What policy changes are needed for institutions to make more effective use of OER?


To be effective and sustainable, institutional decisions to harness OER should be accompanied by a review of relevant policies along with the development of new institutional policy. There are at least four main policy issues:

  1. Provision in policy of clarity on IPR and copyright on works created during the course of employment (or study) and how these may be shared with and used by others.

  2. Human resource policy guidelines regarding whether or not the creation of certain kinds of work (e.g. learning resources) constitutes part of the job description for staff and what the implications are for development, performance management, remuneration, and promotion purposes.

  3. ICT policy guidelines regarding access to and use of appropriate software, hardware, the Internet and technical support, as well as provision for version control and backup of any storage systems for an institution’s educational resources.

  4. Materials development and quality assurance policy guidelines to ensure appropriate selection, development, quality assurance, and copyright clearance of works that may be shared.

A good starting point for consideration of OER is to have clear policies in place regarding IPR and copyright. A clear policy would for example, plainly lay out the respective rights of the institution and its employees and subcontractors, as well as students (who might become involved in the process directly or indirectly through use of some of their assignment materials as examples) regarding intellectual capital. As part of this policy process, it is worth considering the relative merits of creating flexible copyright policies that automatically apply open licences to content unless there are compelling reasons to retain all-rights reserved copyright over those materials. Simultaneously, though these policies should make it easy for staff to invoke all-rights reserved copyright where this is justified.

A logical consequence of reconsidering human resource policy will be development or updating of costing/resourcing and performance management systems so that they reward staff for the following:

  • Time spent in developing educational resources.
  • Using resource-based learning where it is more effective than traditional information delivery methods such as lecturing.
  • Harnessing other people’s materials when it is more cost-effective than producing materials from scratch.
  • Sharing their intellectual capital through global knowledge networks to improve their resources and to raise both their and their institution’s profile.

OER, policy, institutions, effective use, IPR, copyright, clarity, guidelines, human resource, ICT, materials development, quality assurance, intellectual capital, educational resources, resource-based learning

Butcher, N. (2015). A basic guide to open educational resources (OER). Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver and UNESCO. Retrieved from http://oasis.col.org/handle/11599/36