Synthesis activities for the first two phases of the HE Academy/JISC UKOER Programme have included cultural and institutional issues across a number of sectors. The Evaluation and Synthesis team’s final report on phase 2 synthesises evidence and outputs under five main headings:
- Practice change
- Development and Release Issues
- Cultural Considerations
- Institutional Issues
- Impacts and Benefits
and includes recommendations to the funders and to the stakeholders represented in the various strands of the programme. Further, detailed findings from each component strand of the programme addressed how different communities and cultures are progressing towards openness in their educational practice and in their management and use of educational resources:
- Release – projects undertaking release of new or repurposed OERs in key subject areas
- Open Materials for Accredited Courses (OMAC) – projects releasing materials linked to the national professional standards for staff who teach in higher education
- Cascade – projects cascading and embedding their own good practice in OER release to other contexts
- Collections – projects using a range of technologies to collate existing OER in thematic collections
On practice change, evidence is accumulating that teachers do share content informally, but do not necessarily consider IPR, or share resources openly. Thus they are engaging in some of the practices associated with OER, but they do not necessarily recognise OER terminology, and in asking about use/reuse of OER we may be asking the wrong questions. This finding has implications for development and release, where cascade strand projects noted that choice of search engine affected which resources were found and used, while collections projects found that their users expected searches to be “google-like” in their ease of use, personalisation, and production of relevant results. Users expressed frustration with the search functionality of many OER repositories. They were also disappointed in the scarcity of relevant OERs, a finding echoed by the release strand PORSCHE project. Most of the collections projects decided to include “grey” or “non” OERs to get round this problem – while clearly labelling them so that their non-licensed status was clear.
Thus a key question that is emerging as important to OER practice is what difference does it make to practices of development/use/reuse and sharing, that the resources are “open”?
Experience during this phase confirmed that OER practice cannot be divorced from other open practices.
In some disciplines, sharing practice through a range of open technologies has emerged as important as sharing resources, and is having an impact on the way subjects are being studied and taught. Considerations of OER use cannot be divorced from these wider changes to disciplinary knowledge practices. Social science subjects, for example, are being changed in radical ways by the availability of public social and research data online as well as the rise of new social/digital practices.
Findings from this phase confirm those from the phase 1 institutional strand, that there are different cultures of openness at different educational institutions. This is not as simple as a single dimension from closed to open: rather there are many different ways in which institutions can support open educational practices.
For all stakeholders, then, a key question is, why engage in open practices? But equally, what is it about a practice that makes it open?
Our final report on phase 2 offers no simple answers, but lots of evidence to support you in exploring these issues.