Last week I attended #OER17 in London, and am still basking in the warm glow of the shared sense of purpose to open up education for equity and social inclusion. My presentation, which I was privileged to do collaboratively with Airina Volungevičienė and Marius Šadauskas from the ReOPEN project, was entitled Recognition of non-formal, open learning: are we there yet? We looked at findings from the OpenCred study, which sparked the current EU-funded project, ReOPEN (succinctly described by Airina in the videos embedded in the slides).
One of the most striking aspects of this conference, in contrast to previous years, was the prevalence of German participants and presentations about open education in Germany. The reason for this was that the German Ministry of Education has recently provided funding for the establishment of 24 open educational resources (OER)-focused projects, as well as a central OER info-hub, so there is a surge of interest in all things OER in Germany. Listening to many of the talks about plans for the development and implementation of Open Educational Resource projects took me back to the discussions we had during the #UKOER projects.
Chats with German colleagues at the conference led me to think back on what we had achieved, and the challenges we had faced in those projects. There were a few things I can see now that I wished I had known before we started. So, in the spirit of sharing, here are a few tips for colleagues who are starting new OER projects:
- While many academics are open to the idea of creating and publishing their teaching materials openly, the fear of unknowingly breaching copyright can be an obstacle. In the UK OER projects we created a robust take-down policy which would kick in within a certain time period (say, 48 hours) of a complaint being made. Here is the one developed by Ale Armellini and the OER team at the University of Leicester, which includes a workflow process diagram. And here is a case study on copyright and policy licensing, produced by Meghan Baxter for Newcastle University. It provides a detailed model of a take-down policy and process.
- When reusing other people’s OERs, some folks tend to be forgetful or casual about attributing the creator and adhering to the permissions in the particular CC licence used. The Creative Commons website contains a handy guide to attributing, and BCOpenEd has put out a more detailed guide here. For a discussion about the complexities of attributing OERs, see this blog post by Brenda Padilla.
- For an OER initiative to be sustainable (i.e. to live beyond the time period it is funded for), it is essential for academics to take ownership of the OERs they produce. It may seem like a nice idea to have a team that reduces the burden for academics by formatting, copyright checking and uploading materials as OERs, but unless that team is a permanent fixture in the institution and regularly prompts contributors to review and update their OERs, the uploaded resources will soon become out-of-date and will not be refreshed. An example of good practice in this respect is Humbox, a humanities OER repository created by the University of Southampton in 2008 and still active today. The platform is now open to anyone in the humanities who wants to upload resources. Its strength is that it operates on the basis of a social networking ethos, with academics uploading their own materials, updating them whenever necessary, and also being able to review and reuse each other’s resources.
- Being a producer (or a user) of OERs is not a set of technical skills and knowledge (although it certainly includes these), but is rather a mindset. There is a large and growing global community of open education practitioners, who are firmly committed to the agenda of equity in higher education, and are developing open education as a social good. The 2016 report produced for the EU by Adreia Inamorato, Yves Punie & Jonatan Castaño Muñoz on opening up education helps to locate OER work in the wider context of the open educational practices that have been emerging in the higher education sector over the past several years.
- Finally, there is a helpful report by Lou McGill et al which provides a synthesis of findings from the #UKOER project, as well as the related SCORE project.
If anyone has any tips to add, or thoughts on what I’ve written here, please do share!
Comment via Anna Page on Twitter :
Also talk to other projects who do OEP already and take a look at Becoming an Open Educator
(I most definitely agree – see https://oepscotland.org/)