'Many staff felt that it would be good to incorporate resource creation into learning and teaching in higher education practice (LTHE – HEA accredited postgraduate programme designed to meet the needs of those new to teaching). This would make OER sustainable in the long term.
The costs of producing OER would then just be a part of training with getting staff to think about copyright and IPR from the very beginning: ‘a basic educational need which has now been highlighted as necessary anyway’.'
Open Exeter project final report, University of Exeter
Cultural issues have been identified as significant in relation to if and how people share learning and teaching resources. Different institutions, sectors and subject communities may all have their own ‘established practices’ around sharing teaching practice and learning materials. Academics may feel more connected to the culture of their subject discipline or professional community of practice than to the institutional culture.
In HE it could be argued that there is no such thing as an institutional culture as many sub-cultures exist, often related to different institutional roles, with traditions and approaches that can be more persuasive than strategy and policy documents. Some of these traditions or practices can result in slow take up of new approaches or ideas.
The open movement in particular challenges people and groups to change their existing practice, and patchy development is quite likely in large institutions with many sub-cultures. An institution-wide approach to staff development and support can help to address some of these cultural barriers and encourage OER release and use but some institutions may choose to mandate such activities to move forward.
The following studies discuss cultural issues around sharing learning materials in more detail:
- Community dimensions of learning object repositories CD LOR
- Trust in digital repositories TRUST DR
- Sharing e-learning content
- Jisc’s Good Intentions report
Jisc/HE Academy pilot programme: OER release
The Jisc/HE Academy UKOER programme provided funding and support to enable individuals, subject communities and institutions to openly release existing materials. The lessons learned, approaches adopted and barriers overcome are informing the wider community and offer models and guidance to support wider release in the UK. As anticipated, cultural issues emerged as significant factors affecting both release and use.
UKOER projects invested significant time and resources into engagement activities with staff, highlighting the benefits of releasing and using OER and offering guidance and support to change their own practice. During phase two of the programme the notion of open educational practices (OEP) emerged as a growing area of focus in the UK and wider learning and teaching communities.
The evaluation and synthesis team published a briefing paper which aimed to clarify some of the aspects emerging from the UKOER programme open practices briefing paper. OEP challenge existing cultures of academic institutions and subject areas, while at the same time upholding some values that are very long-established (such as public access to knowledge, transparency of research methods, and open peer review).
'Some institutions and subject areas are embracing the open agenda wholeheartedly while others remain sceptical, for reasons that may be historical or cultural, or may simply reflect the personal views of key players.
It seems likely that the benefits of ‘opening up’ will accelerate as the volume of available resources grows, and that there may be a tipping point beyond which open access becomes the norm and special processes will have to be applied to keep learning, research and knowledge transfer materials in a closed environment. But we are some way off this yet, and work is still needed to define and communicate the benefits.'
Open practices briefing paper, 2011
There are different cultures of openness at different institutions and in different sectors (see the open practice across sectors briefing paper) but we can identify some common issues that arise across all the different practices we have described. Addressing these issues in a conscious and strategic fashion is likely to help institutions move towards more open practices in a managed way.
These issues include legal, technical, cultural and staff roles and responsibilities – culture change around OEP is complex but the UKOER programme highlights that engaging with OER can encourage and support culture change (for individuals, communities and institutions) and result in interesting conversations about broader learning and teaching activities, changes in strategy and policy and enhanced learning experiences for students.