What are the benefits of releasing OER?
Millions of pounds have been invested worldwide into the development of OER and yet the different benefits to the range of stakeholder groups have not always been well articulated or evidenced. Whilst there is increasing evidence of benefits to educational institutions (eg as a showcase) and to learners there is less evidence of the benefits to the people who are expected to go to the effort of releasing their learning resources – the teachers themselves.
The UKOER programme (2009-2012) has led to increased engagement of academic staff with OER and has generated some champions of open educational practices.
It is worth noting that producers of OER often have a specific primary audience in mind, for example to support a particular course or to help a particular group of educators. Involving the intended audience during the design and release processes has been proven to have an impact on overall engagement and use of that audience, but this may not necessarily benefit wider audiences. Many OER are NOT pedagogically or technically accessible to a global audience.
For a fuller list of potential barriers and enablers, see the overcoming barriers and finding enablers section.
OER links to several strategic goals, in the UK and worldwide. OER release could also meet strategic needs, especially:
- Engagement with a wider community
- Engagement with employers
- Sustaining vulnerable subjects
- Enhancing marketing and engagement of prospective students worldwide
- Brokering collaborations and partnerships
The following is a visualisation of what the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation sees as the methods for equalizing access to educational resources worldwide:
It is useful to tease out the range of benefits for different groups and to articulate these clearly as external funding sources may become more scarce.
Sustainability of OER release is currently a significant issue for institutions around the globe and evidence of benefits must be clarified if resources are to be made available for continued release. It is also useful to identify which benefits are most relevant to each stakeholder group:
- The global community (affected by cultural, language and political issues)
- The national community (sometimes significant investment by government)
- Educational Institutions (not one homogenous community but several)
- Subject communities (including employers and professional bodies)
- Individuals supporting learning and teaching (teachers, librarians, learning technologists, educational developers)
- Learners (enrolled and global)
Good intentions: improving the evidence base in support of sharing learning materials (Jisc study 2008) includes a table identifying benefits to different stakeholder groups with links to evidence.
A significant contribution of the UKOER programme was in articulating and providing evidence of benefits across a range of educational contexts and for a diverse mix of stakeholders across several sectors:
Learners can benefit from:
- Enhanced quality and flexibility of resources
- Seeing/applying knowledge in a wider context than their course would otherwise allow, eg international dimension
- Freedom of access (e.g. at work/home/on placement) and enhanced opportunities for learning - the Cape Town declaration)
- Support for learner-centred, self-directed, peer-to-peer and social/informal learning approaches
- Skills development (e.g. numeracy) through release of generic OER that can be re-used and re-contextualised in different subject areas
- The opportunity to test out course materials before enrolling – and compare with other similar courses
- Opportunities to be involved in OER initiatives either through contributing towards OER development, testing or evaluation, marketing activities, acting as an ambassador for OER with other learners or staff
- Authentic or ‘real-life’ learning experiences through OER that link to employer or professional sector activities
The OER originator can benefit from:
- Student/user feedback and open peer review
- Reputational benefits, recognition
- Benefits (efficiency and cultural) of collaborative approaches to teaching/learning
- Opportunities to work across sectors, institutions and subject disciplines
- Increased digital literacies (particularly around IPR)
- Reaching a wider range of learners
Other staff/users can benefit from:
- Availability of quality peer reviewed material to enhance their curriculum
- Collaborative approaches to teaching/learning (CoPs)
- Professional/peer-to-peer learning about the processes of OER release
- Increased dialogue within their organisation or with other peers in the sector and globally
- Preservation and availability of materials for endangered subjects
- Open access to legacy materials
Educational institutions can benefit from:
- Recognition and enhanced reputation
- Wider availability of their academic content and focus on the learning experience (linking to widening participation agenda)
- Increased capacity to support remote students
- Efficiencies in content production (particularly around generic content that can be used across subject areas)
- New partnerships/linkages with other institutions and organisations outside the education sector
- Increased sharing of ideas and practice within the institution, including greater role for support services
- A buffer against the decline of specific subjects or topics (which may not be sustainable at institutional level but can be sustained across several institutions through shared resources)
- Supporting sustainability of legacy materials
- Increased understanding of IPR
- New relationships with students as they become collaborators in OER production, release and use
Other sectors (eg, employers, public bodies, private bodies, 3rd sector)
- Access to repurposable content
- Input to scoping, development and endorsement of OER in their focus area
- New potential partnerships with content providers and other sectors
- Upskilling – increased understanding of IPR, curriculum development and learning technologies
- Understanding of customer needs – (for example, commercial publishers finding out what kinds of OER and learning resources are wanted by teachers and/or learners)
The following case studies provide accessible accounts of benefits from sharing resources openly:
- HE Academy
- Jisc (Users)
- Jisc (in impact report)
- OER senior management guide
- OER-CSAP six partner case studies (CSAP Project, UKOER)
OER is an international movement, linking innovative people and organisations in a common goal.
- The OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCWC) has more than 200 members, including several of the world’s most prestigious universities.
- OER Africa is a very clear and powerful use-case in terms of international sharing and development.
- The Cape Town declaration on OER is a worldwide initiative with thousands of signatories calling for the removal of barriers to OER which will lead to ‘a global revolution in teaching and learning’.