Institutional OERs and sustainability – embedding is the key

How to make sure universities and academics continue producing OERs and sharing teaching materials when the OER projects funding run out? This is one of the major concerns for OER programme funders and funded projects. At the Support Centre for Open Resources in Education (SCORE) event – Making ‘open’ the easiest option: OER and sustainability at Leeds last week, one of the main themes arising from the presentations and discussion around sustainable OERs during the day was embedding the process and policy into institution strategies and academic practices.

Leeds Metropolitan University’s Unicycle project presented a model for supporting the production and reuse of OERs across multiple faculties and whole institutions beyond the funding period. In their presentation, Simon Thomson talked about how to promote awareness of OERs among academics and on how to develop policies and processes to make OERs become normal activities at the university:

  1. A grounding approach to introduce OERs to staff: engaging with a range of staff, creating a workable model and changing academic working practice and culture. In order to do so, they encourage staff to find useful OERs for their own courses and share teaching materials with others. Their OERs focus on the materials that individual members of staff feel are useful rather than the courseware of a whole course. This approach also concentrates on identifying OER related IPR and copyright issues and promoting awareness through staff development;
  2. Central OER support and distributed content management model: The University has a central OER support unit which involves staff from the repository development team, the copyright clearance office and the TEL/ALT teams. Each faculty/department/subject area has a co-ordinator to oversee the quality and manage resources locally.
  3. Developing policy to promote releasing and reusing OERs and policy on reward and recognition: It is expected that the policy on producing and releasing OERs would require staff to use OERs in their courses and release OERs when developing and delivering new courses. Staff will be encouraged to become a learning designer rather than a content creator. It is also important that OERs work should be integrated as part of the professional reward and recognition scheme at the institution.

Unicycle provides an example of how the development of OERs could be embedded into existing institution policy and academic practice and how to encourage cultural change and resources sharing with institutions. The participants at the event were also invited to contribute to a discussion on OER and sustainability and the ‘Leeds Manifesto’ has been produced based on the experience from the UKOER funded projects which hope to help future funded projects achieve sustainability in OERs.