OER infoKit wiki Open Educational Resources infoKit / Overcoming barriers and finding enablers
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Overcoming barriers and finding enablers

Page history last edited by Lou McGill 9 years, 8 months ago


What are the barriers to OER release, use, and re-purposing?

"We would emphasise that OER is simply about sharing and that much can be achieved with the technologies already in place, without further investment. The biggest barriers to sharing are factors not directly related to OER, such as the increasingly commercial nature of education, the workload pressures on teaching staff, the increasing ratio of staff to students, and the lack of professional incentives in the sector for teachers to share their work."

Chemistry.FM final report


It is helpful to look at the literature on 'sharing of learning resources' as this has documented many of the barriers experienced by institutions, communities and individuals, and most have highlighted legal and cultural issues in particular (CD LOR, TRUST DRSharing e-learning content, Good Intentions report). Several point to the notion of 'perceived barriers' - anticipated barriers that are not as real as imagined or that have been lessened by new developments, such as the introduction and widescale adoption of Creative Commons Licences, or the increasing publishing choices offered by social software/Web 2.0.


One of the most significant barriers to sharing has been that individuals are not necessarily interested or committed to sharing in the first place. Many of the government funded initiatives have at their heart a perception that sharing would prevent duplication and support efficiencies and cost effectiveness. Whilst this is clearly a laudable and sensible goal, busy teachers may need persuading and supporting to devote time to such activities. This is linked to understanding and appreciating the benefits to them as individuals, as well as those to the learners, institutions, and wider global community. It has also been noted that teachers often prefer an element of choice in who they share with so providing options for 'degrees of openness' may encourage more people to make their resources openly available. (Good Intentions report). This was discussed in depth in the OCEP Project final report from the University of Coventry who adopted a phased release model. This model presented many technical challenges for the project team but responded to the need of staff to open some content only within the University. Other UKOER projects also found this a useful way to get staff engaged with OER and to allay fears around quality.


Barriers/Enablers to OER Release

It is useful to look at barriers to releasing OER from the point of view of different stakeholders and also to highlight some enablers to help people overcome the barriers or perceived barriers. Linking these to the benefits can also be useful to help people see the value in extending the effort to overcome some of the barriers. This table is not meant to be exhaustive but provides 5 of the most significant barriers for each stakeholder group. The table is reproduced from one of the OER Synthesis and Evaluation Team wiki pages which implements the same use licence as this infokit.


Possible Benefits
Teachers/academic staff

Not all teaching staff are aware of the benefits of releasing or using OER

Information and support (e.g. from the Jorum Community Bay)

Awareness activities - workshops, guidance

Enhanced reputation

Improved quality

Peer feedback and new contacts

  Time is a significant issue particularly when re-purposing existing materials

Institutional support and acknowledgment of time needed to re-purpose materials

Technical support and guidance from central teams

Improved quality and checks re legality of content
  Skills/competencies - a whole range of new skills may be needed (technical and pedagogical).

Training and/or extra support from central teams

Information and support from the Jorum Community Bay

Incorporating OER release into accredited teacher training

Additional skills and experience for staff

Balanced skillsets across institution

  Quality - many staff are concerned about quality in relation to technical issues (eg. recording quality) as well as opening their learning materials to outside scrutiny - some are concerned that someone may re-purpose their content to a low standard and will reflect badly on them

Reassurance, training and support for Institutional managers and support teams

Staged release - degrees of openness

Ensure clear attribution information is available in the licence


Increased quality of learning materials across instituion.

Enhanced reputation.

  Legal issues - still a significant real and perceived barrier. Existing materials may contain materials that can't be released openly.

Information, training and support.

Creative Commons Licences


Increased knowledge.

Clarity re attribution and potential use options.

Creator can control types of use.

Learning support Technical challenges - particularly choices around content packaging, branding, version control

Dialogue across the institution and decisions supported by strategic and policy documents

Advice and support from JISC CETIS and institutions with existing experience


Clear guidelines across the institution

Increased awareness and understanding


  Quality issues - central teams often have to package content on behalf of teaching teams with a range of quality issues (technical and pedagogical)

Institutional commitment to quality

Guidelines for course teams to support production of high quality content

Increased quality of learning materials

Enhanced reputation

  Metadata and retrieval - assigning appropriate metadata is still a challenging issue although utilising social software/web 2.0 services can help with retrieval.

Staged metadata creation through clear and efficient workflows



Enhanced retrieval of content for all stakeholders
  Hosting - where to deposit the content which in turn is affected by issues such as version control, branding, etc.

Decisions and guidance on where to deposit

Mandating deposit within Institutional repository

Mandating deposit within national repositories such as Jorum

Ensuring that items are retrievable from range of sources

Use of Web 2.0 facilities to support retrieval - RSS feeds

Clarity for depositors

Enhanced retrieval

  Legal issues - trying to package or release content that contains material that can't be released for legal reasons - due to previous licencing restrictions or use of materials not owned by the teacher. Some institutions may have a very 'risk averse' approach.

Clear support and guidance across all faculties and teaching teams

Releasing smaller chunks of content that doesn't depend on illegal content

Reduction in amount of illegal material being used in teaching

Informed staff

Time saving once staff are informed and trained

Management Understanding the value and benefits of openly releasing their learning and teaching materials when concerned about competitors and ensuring student enrollment figures

Convincing senior managers of the benefits for institutions

Getting key senior champions on board

Including OER release in strategic and policy decisions and documents

Marketisation opportunities - showcase of courses and high quality content Enhanced reputation

Increased enrollments


  Institution wide approach - HE institutions may not have culture or mechanisms to support institution wide dialogue which is needed for OER initiatives

Develop new partnerships within institutions

Create mechanisms for cross faculty communication, practice sharing

Case studies to share across the institution to illustrate approaches and benefits


Joined up approaches
  Competition - institutions may find it difficult to consider revealing their course content if it undermines a particular strength

Point to evidence that OER release encourages enrollment and offers marketing opportunities

Selective release - small amounts of very high quality content

Quality materials showcased

Increased enrollment

Higher profile globally

  Managing resources - existing mechanisms for managing learning and teaching materials (such as closed VLE systems) may mean that institutions do not know what they have, or what quality or legal issues may arise if they are made more open

Linking VLEs to institutional repositories

Taking an institution-wide approach to support faculties/departments

Providing guidelines on deposit, metadata, formats, etc.

Increased visibility of all learning resources (and therefore likely positive impact on quality)

Opportunities to share across departments

Reduction in duplication for generic materials

  Uneven development due to subject discipline focus and cultures - some departments may be more inclined to openness and some may have been more experimental with new technologies

Developing case studies of good practice to share within institution

Developing guidelines that are sensitive to subject discipline differences

Utilise support of Academy Subject Centres and other communities of practice/professional bodies

Utilise examples from outside the institution

Accept that uneven development is likely.

Supporting disciplines as appropriate to need

Enables a staged approach and encourages development of champions


Communities of Practice (CoP)
Institutional practices - many teachers are members of an institution which may already have guidelines, policies and restrictions on what and where a teacher can openly release

Sharing good institutional practices with other community members

Sharing good community practices with institutions

Encourage good practice
  Legal issues  - there may be a perception that legal issues are less of a barrier when sharing within communities
Ensure that community members still follow institutional guidelines, particularly when/if the institution owns the copyright
Less content released that contravenes copyright law
  Ownership - not all teachers own the teaching materials they produce as they may have a contract that gives the institution ownership - this may restrict what teachers can release within communities.

Follow institutional guidelines re quality, legality, branding

Obtain institutional agreement re deposit outside the institutional repository

Clarity re ownership
  Community/consotia agreements - the complexities of getting all parties to agree to particular aspects (legal, quality, metadata, branding) can be very time consuming

Lightweight agreements that are not restrictive

Clear management, support and guidelines

Obtain support from some central agency (such as Academy Subject Centres, Professional bodies

Increased participation


  Hosting - communities that cross institutional boundaries need some mechanism for bringing the resources together

Community of Practice sharing places (wiki's, forums, social networking sites, Jorum Community Bay)

Subject repositories/spaces

National repositories such as JorumOpen

Utilising existing CoP mechanisms

Institutional repositories with feeds to other portals and services   

Community members know where to go for resources

Resources supported by focus on practice - information, support and dialogue


Barriers/Enablers to OER Use, Re-use and re-purposing


Possible Benefits
Learners Equity re access - not all OER are fully open, not all learners have access to computers, or to the internet 

Movement toward fully open resources

Ensure materials will be accessible on alternative technologies (mobile) 

Genuine access for all 
  Knowing what is available - learners who are not guided or supported by a teacher may not know what is available or how to access it.

Making resources discoverable by tools that learners use regularly - search engines

Using social software to 'advertise' content (twitter, facebook)

Increased use of content
  Support and guidance - learners may need support and guidance to use resources effectively

Provide options to engage with content creator or other content users (peers) - such as discussion forums and opportunities for collaborative learning

Include guidance on use within resources

Encourages peer support and interaction

Encourages dialogue and enhances learning opportunities

  Quality - not all OER are high quality - poor experiences with low quality materials may deter future use

User reviews can be helpful to encourage others

Social software services such as Diigo allow users to highlight content and add notes

Quality resources likely to rise to the top of search engine results

Teachers Knowing what is available and how to find it

Utilising peer networks and CoPs to find out what is available in their subject area

Utilising services which pull resources together either physically or as a catalogue

Mandating deposit within national repositories such as Jorum

CoPs and networks support practice and dialogue as well as resources

Improved access

  Time - concerns about wasting time looking for content and then adapting for their own purpose

Central support teams to help with repurposing

CoP support as above

Providing educational context as 'wrappers' to support users of resources

Using small chunks or individual items to supplement own materials rather than trying to adapt a large package of materials

User reviews which describe how resource has been used by others


Easier retrieval

CoP support as above

Time invested is valid due to positive results


  Educational context - perception that each context is unique and that it is too difficult to adapt others content

Make generic content open to support several courses (eg. introduction to statistics)

Allow for context specific aspects to be easily added/taken away

Flexible use of content as appropriate



Dandelion Image CC BY-NC Steve Sawyer 




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