Despite the UK being a world leader in education in a number of areas, it’s poor when it comes to creating OER. For institutions and their staff to want to create OER, the benefits have to be clear: is it going to cost money? How will it benefit the institution? How will it advance my career? Tom Browne has been running a pilot project at the University of Exeter to develop open resources, where he came across many barriers to implementation. Together with Helen Beetham of Glasgow Caledonian University, who has evaluated similar projects at other universities, they explained at the morning session, ‘Evaluating the benefits of OER’, how institutions and their staff can be persuaded to adopt an OER programme.
Beetham says in the majority of cases, ‘creative commons licensing and release to an open repository is achievable for the majority of content’. However, there are different benefit cases that have to be explained to convince individuals and institutions to produce OER.
She says that these cases fall into four areas. Individuals can be persuaded that OER can help them showcase their materials, which can offer both early and late career benefits, either demonstrating their skills or leaving a legacy to future generations. Institutions can be persuaded that they’ll attract new students and be more influential. Community members can get reciprocal benefits from other members. And with OER only likely to grow in importance, many groups see the benefit of building up the capacity to develop and produce OER now for future expansion. To back up these cases, Beetham says, there is ‘huge evidence about what works and what doesn’t’, as well as evidence that OER can enhance learner opportunities.
In the case of the University of Exeter, a desire to bring in more international students and improve the university’s reputation internationally was enough to get the necessary sign-off for the OER project. ‘It would have a positive impact on the brand, attract the best international students and help us in league tables, particularly with promoting the best of our research,’ he says.
Most of the institutional concerns were about IPR and whether the university was giving away its crown jewels. Staff concerns related to motivation for producing OER, in particular the amount of time necessary. In the majority of cases, these objections were solved, sometimes with the advice of lawyers; the issue of time was solved by pointing out that courses can be set up much quicker from cold using OER material. However, says Browne, there was never a single argument that could be used to explain the importance of OER to everyone. ‘General solutions never seem to apply.’ Browne is now trying to get teaching on the benefits of OER and how to create it incorporated into staff training programmes.
Although the research is still in its early stages, the results of Beetham’s work as well as the experience of Browne suggest that OER can bring benefits for both the institute releasing the OER and the staff producing them.