Bridging community approaches and institutional approaches in developing OERs

Two common approaches have been used by current OER initiatives: the institution-based approach and the community-based approach. The UKOER pilot programme funded three project strands – institutional, subject centre and individuals. These provided opportunities to further explore these approaches separately and to look at how they could benefit from each other in institutional contexts.
At the OER in the Disciplines conference in London last week, I attended a workshop which was to look into the differences between discipline focussed community approaches and institutional approaches and their advantages and disadvantages. The discussion was facilitated by a JISC/HEA funded project – Humbox team and participants were from various OER projects from the OER pilot programme and the UKOER2.
The workshop started with a short presentation from the HumBox, a community-driven repository for the humanities which had been developed using community-focussed approach. They shared key principles to make community building easy around repository design and workflow, such as a profile page for users to introduce themselves and their work and interests, clear guidance on self-reviewing before publishing resources and peer review processes for feedback and tracking the usage; open tagging and category process to make materials easy to find, etc. Then EdShare, a well-used institutional repository from University of Southampton shared their experiences on institutions’ approaches to OERs. The presentations provided a starting point to initiate the discussion on how far institutional and community approaches to OERs differ and how far they may complement each other.
There was general agreement amongst participants that institutional-based approaches tend to provide central management and support mechanisms to deal with copyright, IPR, quality control and technical support which are very useful to help academics new to produce OERs. However, this closed model is likely to be used as a showcase for courses by institutions to attract students rather than allowing academics to share and release their teaching and learning materials freely. On the other hand, community–based approaches are discipline-driven, involving academics from different institutions. This greatly increases the diversity of recourses and opens opportunities for academics to work with others in the same discipline from different institutions. The self publishing mechanism and peer review process encourage academics to share and reuse teaching materials and improve the quality of the resources through peer review and feedback.. It also has been mentioned that sometimes community approaches lack protection for academics on copyright and IPR issues and also lack technical support. It has been suggested that there is a need to look into how community approaches could be integrated into institutional contexts and what mechanisms are needed to bridge the institutional approaches and community approaches to best use the advantages of both approaches.

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