OER Synthesis and Evaluation / phase3ProcessesForSustainability
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5. Lessons Learned - Processes for Sustainability

Evidence to support this page at: Institutional processes | Legal issues | Sustainability


Individual projects within the programme all address issues of sustainability and have adopted various mechanisms to embed OER and OEP into their everyday activities, at either an individual, community or institutional level.


As the programme drew to a close Phil Barker from JISC CETIS posted a message to the oer-discuss mailing list asking the following question

But what now? The programme has always aimed at sustainable release of resources, change of culture and practice, not just a short burst of activity leading to a one-off dumping of resources. What will happen over the next few years by way of sustained release and which practices are sustainable? Also, of course, from a CETIS point of view, what technologies can help?

This prompted a a seemingly simple question about continued use of the ukoer tag, which developed into the great ukoer tag debate (see the blog post by Lorna Campbell from JISC CETIS) that highlighted the strength of the UKOER community and raised questions about how that community might continue to work together beyond the funded period. This community existed to some extent before the programme (following JISC funded work on repositories, metadata and learning resources and activities, and also from work done by HE Academy Subject Centres) and is in many ways a natural grouping of individuals with expertise and interest in these areas.  The UKOER programme did help to draw together these communities in a new way, partly through the approach to project support that meant much of this expertise was available to projects throughout the programme via the support teams (JISC CETIS, JISC Legal, Jorum team, SCORE, Evaluation and synthesis team, Web2Rights Team). However, the Community has grown as project members have developed their own areas of expertise, brought new insights and viewpoints and been very open to sharing their own practices. This is quite a significant outcome of the programme. Amber Thomas, JISC Programme Manager also talked about the notion of a UK OER commons as being the 'real impact' of the programme in a follow-up post


Many people might still see benefits of signifying their content is contributing to a UK OER commons. That commons is the real impact of the programme and it would be healthy to see that continue.


However our decision about whether to encourage continued use of the “ukoer” tag will not just be about best practice. It is about weighing up best practice against common practice and the cultural considerations. At the risk of sounding like I’m overcomplicating things: it is a socio-technical issue. There is a balance to be made between the stated or tacit requirements of funders, the role Jorum plays for the funders, the role of Jorum for contributors, and the effort of people involved with OER. Of course by contributors, we are talking about the deposit/share point within an institution or team, who need to keep messages and requirements as simple as possible.






Institutional processes

What changes in the policies of your institution or partner organisations have you observed as a result of involvement in OER?

Throughout the UKOER programme institutions involved in projects have had to reconsider existing policies in light of their activities around OER, and in some cases adapt and refine these. Some of these might be expected - such as IPR policies; teaching, learning and assessment strategies and policies; and policies around quality and marketing. Some institutions have chosen to develop policies specifically on OER or OEP. These can take a long time to develop and usually involve cross-institutional effort. A good example if the recent (January 2013) policy/guidance document issued by Leeds University (involved in the UKOER phase two OERbital Project with the UK Centre for Bioscience) which provides excellent guidance for staff at Leeds, including deposit in Jorum and encourages the production of OER. This kind of document gives out clear messages to staff that OER release and use is endorsed and also makes sure that appropriate attention is paid to the institution's reputation and values.


Examples of institutional policies which have been changed during phase three include:

  • IPR policies specifically recognising OER/P as a scholarly activity (ALTO UK)
  • Policy for employing students as interns  following the establishment of procedures and mechanisms for the project (ReACTOR)
  • Development of a Departmental OER strategy statement and embedding withing a five year strategic plan and 'Access for participation' strategy (SESAME)
  • feeding project activities into institutional policy and strategy for scaling up of OER across the institution and development of a Faculty of Health and Life Science Centre for Open Education (HALSOER)


How has your institution supported staff to adopt open practices?

Staff development activities focusing on raising awareness were a significant feature of early project activities. These tended to provide information around benefits and often aimed to allay fears around quality issues, ownership, concerns around exposure and also to highlight the levels of support that were available to support staff through the processes. A clear recognition that skills to release and use OER were an important aspect of general digital literacies meant that several projects took this as a focus for their activities with both staff and students. This has a positive impact on sustainability as digital literacy activities tend to be ongoing.


Workshop activities were linked to guidance documents which provided a key support mechanism for staff as they progressed with OER and OEP. These took the form of FAQs, workflow documents, legal help and technical information. The support projects had developed many useful practical guidance documents by this phase of the programme and these proved to be generally useful, although projects tend to reproduce their own institutionally specific guidance for their own contexts. All the practical guidance developed by support teams and some examples developed by projects have been incorporated into the OER infoKit for wider use.


What institutional enablers and barriers to adoption of open practices have you encountered and how you have addressed them?

Enabler and barriers to the adoption of open practices by individuals is also discussed in the Culture and practices page


Institutional support for skills and digital literacies of both staff and students was cited as an important enabler but also the need for conceptual frameworks for staff.

teachers in our target groups needed assistance with digital skills and confidence in relation to OER creation and also needed some sort of conceptual and practical framework to operate within. (ALTO UK Final Report)


Project based on (and is providing evidence to support) the notion that the barriers to technology-enhanced learning are primarily pedagogic rather than technical.  Its purpose is to explore how to refocus staff time on the participative elements of learning.  For many staff this challenges their underpinning conceptual framework of learning and teaching. (BLOCKeD Interim Report)


Projects developed a range of mechanisms to enable staff to participate and change practice, but saw the provision of long term institutional support through an appropriate infrastructure as crucial to embed these changes in practice and culture.

Enabling busy practitioners to adopt more participative approaches necessarily involves identifying how lecturer time can be saved in other elements of learning.  To achieve this delivery of significant elements of the collaborative learning objects is intended to be self-regulating.  Once the resource is launched participants work independently through the content and the knowledge checks (receiving predetermined feedback on those interactions).  This provides a basis for exploration of the topic in the collaborative element.  Even the collaborative elements start with administrative elements, such as allocation to groups, which are self-regulated.  Whilst this is intended to reduce the tutor workload of detailed e-moderation, the distinctive feature of collaborative learning objects is that they include opportunities for feedback from the tutor, particularly on the process and product of the student interactions.  This will be a focus of the guidance document produced to support the release of the CLOs. (BLOCKeD Interim Report)


Pedagogic cultures that can, in some cases, tend to be conservative, with access to, and use of technology limited, IT skills and confidence are often low, institutional support and IT infrastructure capacity can be limited. (ALTO Final Report)


Time constraints always emerge as a significant barrier for staff struggling to fit new practices into existing duties, but can be even more significant for particular groups such as part-time, hourly paid tutors. Institutional support is required to enable this group to engage, particularly during the more time intensive first stages of opening up practice.

While the project aimed to provide an environment in which the ideal of seamless sharing might be possible this was far from reality. Depending on their level of engagement, tutors reported spending between ten minutes and four hours a week in addition to their normal preparation time (to support two hours of face-to-face teaching).
“It's a lot of extra work to make it worthwhile!” (Tutor commenting in final tutor survey) (SESAME Final Report)

While we are confident that this time commitment is likely to reduce with experience, it is not possible to ignore that this kind of activity is a significant extra commitment for busy part-time tutors, many of whom are paid a fee based solely on contact teaching hours. (SESAME Final Report)


Incorporating OER and OEP into institutional strategies and policies is an important enabler as these act as signals that there is an institutional commitment to support staff. Having clear guidelines and policies around ownership of learning materials has been highlighted across all phases of the programme as important in encouraging and enabling staff to release them openly, and may require changes in policies for some institutions.

Institutions’ policies and attitudes towards the ownership of materials created by their staff are important in facilitating engagement with open practice (FAVOR Final Report)


What issues have you encountered in developing and sharing collections of OER across institutional/sectoral boundaries and how have you addressed them?

Projects benefited from working with a wide range of partners and included these in the scoping, development, evaluation, dissemination, and sharing of OER. This took considerable resourcing. Not least, awareness raising activities were a major focus - not only around OER and OEP but around the different working practices of the institutions and organisations involved. Projects had to invest significant time in visiting individual partners to find out the unique aspects of each partner and what they could bring to the project. These relationships required careful nurturing to maintain commitment levels and interest, although not all partners remained 'on-board' throughout the projects due to external circumstances. Overall the response from stakeholders outside the educational sector has been very positive to the notion of OER and OEP and has resulted in some interesting contributions and ongoing partnership opportunities.

A significant aspect of the project was the diverse range of stakeholders working in partnership to scope, design and contribute to the OER, including several further and higher education institutions, curriculum staff, students, sector skills councils, the Higher Education Academy and a range of commercial companies. We invested a lot of time with potential users of the resources before development. This ensured that the resulting OER reflect sector and college needs, are of sufficient pedagogic quality to support a range of existing courses and have a user base already committed to using them in a variety of learning and teaching contexts. We also had a series of discussions with private/public sector organisations to confirm the accuracy of the resources and identify existing resources that could be collected and repurposed. (ReACTOR Final report)


What institutional issues and challenges have you met in working with another sector or organisation to develop and release OER, and how have you addressed them?

It has been challenging for some external stakeholders to grasp the notion of OER, especially when they come from the private or public sectors and equally challenging to consider that releasing open resources is sustainable in the longer term.

Many of our partners found it hard to believe that these resources were being made available as a ‘free’ resource. This raises challenges because it takes significant effort to engage stakeholders deeply enough with OER to raise understanding around deeper nuances of licensing and re-use. It is even more challenging to get institutions to consider that this is a sustainable approach after the funding period. This is particularly true for very high quality, highly produced resources like ours. Despite high interest and involvement of our partners, and some indication that they want to continue the partnerships, their perception is that continued development of this kind of requires additional funding. (ReACTOR Final report)


Legal issues 

What legal and IPR issues emerged during your project and how did you overcome them?

The OER IPR support team have provided technical support and advice for projects around IPR and licencing and developed a series of excellent practical resources to help projects deal with some of the challenges in this area. Although IPR and licencing for OER is the area that has probably generated the most documentation and guidance across the programme it remains an area that requires huge resource for projects. Despite being in the 3rd year of the programme projects still underestimate how much time this aspect will take, how challenging it is to deal with at an institutional level or how this can impact on the number of materials actually released with an open licence.


Clearing third party content for inclusion in OER remains the most significant challenge for projects, from those working with commercial publishers to those wanting to release simple powerpoint presentations from individual academics. Often the time and effort to establish provenance and gain clearance means that it would have been easier and more efficient to produce resources from scratch. This remains a major barrier to releasing existing content. Whilst projects continue to find imaginative workarounds for now, this problem may decrease over time as more content released as legitimate OER is re-used in the future.


There are fundamental copyright (and possibly consent) issues relating to content particularly images from texts and other existing third party published content. In many cases authors still own images which are licenced to the publishers – and may be available for onward licensing (or if they are it would still often be easier to commission new content). (PublishOER Interim Report)

the need to thoroughly check the source of images or texts has come to the fore in this project. To ensure that the project stays true to its objective of providing open materials which are suitable for reuse we are making efforts to check that we do not infringe copyright and that we educate our content producers to adopt the same standards. As the project does not have the resources for any rights clearance activities we are only able to adopt a policy of ‘if in doubt, leave it out’ if contributors fail to abide by our guidance. (Great Writers Interim Report)


Staff development within institutions is desperately needed, and it will take a considerable amount of time, to raise levels of compliance:

    • Attributing third party works;
    • Seeking permission;
    • Replacing current unlicensed content with openly licensed alternatives;
    • Signposting copyright statements clearly (on your own work);
    • Routinely carrying disclaimers;
    • Managing expectations of assistance with complex legal enquiries;
    • Taking a risk-managed rather than a risk-averse approach to incorporating published works in OER. (PublishOER Final Report)


A number of IPR/Copyright issues have emerged and required attention as a result of releasing what were written as internal publications rather than as OERs for use by a wider audience.  This has required some editing/re-writing or the addition of a background statement for some resources to ensure perceived relevance for other users.  The extent of the changes required has varied by topic/resource content and writing style of different authors but has taken additional time and resources that were not anticipated initially.  As a result of this learning however, internal processes and procedures for the ongoing development of additional titles in the Rough and Quick Guide Series are being amended to ensure these issues do not arise in the future.(Teeside Open Learning Units Interim Report)

In sourcing materials to enrich collections, content contributors and the project team experienced significant frustration and issues with copyright and licenses. It continues to be difficult to find correctly licensed content when searching the internet; licences are often unclear and hard to find and this made the pool of resources available to the project more restricted. All too frequently websites have a Creative Commons logo on them but, when you investigate further, individual resources will have a very different status. The interpretation of public domain can be confusing for academic and student contributors, particularly the difference between US and UK public domain, and resulted in a significant change to one of the planned themes (Modernist Periodicals) as it transpired that we were unable to use two US-based websites to access digital versions of the texts. (Great Writers Inspire Project Final Report)


The last excerpt also illustrates a challenge raised by several projects which relates to items with Creative Commons licences containing content that is not actually free to use/re-use.


The PublishOER Project worked with commercial publisher Elsevier and their final report describes a fascinating process of negotiation, learning and collaboration around overcoming some of the barriers to open release, both technical, legal and cultural. This excerpt highlights how far UK law does not mirror the changing demands of open education.

Institutions across the UK and students around the world are poised to take widespread advantage of the culture of open academic practice and massive open online courses (MOOCs). As independent and open access publishing channels are embraced (e.g. Saylor Foundation, 2012; Apple Computer, 2012), journal and textbook publishers are looking for new business models to maintain profit margins and the investment in high quality products from respected authors. The use and re-use of third party resources in education is complicated by legalities of copyright, performance and consent where the law (under review) is out of date in our technological world, consuming more in transaction costs and legal uncertainty than the resources themselves. Institutions are running legal risks as they seek to fulfil their 'offer' to students. Meanwhile learners are accessing free content from all around the world. Should every institution seek to share their learning resources? Should we all use the content provided by MIT and simply accredit it? Could the cost of, say, a medical degree be reduced by accrediting open learning as part of (or prior to) the course? Can we justify the price of our courses for supporting the 'process' of learning? (PublishOER Final Report)


What licences did you adopt?

Most projects adopted a CC-BY-SA licence although several chose to release some or all content as CC-BY-NC-SA. Sometimes the partner institutions or institutional restrictions affected licence choice.

The most restrictive licence used on the site is CC-BY-NC-SA (the Creative Commons licence adopted by the University of Oxford for its podcasting activities), and this is the licence which is displayed at the foot of each web page. However many episodes have a more open licence and therefore each episode displays its own licence (with additional RDFA), and, wherever possible, each reuse option also includes the licence. In addition, each picture resource has the option of being downloaded with an embedded licence, like the service provided by the Xpert Media Search. (Great Writers Inspire Project Final Report)



How have you, and your partners/collaborators, integrated OER sustainably into curriculum processes?

As mentioned earlier several projects identified ongoing digital literacy activities as a sustainable way to incorporate OER release and use for staff and students.

The combination of fieldworkers attached to a central educational development like CLTAD to promote OER creation and publishing could provide a model for an economically sustainable means of enhancing both digital literacy and educational development in HE in a time of austerity. (ALTO UK) 


Integrating OER use and release into 'normal' everyday practice is an important way to ensure sustainability. One way to do this is to make sure that there is some recognition and reward for engaging with OER and OEP, and this needs to be supported by acknowledgement in strategy and policy, and through the provision of support mechanisms for staff. Having OEP recognised as part of academic scholarly practice is seen as important and several projects made efforts to include research outcomes into OER outputs.

Interim feedback from Peter Robinson of Oxford in our online evaluation group meetings indicates that their OERs that contain research are indeed generating traffic and data that will count towards the next research assessment exercise. Another way of improving impact is to incorporate research outputs into Open Textbooks and assign ISBN numbers to such publications. This has the rather exciting potential to break down the barriers between the management and curation of research and learning resources both in the digital realm and in the academy – something that was the subject of discussion at the 2012 OER/OCWC conference in Cambridge. ALTO UK Final Report


The collaborative nature of OER creation and release can lead to new mechanisms and procedures for learning resource production, involving several different departments within institutions. Establishing and embedding new curriculum development processes and partnerships within institutions supports sustainability, and these can also incorporate input at various stages from external partners.

The process by which the new OER modules were created was a joint effort between academic authors, technical support staff, external organisations and the JISC support services. The resources were set out to contain original works from the authors, including written material developed specifically for the resources, and where appropriate, references to published work by the authors. The authors were encouraged to use third party content from the open arena in order to enhance the resources and to promote a collaborative effort to produce effective learning materials for the open domain. Each author was required to write the content of their resource in a simple text-based format including the images, charts, statistics, quotes, presentations, audio and videos that they wished to include. These drafts were supplied to Open Nottingham technical support staff who developed them into online resources using an open source XHTML editor called eXe Elearning editor. (PARiS Final Report)


It is evident that those partners have also seen a real benefit of working with us in scoping, developing and disseminating these resources within the wider sectors, and the long term impact this has on improving resources to support the curriculum in a very fast moving industry. Not least this involvement with some very influential partners in the sector will have a very important impact on the use of the OER, their sustainability and on-going relevance, as their endorsement is highly valued. (ReACTOR Final Report)


How have your institution and collaborating organisations ensured embedding and sustainability of open practices?

Activities to support the embedding of open practices are discussed above but can be summarised as:

  • securing senior management support
  • linking to institutional vision, strategy and policies
  • ensuring that institutional infastructure supports open practices (including adequate resourcing - particularly acknowledgement that time is a significant factor, technologies to support open release)
  • raising awareness of the benefits of open educational practice for all stakeholders
  • supporting staff to reconsider their existing practice and providing staff development opportunities to support practice change
  • providing some reward and recognition - for example linking to performance review or Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
  • new processes to support open practices and articulating new workflows
  • providing new conceptual frameworks to support open practice
  • providing guidance and resources such as toolkits
  • creating new roles or changing existing  roles and responsibilities
  • cascading new practice throughout an organisation - through champions, training and awareness raising events
  • incorporating open practices into digital literacy  activities
  • providing guidance and support to address IPR issues and challenges


Open educational resources are now embedded into the university Academic and Professional Development Unit (APDU) programme of activities, and workshop sessions have been run as part of the PGCert for all new lecturers in 2011 and 2012. Involvement from library services, technology and the intellectual property office has enabled the smooth running of projects, but now activity needs to be scaled-up. The question is how? (HALSOER Final report)

The University-wide Open Nottingham programme is centrally funded and has senior sponsorship, and long-term sustainability is a key consideration in all developments. It is an established part of the University’s Five Year Strategy and supports a number of the institution’s published objectives. The outputs from the PARiS project will be managed by the existing Open Nottingham team, ensuring continued dissemination of PARiS goals and continued work in the area of OER for sustainability. The Open Nottingham team will also remain in contact with the Ear Foundation and provide support, if required, for the on-going OER work that the Ear Foundation has committed to. (PARiS Final Report)

The ORBIT project and wiki are firmly embedded in the Faculty, already containing open resources donated by other projects, and providing a venue for future open resources to be stored and accessed through a single portal. ORBIT outputs will be naturally promoted as part of Faculty activities, for instance through the PGCE courses, as well as other seminars, and we expect that in due course ORBIT outputs will be fully embedded in the life of the Faculty. Conversations about open access publishing of research outputs are already informally gaining momentum. (ORBIT Final report)


To increase momentum now there probably needs to be senior executive involvement in terms of buy-in and proactive support. The institution needs to understand how open education sits within the core values of the institution, and how it fits commercially. A route forward for OER would be to align it with existing strategies for International Recruitment, Widening Participation and Retention. (HALSOER Final report)


What has been the effect on sustainability of involving students in the OER development, release and re-use lifecycle?

Linking OER use to student learning opportunities (often through digital literacy activities) has meant that students have developed an awareness of OER and how to make the best of them for their own studies. As student awareness increases the demand for OER to support their learning is likely to increase.


Students have also contributed towards the creation, release, testing and evaluation of resources resulting in OER that closely reflect the needs of students. It is also important that these needs be balanced against other stakeholder requirements, but evidence has shown that student engagement in OER initiatives has helped to raise awareness and increase demand.

Working with students and teachers as co-designers of OER results in final resources that are highly relevant to the curriculum, with a focus on usability. Students respond positively to being included in this way, increasing a sense of ownership of the OER and increased potential for end use.  (ReACTOR Final report)


Involving students as producers and users of OER has been a particular success of the project. It provided a simple framework to allow them to communicate and publish, increasing their digital literacy and introducing them to the benefits of open academic practice. By recruiting graduate students the project was assured of academic-level content from contributors who were closer to the target audience. (Great Writers Final Report)


Where project activities have impacted on exiting courses the implications for long term sustainability are increased. Once student expectations are raised, and positive impact on the student experience is demonstrated, it is unlikely that activities will not continue to be supported. The COMC Project opened-up existing courses and transformed the way students were involved in their own learning, through collaborative content development and connection to far reaching professional networks.

Overall the outcome of the Open Classes project has been an excellent student response. Students have been hugely engaged with the classes and the projects they have undertaken within them. It is right to acknowledge that this may not be the same thing as being highly engaged with the Open Class ethos -  or with OER/OEP per se.  In all three classes students were very engaged with the projects undertaken within them, they achieved good results and recorded high levels of student satisfaction.    (COMC Final Report)


How have you have identified and attempted to meet the priorities of your sector?

Phase three projects shaped their project plans and activities to address specific issues and priorities for their sector or stakeholder groups. Project final reports provide rich descriptions of the ways they achieved this. The themes for this phase of activity  were as follows:


Theme A : Extend OER through collaborations beyond HE 

Working in partnership with organisations from another sector in order to release and/or collect OER materials that meet their identified needs.


Theme B: Explore OER publishing models


Theme C: Addressing sector challenges 

  • Supporting emerging forms of learning and accreditation (COMC)
  • Involving academics on part-time, hourly-paid contracts (FAVOR, SESAME)
  • Enabling Sustainable practice (PARIS project)


Theme D: Enhancing the student experience

  • Resources to support university applicants. (Great Writers
  • Drawing on student-produced materials (Most projects)


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