what extent is this allowed, assumed, actively supported? (Impact measures: how much learning and teaching content is web 2.0 accessible? Is there a contract with i-tunes-U, youtube-edu etc?)

  • Support to staff: what legal, technical and pedagogic support is available?

  • Staff expertise: what staff development is available that specifically deals with OER issues?

  • Staff reward and recognition: how are staff recognised for making learning and teaching content openly available? Are staff confident that the impact on their reputation will be positive?

  • Quality systems: how far have these been adapted to support the development and use of OERs? Have any OER-specific quality issues been formalised or noted (e.g. in relation to branding, technical format...)?

  • Role of e-learning teams: anecdotally an issue: how would we assess this and what would be the likely impacts?


The wider political context also impacts on cultures of sharing open learning resources. For example, teaching in the Welsh medium has been the catalyst for sharing Welsh learning resources due to the small number of users/resources and less competition between institutions. Political initiatives such as UK OER itself have undoubtedly driven release, and can provide an antidote to more restrictive or protectionist academic cultures. At the same time, though, teaching staff have reacted to the perception (rightly or wrongly) that Open Educational Resources undermine the teaching/learning relationship and potentially might even make it easier for institutions to reduce staff numbers.


Different rewards/recognition are available in different locations, e.g. at Coventry, recognition is for research outputs but lecturers may be given a lighter teaching load in order to prepare / develop materials. At Lewisham College, time for development is seen as a reward in itself. At Warwickshire College, HE staff complete scholarly activity logs and these pen portraits are showcased to enhance reputation and esteem. C-SAP suggested that: 'Institutions need to respond to the question of whether OER can be viewed as “publication” in the same sense as other academic publications' before credible models of recognition can be developed.


Cascade institutions regarded their partner institutions not as less developed but as different – and therefore as offering opportunities to discuss, enhance and test approaches to OER. The C-SAP final report explicitly challenges the idea of cascade: ' if you are being cascaded to that might imply having less power; we need to critique and challenge that concept' (Critical Friend). And the OSTRICH project sought the opinions of stakeholders at Bath and Derby and contrasted them with findings from the original phase 1 institution, Leicester. Although the CORRE framework required significant modification for the Bath context - to support ab initio development of open content rather than significant repurposing - nevertheless this situation has given rise to two different but essentially generalisable workflows for open content release.


Specific findings on the differences between HE and FE institutions in relation to OER release.

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.