Useful knowledge, competences and skills for effective use of OER in higher education
Below is a ‘shopping list’ of the knowledge, competences and skills that higher education institutions may wish to develop in order to use OER effectively. This list highlights areas where openness adds value and/or where particular attention is needed. These areas are:
1. Expertise in advocacy and promotion of OER as a vehicle for improving the quality of learning and teaching in education (having a good grasp of both conceptual and practical issues, policy implications, etc). This requires:
(a) Commitment to the concept of openness, without which any attempts at advocacy are unlikely to succeed;
(b) Understanding of the pros and cons of different open licensing arrangements, combined with insight into how most current policy environments constrain the use of OER and open licensing of intellectual capital (with a particular focus on the challenges of persuading educational decision makers in environments where intellectual property policies make no provision for open licensing);
(c) Clarity about the difficult issues associated with using proprietary content in diverse online environments, new media and technology and therefore awareness of the benefits of OER as open resources that are usable, reusable and adaptable with no restrictions;
(d) Clarity about the economic benefits of OER, in terms of marketing institutions and programmes, the cost-effectiveness of materials production, and policies, contracts and grants;
(e) Sound knowledge of practical examples of the use of OER to illustrate key points; and
(f) Up-to-date knowledge of the arguments for and against use of OER.
2. Legal expertise to be able to:
(a) Understand and advise people on how copyright works generally, the nature of copyright licensing and different approaches to the licensing of materials;
(b) Review copyright policies, contracts and grant conditions currently in place at the institution, including policies establishing who owns copyrightable content developed by administrators, academic staff and others;
(c) Develop and adapt privacy, copyright and IPR policies that facilitate and achieve goals related to publishing OER;
(d) Determine requirements for copyright clearance and privacy to release materials under open licences; and
(e) Reflect copyright and disclaimer statements accurately in materials of different kinds and multiple media.
3. Expertise in developing and explaining business models that justify and illustrate the use and benefits of open licensing to institutions, academic staff, and other creators of educational content (including publishers).
4. Programme, course and materials design and development expertise, with a particular focus on helping academic staff harness the full potential of resource-based learning and student-centred pedagogies in their programmes and courses. An understanding of educational approaches is important (e.g., being able to differentiate among open, distance, electronic and blended learning, and their respective merits), as is an understanding of the context of education in the specific sector in which work is taking place. In addition, it requires skills in:
(a) Conducting educational needs assessments;
(b) Managing curriculum development processes;
(c) Effectively identifying target audiences;
(d) Defining effective and relevant learning outcomes;
(e) Identifying relevant content areas for programmes, courses and modules;
(f) Selecting appropriate combinations of teaching and learning strategies to achieve identified learning outcomes;
(g) Carrying out financial planning to ensure affordability and long-term sustainability of teaching and learning strategies selected;
(h) Developing effective and engaging teaching and learning materials;
(i) Integrating meaningful student support into materials during design;
(j) Designing appropriate effective assessment strategies;
(k) Applying the most appropriate media and technologies to support learning outcomes;
(l) Using media and technologies to support educational delivery, interaction and student support;
(m) Sourcing OER, based on a knowledge of the strengths and features of the main repositories, specialised repositories and OER search engines;
(n) Adapting and integrating OER coherently into contextualised programme and course curricula;
(o) Negotiating with external individuals and/or organisations to issue or re-issue resources under open licences;
(p) Re-versioning existing resources using optical character recognition where they do not exist in digital form;
- whether it is permissible to modify the content when customising material and, if so, to what extent it can be done and how it should be handled; and
- if work has been adapted for a specific purpose, how this should be indicated in the customised content;
(r) Reinforcing the need to credit the original author/source of the content that is being accessed for use through open licensing; and
(s) Implementing the necessary processes for producing print-on-demand texts.
5. Technical expertise. This set of skills is tightly connected to the skills of materials design and development. Increasingly, resource-based learning and student-centred strategies are harnessing a wide range of media and are deployed in e-learning environments, facilitated by the ready availability of digitised, openly licensed educational content. This requires skills in:
(a) Advising institutions on the pros and cons of establishing their own repositories, as well as providing advice on other possible ways of sharing their OER;
(b) Creating stable, operational virtual learning environments (VLE) and content repositories;
(c) Supporting academic staff in developing courses within already operational or newly deployed VLE; and
(d) Developing computer-based multimedia materials (including video and audio materials).
6. Expertise in managing networks/consortia of people and institutions to work cooperatively on various teaching and learning improvement projects including an ability to adapt to challenging environments (for example, power outages, physical discomfort, difficult personalities, institutional politics) and remain focused on the task at hand.
7. Monitoring and evaluation expertise to design and conduct formative evaluation processes, as well as longer-term summative evaluation and/or impact assessment activities that determine the extent to which the use of open licensing has led to improvements in the quality of teaching and learning, greater productivity, enhanced cost-effectiveness, and so on.
8. Expertise in curating and sharing OER effectively. This includes:
(a) Technical skills to develop and maintain Web platforms to host OER online, as well as to share the content and metadata with other Web platforms;
(b) Ability to generate relevant and meaningful metadata for OER;
(c) Knowledge of, and skills to deploy, standardised global taxonomies for describing resources in different disciplines and domains; and
(d) Website design and management skills to create online environments in which content can be easily discovered and downloaded.
9. Communication and research skills to be able to share information about OER, in the form of Web updates, newsletters, brochures, case studies, research reports and so on. This includes the full spectrum of skills required for such communication activities, from researching and documenting best practices and core concepts to graphic design and layout.