Thursday, 11 March 2010

Approaches to releasing Open Educational Resources

We (Helen Beetham, Lou McGill, Karen Smith, Isobel Falconer and I) have been carring out the Synthesis and Evaluation for the JISC/HEA OER Programme (see press release). We are working with all projects, in institutions/ subject centres across England and Wales, on evaluation.

The projects seem to be gaining useful models for their own evaluation and progress, and have opportunities to share with other projects in a structured way, while contributing to the further development of the collective understanding of the programme. At the same time we are collating evidence of effective practice that will be made available to the wider global community at the end of the project in June2010.

Synthesis is achieved through a common evaluation framework we are evolving. The framework captures key dimensions of the programme. The framework provides a foundation and common language for collating data; offers a range of questions/issues to support evaluation and review; supports the collation of key messages, challenges, solutions and outputs; and enables the identification of key areas of interest and highlights useful approaches.

The generic framework has been compiled from three separate frameworks, which capture the specific strands of the programme (projects focused in institutional, subject or individual sharing). Strand frameworks are updated and shared with projects and other support teams on a regular basis and are continually augmented. These feed back into the generic framework to provide a programme wide overview.

Our research is surfacing a very wide range of complex issues. Three distinct approaches to releasing and sharing OERs are emerging:

Open release by institutions Institutions are more likely to release generic resources which have a high impact across subject areas, especially where there are reputational benefits for the institution. Institutions may be more reluctant to release specialist resources, particularly if they see opportunities to marketise content, though some specialist resources are released to highlight an area of teaching and learning expertise. Quality assurance is important, and institutions may also invest in ensuring content is repurposable e.g. by disaggregating and tagging it effectively.

Open release by individuals Individuals may share with the wider education community to build their personal reputation as teachers and subject specialists. They may adopt approaches that maximise the integrity rather than the reuseability of their resources. Release by individuals can have a positive impact on the institution and act as an example of good practice to encourage others, however it can be easier to leave out institutional branding if repurposing is a driver for the individual.

Sharing within tightly knit topic communities These communities already share areas of research interest and tend to have personal contact, often face-to-face. Open content may fit in well with the topic ethos, or the topic may already have a strong public interest element e.g. climate change, public health, Approaches to sharing adopted by these communities do not necessarily have impact on institutional practices. They may adopt approaches to sharing which work well among teachers and researchers in their community but are less effective for other potential users.

We also have evidence of Open release by topic communities

At this stage of evaluation it is too early to list conclusive outcomes. Helen, Lou, Karen, Isobela nd I thought it would be useful to share these emerging approaches. We presented our initial findings to the JISC and HEA at a meeting in London earlier this month and a brief report is going to HEFCE to inform the release of phase 2 funding.

More information on OERs

The OER evaluation and synthesis wiki is at

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