How can higher education institutions play a critical role in supporting their teaching staff in using and creating OER?


Higher education institutions can play a critical role in supporting their teaching staff in the creation of effective teaching and learning environments for students and providing ongoing opportunities for professional development. Identifying and developing learning resources are both integral parts of this process. Institutions should aspire both to create OER and to use OER from elsewhere.

Well-designed learning resources encourage greater individual engagement by students with information, ideas and content than is possible with lectures alone. By making such resources an integral part of the teaching and learning process, limited face-to-face teaching time with students can be more effectively used to foster engagement and to nurture discussion, creativity, practical applications and research activities.

In developing courses and learning resources, teaching staff naturally use what is available. The increasing pool of OER not only widens their choice, but also creates opportunities for new resources to be adapted to fit the local context in terms of culture and learning needs — without necessitating lengthy copyright negotiations or duplicating content development.

Experience shows that, when institutions make good quality courses and materials publicly available online, they can attract new students, expand their institutional reputation and advance their public service role. Such institutions may also further the dissemination of research results and thereby attract research funding. However, institutions have to position OER within their institutional branding and take into account any income that the sales of their educational materials may generate.

In this context, it is suggested that higher education institutions:

(a) Develop institutional strategies for the integration of OER.
These Guidelines suggest elements that institutions may wish to consider in developing corporate strategies for the integration of OER into a range of activities.

(b) Provide incentives to support investment in the development, acquisition and adaptation of high quality learning materials.
Institutional policies should be reviewed to:

  1. Encourage judicious selection and adaptation of existing OER, as well as development of new materials where necessary;
  2. Promote the publication of educational materials as OER within institutional protocols;
  3. Promote research on using, reusing and repurposing OER;
  4. Promote students publishing their work (with the guidance of academic staff and within institutional protocols) under an open licence as OER;
  5. Build OER into mechanisms for institutional and individual monitoring;
  6. Promote collaboration both within and beyond the institution in developing materials;
  7. Provide staff with appropriate incentives and rewards for the development, acquisition and adaptation of learning materials; and
  8. Ensure that staff workload models allow for curriculum, course and materials design and development.

© Recognise the important role of educational resources within internal quality assurance processes.
This should include establishing and maintaining a rigorous internal process for validating the quality of educational materials prior to their publication as OER.

(d) Consider creating flexible copyright policies.
Such policies could make it simple for staff to invoke some-rights-reserved copyright or other licensing permutations when this is deemed necessary. These policies could be part of a wider institutional process to ensure that robust, enforceable IPR, copyright and privacy policies are in place and accurately reflected in all legal contracts and conditions of employment.

(e) Undertake institutional advocacy and capacity building.
Ongoing awareness-raising, capacity-building (staff development) and networking/sharing for both women and men can be carried out to develop the full range of competences required to facilitate more effective use of OER. These activities could aim to encourage a shared vision for open educational practices within the organisation, which would ideally be aligned to the institution’s vision and mission and linked to incentives.

(f) Ensure ICT access for staff and students.
This means striving to ensure that academic staff and students have ubiquitous access to the necessary ICT infrastructure, software and connectivity to access the Internet and develop or adapt educational materials of different kinds. This should include software applications, such as Web content editing tools, content management systems, templates and toolkits that facilitate the creation and use of adaptable, inclusively designed educational resources. It might also entail developing a repository of the work of academic staff and students that could serve as a powerful teaching and learning resource, while raising awareness of the distinction between appropriate sharing/collaboration and plagiarism. Staff and students should also have access to training/professional development and support to use these systems.

(g) Develop institutional policies and practices to store and access OER.
This includes the capacity to store, manage and share resources and content, both internally and externally, so that academic endeavours build on a growing base of institutional knowledge. This might be done most cost effectively as part of a coordinated national strategy or in partnership with emerging global OER networks and repositories based on open standards.

(h) Review institutional OER practices periodically.
Such reviews will help the institution determine the value of its policies and practices. They could include reviewing the extent of the use of openly licensed educational materials in higher education programmes. They could also include assessing the effects of this use on the quality of educational delivery and its impact on the cost of developing/procuring high quality teaching and learning materials for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Where relevant, this might be extended to showcasing examples of good practice, in both marketing publications and academic research publications.

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UNESCO and Commonwealth of Learning (2015). Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in higher education. Retrieved from