OER Synthesis and Evaluation / Evidence-PracticeChange
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Back to Evidence - main page

See also 

Evidence - Enablers and Barriers

Evidence - Open partnerships

Evidence - Practices of different stakeholders



Culture and practice 

 how practice is changing among OER stakeholders (teachers, learners, support staff, other sectors), and how practice change is being enabled and supported

Themes strand

CORE-SET (CORE-SET final report) | ReACTOR (ReACTOR Final report) |  Opening up a future in business (Future in business Final Report)COMC (COMC Final report) | PARIS (PARIS Final Project Report)  HALS OER (HALS OER Final Project Report)PublishOER (PublishOER final report) | Great Writers  (Great Writers Final Report)|  ALTO UK (ALTO UK Final Report)  | ORBIT (ORBIT Final Report) | DEFT (DEFT Final Report)    | FAVOR (FAVOR Final Report) | SESAME (SESAME Final Report) |


OMAC strand

BLOCKeD (BLOCKeD Final Report) |   Digital Literacy and Creativity (Digital Literacy and Creativity Final Report | Academic Practice in Context (Academic Practice in Context Final report) | Teeside Open Learning Units (Teeside Open Learning Units Final Report)


Adoption of open practices

What does the phrase "open practices" mean for you and your project? What open practices have you observed among your stakeholders?


Medicine, Veterinary, Forensic Science

  • The involvement of staff and students in OER and open practice has led to the enhancement of academic practices, teaching activities and therefore the quality of teaching and learning. Every member of academic staff should be compelled to produce one item of OER in order to understand copyright, good educational design of electronic resources and assessments, and understand which simple technical solutions are the best to be used in eLearning. As team members commented on their involvement in the HALS project: (HALSOER Final report)
  •  Academic staff are routinely using OER as part of their curriculum delivery although in our 2012 university staff awareness survey more than 50% of staff had heard of the term OER compared to only 18% in 2009, and were more familiar with JORUM and other OER repositories. Staff were regularly using OER and many were sharing. Workshops on OER are now embedded within the PGCert at De Montfort, and staff training is continuing to develop the digital literacy skills and copyright awareness required for OER to be scaled-up within the organisation. As Ming suggests (2012 ), our next step is probably going to be an institutional-wide strategy fro digital literacy and promoting open education and practice. (HALSOER Final report)
  •  In terms of student awareness and attitudes toward OER, around one third of those participating in the questionnaire had heard of the term OER. Students overwhelmingly embrace the notion of open education and sharing materials, and already operate within a culture of sharing and supporting their peers, so the concept of universities sharing resources was welcomed and deemed advantageous.
    “It would be a good thing because some of the information here might be explained better than that like the students that are using in other universities and their tutors might be explaining more different methods using a different method of explaining it than the lecturers here “ (Biomedical Science Student 2012) (HALSOER Final report)
  • What was interesting was the view that OERs should perhaps not be shared more widely with the public, and several students struggled with the idea of paying fees to universities who then were giving their learning materials away. This question was raised within interviews with the senior executive team also.

“I know it sounds really cheeky but we live in a day and age where we’ve got to pay for it, why should everybody else get it free.  But other universities, I think that’s a benefit because you can learn from each other.” (Midwife 2012)

“If students are paying £9,000 and part of their £9,000 is receiving a set of lectures and yet that set of lectures are available completely free on the internet what does that mean?” (Senior Executive 2012). (HALSOER Final report)

Part-time tutors

  • Part-time/hourly-paid tutors have a range of varied motivations for working on a fractional basis and some may wish for greater integration into the academic life of their institutions, but others may not. The project team were initially convinced that hourly-paid tutors would be easily persuaded to participate in the project for several reasons: it would raise their profile within their institution and beyond; they could have a public professional profile which would be held outwith any institutional affiliation; they could participate in a research project and attend conferences etc. However, it quickly became clear to us that many such tutors choose their working patterns (rather than being forced by circumstances within an institution) and so do not necessarily have a particular interest in a professional profile or greater integration into their institution – and so were not that interested in open practice and the FAVOR project. Similarly, the lack of job security felt by tutors disinclined them to share their work generally. We intend to explore these attitudes as part of the evaluation process to obtain a better understanding of how open practice relates to the work of part-time language tutors, and how arguments should be formulated to build an effective and active community of practice amongst this group. (FAVOR Interim Report)
  • The project sought to understand how open practice might benefit the working practices of part-time, hourly paid language tutors working in universities. Teachers of language are usually on teaching-only contracts and have low status compared to their research-active colleagues. They tend to have intensive teaching timetables, allowing little time to pursue research interests, professional development or maintain professional profiles. As a result, such tutors are often a reservoir of untapped knowledge and experience and can feel a sense of alienation from their own institutions. (FAVOR Final Report)
  • Hourly paid/part-time tutors are an enthusiastic group who will embrace opportunities to enhance their professional practice (FAVOR Final Report) 
  • Open practice can be an effective way for such tutors to expose their work and learn from others (FAVOR Final Report)
  • Engaging with open practice can offer an opportunity to share resources for less widely used languages; however the situation is complex -  Tutors of what are known as ‘less widely used languages (LWUL)’ (such as African and East European languages – these are not widely used in the UK) often work in relative isolation compared to their colleagues teaching more widely used languages, and such tutors reported that it was satisfying to share in a space which was not necessarily dominated by the main European foreign languages. (focus group) (FAVOR Final Report)
  • The external project evaluator noted that LWUL tutors “clearly appreciated the opportunity to act as an ambassador for their language and expose it to a greater audience” – external evaluator report.
    Tutors could also obtain teaching ideas from looking at resources in other languages:
    “…we have seen the emergence of a different kind of sharing – looking at what has been uploaded in other
    languages and using those ideas and formats for oneself. For the languages taught at SSEES, which are relatively under-resourced when compared to mainstream ones such as French and Spanish, this is a considerable benefit.” – UCL final report
    However, another partner institution noted that ‘the process of preparing materials [for a less widely used language like Hungarian or Bengali] is necessarily distinct qualitatively to the process of” preparing for e.g. Spanish or French, due to the range of high quality materials available to use as inspiration. Tutors of ‘less widely used languages’ work hard to create authentic resources. “In the context of national and metropolitan language-teaching markets, where the numbers of teachers are finite, where those teachers are known personally to one another, and in which those markets oblige the teachers to compete with one another for fractional contract hours, such arduously compiled and constructed materials are not happily surrendered for the simple reason that they are commodity forms and not reducible to use-values: they are capital investments that enable teachers to obtain and maintain competitive market positions.” SOAS final report
  • The project sought to understand how open practice might benefit the working practices of part-time, hourly paid language tutors working in universities. Teachers of language are usually on teaching-only contracts and have low status compared to their research-active colleagues. They tend to have intensive teaching timetables, allowing little time to pursue research interests, professional development or maintain professional profiles. As a result, such tutors are often a reservoir of untapped knowledge and experience and can feel a sense of alienation from their own institutions. (FAVOR Final Report)
  • part-time weekly class tutors  -  In terms of engagement with OER, nearly 40% had heard of OER prior to our project which was higher than anticipated. This continued with nearly 30% having used OER in their teaching and learning and 7% already producing OER.  This may be a function of a self selecting sample but still indicates a relatively high level of engagement. (SESAME Interim Report)
  • our baseline survey showed that at the start of the project, while some part-time tutors were concerned about sharing their work and releasing materials the majority of tutors were generally open to the idea of OER and the project generally, and cited altruistic reasons as their main driver for potential contribution. This remained consistent throughout the project with the importance attached to a selection of benefits of producing OER and agreement with a selection of statements about OER remaining broadly similar or more positive from our baseline to final survey. (SESAME Final Report)
  • The most significant change was an increased importance attached to subject level coverage, probably due to the number of respondents who were involved in creating the subject collections. However overall this reaffirmed our impression that our cohort of part-time tutors was more open to open educational practices than might have been expected. This may be because of the close alignment of the Departmental mission (which has a strong focus on access) and the values underpinning open practices.
    (SESAME Final Report)
  • for part-time tutors, the case for participation in open practices must be especially compelling to ensure engagement. Clearly there is a core of tutors who are already working this way, or are happy to, given only a small level of support to do so; however, this is not the majority. The Sesame project very much benefited from the earlier work of the UKOER programme in identifying potential benefits of open practice and using these to support our case, but we also developed a system that allowed engagement at a variety of levels which minimises the initial commitment, but made it easy to scale up. Thus, while tutors have been encouraged to release their own materials, they can also use the platform just to collate OER and other online resources for students. While evidence of this is still emerging we know from feedback this has encouraged some tutors who would not have otherwise set up a course site. (SESAME Final Report)
  • While open practice is an emergent concept, we do feel the project produced evidence of the areas of open practice achieved, and those that appeared to be of most value to our part-time tutors. (SESAME Final Report)
  • The results of our final tutor survey also support this with an increased number (64% compared to 56.3% in our baseline survey) of respondents identifying the benefit of “I may make new connections or collaborations through sharing” as important or very important to them.
    What has also been clear from the resources generated by the project is a significant enthusiasm towards using pre-existing content.
    • 1) the project supported tutors to use any useful online resources (whether openly licensed or not) thus complementing rather than working against existing practices;
    • 2) a focus within the training provided towards using OER repositories and other similar sites as a way of identifying better quality content, thus encouraging the identification of OER in searching practice;
    • 3) and lastly, the context of open access courses, where tutors are teaching students of significantly variable ability and background, making the availability of materials that scaffold or extend students’ learning particularly valuable. (SESAME Final Report)
  • 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)


Arts and design

  •  express aim of helping to drive cultural change and awareness across the UAL and its partner institutions, in relation to the benefits of creating, sharing and using OERs and developing the associated Open Educational Practice (OEP). ALTO final report
  •  the future of OER/P in the Art and Design sector will be to be determined by the underlying educational and cultural values of those involved. Into this situation the open education agenda can be a form of creative positive disruption that helps us to rethink aspects of our activity that are long overdue for revaluation. (ALTO Final Report)


Open media classes

  • Three BA level Open Classes have all been delivered both in terms of their face-to-face versions and more importantly, as online presences, which curate a diversity of resources into openly accessible ‘hubs’. Each of the open classes has a slightly different feel; each makes use of, and makes available, particular kinds of resources and web/social media platforms. Picbod (“Picturing the Body”) makes extensive use of twitter and its hashtag logics as research discussion tools – as well as using podcasts,,vimeo and flicker to collate talks and images. Creative Activism has quickly established itself in peer-to peer networks – as well as using vimeo twitter and itunesU. Living in a digital world has focused on student content creation and using blogging – with flicker etc, - as a means of archiving pan-European research projects.  The Open Masters level photography ‘class’, is about to  be launched on a quick start basis  - classes will run as soon as there are enough subscribers. (COMC Final Report)
  • Further development of shared networks and mutually developed content with Researchers, professional practitioners, Colleges, Further Education and community education programmes is the only viable way to extend the remit of these classes/this approach into new arenas. This transforms/expands the idea of what a “class” is. (COMC Final Report)


School teachers - PDP

  •  The key rationale for engaging with OERs for the teachers involved with the DeFT project was to support professional development and sharing of good practice both within the school and across the region. Both teachers and PGCE students argued the existence of a widespread culture of sharing and re-use of teaching materials, whether informally with colleagues or via websites such as http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/ or http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resources/; the Times Education Supplement resource bank. They also emphasised that sharing was an essential part of their professional identity; at the same time, they seemed to be quite reluctant to contemplate the possibility of releasing their own resources, for fear of having their practice judged as not being “polished enough”; moreover, only a small minority were familiar with the term Open Educational Resources. (DEFT Final Report)
  • The case study illustrates further benefits of open approaches to teaching practice - using open source tools meant that pupils could continue working on project tasks outside of the school environment and continue their learning.  Similarly, the open nature of the tools and resources would allow teachers to undertake tasks across the curriculum without being restricted by cost of software licences or specialised equipment. (DeFT Final Report)
  • At the same time, both teachers and PGCE students mentioned numerous barriers they experienced in the school setting in terms of their access to equipment and software as well as Web2.0 applications. A number of teachers commented on very strong filters on social networking services in schools which they felt limited their options in terms of offering their pupils a more interactive learning experience. Here a preoccupation with e-safety has led to top-down mechanisms involving firewalls and content filters that compromise the autonomy and creativity as well as professional integrity of the teachers. These barriers also have a negative impact on embracing of open practices within their teaching. For instance, most teachers were keen to explore the potential of open tools both for the purposes of the case studies and their teaching more in general and accordingly, the case studies incorporate the use of Wordpress platform; free mobile apps and open source tools for programming.  While these tools are open in principle, it did not mean that they could be used openly within the school - for instance, one of the teachers mentioned that it was possible to use the Wordpress platform on school computers, however some plug-ins would be blocked by the school software and so elements of the blogging platform were inaccessible in the classroom. [the use of mobile devices – schools blocked access to internet and had to use mifis (DeFT Final Report)
  •  One of the key motifs for engagement with OERs was to support professional practice. This is probably best exemplified by the case study undertaken at Wales High School, where Michael Payton-Greene created a school blog whose aim was to encourage the open sharing of resources and enhanced reflection on pedagogic practice:

This blog is an online space designed to at Wales High School.  The space will enable participants to access a range of discussions focussed on a variety of teaching and learning strategies, lesson ideas and pedagogic approaches.  Participants can consider, trial, disseminate and then reflect upon any resources or ideas they find on the site and then reflect on how their practice, but more importantly students’ learning, has been enhanced.  

  •  Open Educational Resources functioned as a tool to improve communication between and within departments, share best practices and support professional development.  The teachers who contributed to the blog were quite enthusiastic about its potential (DeFT Final Report)
  • Importantly, the blog offered a space for sharing accounts of both best practice and exemplary resources as well as authentic practice where teachers could acknowledge some of the challenges of embracing more innovative ways of working with the pupils (DeFT Final Report)
  •  the Wales case study pointed to some tensions inherent in open practices as evidenced by conversation with a representative of senior management at the school: 

Anna:  How do you feel about the open nature of the blog?
Andrew: There is an issue here about professional dialogue, and where professional dialogue becomes personal dialogue, and how open that is - particularly when you have a parent or a student audience, how that works in terms of -- do you limit the professional dialogue that is taking place because people become aware of the public nature of what they are doing?  There is a tension there, and managing that tension is important. Quite how we are going to do that I don’t know this is something that we are trying to work out.  It’s a trial, because everything is new to us, as education, institutions, you can't avoid the use of technology as a medium.  We've got to manage it effectively so that it works for us. (DeFT Final Report)

  • Overall, in the context of the project, the team have gained access to rich accounts of pedagogical practice with digital literacies in schools as well as a deeper insight into OER-related issues within that context. Our work with teachers brings into sharp focus issues which may not have been as prominent in the HEI context but are of key relevance to the school context, such as for instance issues related to e-safety, e-security; the ethical and pedagogical aspects of student-produced resources as well as a number of technological barriers in terms of access to web-based resources. (DeFT Final Report)
  • A guiding principle was that through structured reflection, teaching practices can be critically reviewed and hence better understood. This helped in articulating approaches to digital literacies which mapped onto the experiences of project participants. In terms of practical realisation of that approach, all project participants (core team, teachers, course tutors and students) contributed to a series of reflexive tasks in which they responded to prompts provided by the project team at five points in the project lifecycle.  (DEFT Final Report)
  •  Both teachers and teacher educators look to OER for inspiration to extend the quality and creativity of their teaching materials. This is seen not only as a way of saving time and effort but, more importantly, as a way of accessing new ideas and well-produced presentations that could not easily be generated by practitioners themselves. Most practitioners prefer to adapt resources obtained in this way to meet their curricular and student needs. (ORBIT Final report)
  • There is currently a wide variation between schools in the extent of collaborative development of teaching resources and the survey responses indicate that resource banks such as ORBIT would be welcomed as a means of promoting collaborative practice. (ORBIT Final report)


Commercial publishers

  • We found considerable willingness for publishers, students and academia in the UK to work with OER, however the transaction costs of submitting permissions-requests (OER authors, publishers, text authors, upstream rights holders, students, etc.) were prohibitively complex. Use of third party published works in OER had not been built into past contracts with authors, and therefore permission must be sought from authors for their participation. Authors had been slow to respond partly because they did not fully understand OER, and there was a dearth of evidence of how such participation might impact on book sales (up or down). Without effective mechanisms to ‘reverse the experiment’ (take works down) the contributions, where they occurred, were limited to portions of published works (e.g. a chapter) or works with limited future commercial value. (PublishOER Final Report)
  • As a result the publishers typically promoted their products (in human-readable html/pdf formats) from behind a DRM firewall with publisher-bespoke logins. Effectively you often had to have access before you could identify what you might want to access. Access was often based on prior purchase of digital copy of a creative work, or purchase of a print copy with (typically free) access to the digital version via a scratch-off- pin number. Obviously if the online book closely mimicked the print copy, or was designed more for preventing illegal copying than facilitating user access, then there was limited added value of using the digital version, other than knowing you had a copy with you and saving the weight of carrying it around. (PublishOER Final Report) 
  • There seems to be a real mood of willingness to adopt new approaches and continued collaboration with project partners. Other work in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, professional bodies and subject associations such as the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME) has revealed the extent to which change is being promoted in research. (PublishOER Final Report)
  • Meanwhile learners were accessing free content from all around the world. Questions were being asked in senior academic management. Should every institution seek to share their learning resources? Should we all use the knowledge provided elsewhere (whether OER or not) and simply accredit it? Could the cost of a degree be reduced by accrediting open learning as part of (or prior to) the course (the OERx model)? Could we justify the price of courses for supporting the 'process' of learning? Once students can access all of the knowledge that they need what is the value of participating in higher education? Exemplars are urgently needed in order to demonstrate whether benefits accrue from embedding third party published works in OER. (PublishOER Final Report)


  • Open practices were generally not initially visible in discussions with project partners who operated outside of the higher education sector. This was because the vast majority of them were not fully aware of the concept of open licensing or aspects of copyright and resource ownership. However, once a dialogue was established with partners, when they began to appreciate both the potential benefits and opportunities to be gained from adopting ‘open’ approaches in their day-to-day activities, then there was certainly a willingness for them all to engage and participate in the CORE-SET project. (CORE-SET Final Report)
  • It should not be under-estimated that the issues relating to OER and OEP are complicated to the novice, i.e. an organisation that has not had the luxury afforded to the Project Team of having immersed themselves in the language / terminology and the specialist understanding relating to legal, technical and organisational issues associated with open practices. Though, this is where the transfer of expertise from the Project Team to the diverse members of the partner consortium made such a considerable difference. Evidence of such shifts in attitudes, behaviours and practices in sample organisations are documented in Section 4: Immediate Impact, starkly identified in terms of comments made by participants ‘before’ (at project outset) and ‘after’ (near project end). Again, as was documented elsewhere, such changes that have come about in partners’ adoption of OER / OEP have required considerable time and support to be provided by the Project Team. (CORE-SET Final Report)
  • The use of students, as one of the main users of the OER developed and released by partners, has provided an additional element of credibility to the adoption of open practices by these organisations. Students are more in-tune with OER / OEP, though this had much greater validity when the sharing of resources was directly related to their course or peer group. Effectively, if available OER can be explicitly linked to the community of practice of learners, then they are more readily inclined to use, share and re-use the content. (CORE-SET Final Report)
  • The following statements are from participating students who collaborated with the Project Team in reviewing electronic resources that were initially identified by partners for potential release:


“I am an engineering student. As I move into the final two years of my degree, there is more and more project-based learning in my course. The type of electronic resources being put forward by the CORE-SET companies and charities will therefore be of use. The advantages are that these resources come from industrial settings, and convey the work of a real engineer. They are also contemporary, getting across information that is of a leading or cutting-edge nature. A major plus is that these resources are also being made open access, with a focus on being readily found on the internet, too”. [Year 3 BEng student]


“[Although] I worked as a summer intern in the School of Engineering at university, my experience has been valuable to the arena of engineering employment. For a start, I was liaising directly with a number of world-leading companies, and even charities, based in the UK, giving them my thoughts and opinions as to where some of their electronic resources would be relevant in undergraduate studies. I also gained from learning some of the finer details of how to convert their electronic content into open educational resources, OER; the specialist legal aspects and the use of file-sharing sites from a technical perspective… It was also useful to see academia from the lecturers’ side of things, getting to see how they are working with outside organisations to bring relevant case-studies and other learning content into university teaching. That was something that I did not fully appreciate was taking place between industry and academia. It is surely something I can give as innovative examples when I look to apply for a position in industry this year after my MEng studies.”[Year 4 MEng student]













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