OER Synthesis and Evaluation / OpenPracticesIssues
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Page history last edited by Helen Beetham 8 years, 11 months ago

This page is part of the Open Practices briefing paper


Common issues in open educational practices

There are different cultures of openness at different institutions and in different sectors (see the Open practice across sectors briefing paper on this site) but we can identify some common issues that arise across all the different practices we have described. Addressing these issues in a conscious and strategic fashion is likely to help institutions move towards more open practices in a managed way.


Legal and contractual issues (see also Phase2 Development and Release Issues): this includes managing IPR, managing consent, and open licensing. How free are members of staff to openly release research and teaching content? What policies, advice and support are in place to help them? Although many excellent resources have been developed by JISC Legal and Web2Rights, and are summarised in the OER infokit, we have seen that local expertise is valuable in applying these principles to specific contexts.


Technical and data management issues (see also Phase2 Development and Release Issues): this includes hosting and management of open research/educational resources e.g. in open repositories; access to third party services/applications to support educational and scholarly interactions; exposure of institutional data where appropriate to support interoperability and open sharing across institutional boundaries. The OER infokit and Open Data infokit describe some of the technical challenges in different areas of the open landscape. However, all agree that managing data and information systems for open access requires strategic oversight and joined up thinking.


Cultural inertia/cultural change (see also Phase2 Practice change and Phase2 Cultural Considerations): open practices challenge existing cultures of academic institutions and subject areas, while at the same time upholding some values that are very long-established (such as public access to knowledge, transparency of research methods, and open peer review). The JISC round-table debate on open access recently concluded that a mixed culture of open and closed practices would be a reality for some time to come. The picture is the same in open educational resources and open research. Some institutions and subject areas are embracing the open agenda wholeheartedly while others remain sceptical, for reasons that may be historical or cultural, or may simply reflect the personal views of key players. It seems likely that the benefits of 'opening up' will accelerate as the volume of available resources grows, and that there may be a tipping point beyond which open access becomes the norm and special processes will have to be applied to keep learning, research and knowledge transfer materials in a closed environment. But we are some way off this yet, and work is still needed to define and communicate the benefits.


Roles, responsibilities and rewards (see also Phase2: impacts on staff): open practices demand new kinds of expertise and this expertise needs to be rewarded, whether through financing of new roles or recognition for new skills that existing staff have developed. Open practices often cross boundaries between academic and para-academic roles, and can have powerful consequences for how academics perceive and play out their identities. How are staff recognised for their contributions to open learning materials or open research? Are staff confident that the impact on their reputation and career will be positive?


These issues are strongly tied up with – indeed are manifestations of – cultural attitudes to the open agenda. After struggling to put their work on a sustainable footing, many UK OER projects concluded that for open release of educational materials to become mainstream, there would need to be significant changes in the rewards associated with teaching and learning. If this conclusion seems to pit teaching against research, there are tensions within both area of academic life between an ethos of public access to knowledge (and a history of public funding) and a requirement on institutions to make best use of their knowledge resources.


In concluding this brief review of issues, we need to note that the needs of different stakeholders in open practices can be at odds. One effect of openness is to uncouple people in time and space, making connection easier, but complex negotiation of needs, understandings and perceptions more difficult. This is true for learners and teachers, for institutions and (potential) students, for researchers and stakeholders in their research. Different stakeholders also have different priorities and motivations. While for staff personal recognition and reward is key, student motivation to engage with open materials is more about the quality of their learning experience and the relevance of the resources to their learning goals. Resources designed for HE students may not be useful to the public in general. Resources made accessible to learners in informal contexts by including pedagogic support are made less valuable to teachers who want to repurpose them in different pedagogic contexts. Open scholarship has its equivalent compromises.


Go to the next page in the Open Practices briefing paper: Conclusions

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