3 Issues for OER (adoption, copyright, funding)

//A few notes on the articles I selected from CloudWorks  //

Adoption of OERs

Wilson and McAndrew (2009) present  a small study of responses to OpenLearn from interviews and discussions with 6 academics drawn from 5 institutions in UK, South Africa, Kenya and Germany.  In their study 3-6 months after the launch of OpenLearn, participants were asked to consider suitable OpenLearn courses to include in their own institution’s courses.  Having identified resources they were asked whether they would adapt them and how they would they would be evaluated.  Most of the respondents indicated a desire to offer the materials as online supplementary materials,  one wished to translate and upload them to their own platform.

Although this was a small study, a number of factors were identified which could act as inhibitors to adoption of OpenLearn materials:

  • Language was cited as important.  Some respondents wished to translate materials (e.g. to German), other UK based noted a requirement to simplify language for non-native speakers, and others requested a reduction in the overall quantity of text.
  • Time needed to evaluate and adapt OpenLearn Materials was cited as a difficulty
  • Academics were uncertain of how far they could proceed without institutional support for the adoption of OpenLearn materials
  • The length of materials on OpenLearn are perceived as being too long to incorporate into existing programmes

These issues were not explicitly addressed by Wilson and McAndrew, though they did signpost further projects including POCKET and OLnet.

  • POCKET involved a number of partner institutions working together to create high quality reusable materials that were published to OpenLearn.   In addition to 300 hours of content the project also   a Content Development Kit, designed to give guidance on the process of transforming existing and new materials into standalone OERs.  For the institutions involved, the project found that there was an increased interest in offering Open Content as part of course delivery, but this was in the context of senior management support.   
  • The Open University and Carnegie Mellon University were the original partners in Open Learning Network (OLnet)  “an international research hub for aggregating, sharing, debating and improving Open Educational Resources (OER)”.   The  early goals of OLNet  included finding evidence to support OER policy,  providing design support for OER and  understand what transfers across contexts (McAndrew and Cropper 2010).

Significant work has taken place since Wilson and McAndrews 2009 paper.   McGill et al’s (2013) account of lessons learned on the UK OER program, suggest that time constraints remain, that “individuals appear to need significant support in identifying and adapting existing OER for their own context” and that institutional policies and procedures are needed to support Open Educational Practices.


Caswell (2008) details the development of OpenCourseWare and the Open CourseWare Consortium.  Issues raised include Copyright – while fair use criteria are acceptable when students are limited and access is restricted by logon, this is not the case for open content.  Institutions need to have clear guidance on copyright, both in terms of copyright of materials created by employed staff, and in the rigour with which copyright permissions are checked.  In the case of OpenCourseWare MIT altered their initial approach to one where copyright clearance was sought only for critical content, rather than seeking the same permissions for non-critical content, it was replaced with alternative content or removed.

OpenCourseWare made use of Creative Commons licences for its courses.  As described by Thomas et al (2012)  Creative Commons licenses have subsequently become the de facto global standard for OER.   Their widespread adoption has simplified many elements of curation and distribution of OER.  Users only have to be aware of a small number of licensese, and platforms can be developed to support a limited number of licenses.  However  as McGill et al (2013) put it “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”


Funding is also cited by Casswell (2008) as an issue, whilst significant initial funding for OCW came from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, he states that “only so much grant money to go around”.   Cost can be minimised by using Open Source platforms (eg. Moodle), but Caswell offers no direct answers, instead, citing the work of Downes (2007) and pointing back to the roots of the open source movement, “to a model where the community works together and principles of openness and sharing guide the development of technologies, content, and financial support”

Downes (2007) outlines a number of funding models including a number from external sources:  donor, government funding, drawing running costs from endowment fund or sponsorship.  He describes how institutions can also cover the costs either individually or as part of a group of intuitions working together (OpenLearn and Futurelearn would be current examples of these).   “Converting” free learners to paying customers of other services was also described.  Downes (2007) encourages a broader view of sustainability adding up the costs not just of production of OERs, but also the infrastructure, training and policy costs.


Caswell, T. et al., (2008) Open educational resources: Enabling universal education. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(1), 1–4 Online http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewArticle/469

Downes, Stephen (2007), ‘Models for sustainable open educational resources’, Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, vol. 3. Available from: http://ijklo.org/Volume3/IJKLOv3p029-044Downes.pdf

Malone, S and O’Hare, D (2009) Project on Open Content for Knowledge Exposition and Teaching (POCKET)- Final Report. [online] Jisc Repostitory http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/427/

McAndrew, Patrick and Cropper, Karen (2010). Open Learning Network: the evidence of OER impact.In: Open Ed 2010: The Seventh Annual Open Education Conference, 2-4 November 2010, Barcelona, Spain.

McGill, L., Falconer, I., Littlejohn, A. and Beetham, H. JISC/HE Academy OER Programme: Phase 3 Synthesis and Evaluation Report. JISC, February 2013 https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/59707964/ukoer3FinalSynthesisReport

Thomas, A;  Campbell, L;  Barker, P; & Hawksey, M (2012) Into the Wild Technology for Open Education Resources [online] http://publications.cetis.ac.uk/2012/601

Wilson, Tina and McAndrew, Patrick (2009). Evaluating how five Higher Education Institutions worldwide plan to use and adapt Open Educational Resources. In: International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED 2009), 9-11 March 2009, Valencia, Spain.

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