Guidelines for Higher Education Stakeholders

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Guidelines for Higher Education Stakeholders

Guidelines for governments

The roles of governments in higher education and the relationships of governments with institutions in this sector vary widely from country to country. However, governments can usually play an important role in setting policies for higher education systems. They have an interest in ensuring that public investments in higher education make a useful and cost-effective contribution to socio-economic development. Most governments also support some universities financially. In this context, governments are often in a position to require that educationally useful material developed with public funds be made available under open licences. While there may sometimes be reasons for not requiring open licensing, the sharing of educational materials has significant potential to improve the quality, transparency and accessibility of higher education systems. Likewise, governments can use open licensing regimes to increase the leverage of public investments, by facilitating widespread reuse of those resources with minimal additional investment.

In this context, it is suggested that governments:

(a) Support the use of OER through their policy-making role in higher education. This could include encouraging and supporting the use of OER in adapting learning experiences to a greater diversity of learners and supporting national social-inclusion agendas. In this way, it would be possible to encourage equitable access to higher education and improve learning outcomes for all learners. Sustainability of this endeavour might be encouraged by setting up a government programme of support for OER creation and reuse.

(b) Consider adopting open licensing frameworks. One effective way to accelerate open licensing and the sharing of higher education resources would be to adopt, within policy frameworks, an appropriate national open licensing framework. This might form part of an overarching policy framework on intellectual property rights (IPR) and copyright in higher education that spans both research and teaching activities. Such a licensing framework could also cover the copyright and IPR status of educational materials produced by government departments and agencies.

(c) Consider adopting open standards. Linked to the above could be the adoption of appropriate open standards. The purpose would be to ensure full access to and use/sharing of resources in higher education. This could span both research and educational publications, serving to ensure the perpetuity of editable electronic documents, regardless of changes to software. Such standards could cover educational materials produced by government departments and agencies and by institutions receiving government support for developing educational resources.

(d) Contribute to raising awareness of key OER issues. This could include the development and sharing of case studies of good practice and relevant examples of use to support implementation efforts. Governments can assist higher education stakeholders to understand issues surrounding IPR, as well as how IPR are being challenged and reshaped by the rapid digitisation and online sharing of information and resources.

(e) Promote national ICT/connectivity strategies. Given the centrality of ICT to accessing and sharing content online, such support could focus on ensuring sustained provision of connectivity and staff/student access to ICT within higher education systems.

(f) Support the sustainable development and sharing of quality learning materials. Key to the sustainable development and use of OER will be supporting higher education institutions, individually and collectively, in their efforts to produce and share high quality educational resources. This could include support for national initiatives to develop local content and regional/global efforts to develop OER repositories and directories, as well as fostering mechanisms to promote quality in OER. There is no single strategy that will work for every context, but a coordinated approach would likely yield the best results.

Guidelines for higher education institutions

Higher education institutions can play a critical role in supporting their teaching staff in the creation of effective teaching and learning environments for students and providing ongoing opportunities for professional development. Identifying and developing learning resources are both integral parts of this process. Institutions should aspire both to create OER and to use OER from elsewhere.

Well-designed learning resources encourage greater individual engagement by students with information, ideas and content than is possible with lectures alone. By making such resources an integral part of the teaching and learning process, limited face-to-face teaching time with students can be more effectively used to foster engagement and to nurture discussion, creativity, practical applications and research activities.

In developing courses and learning resources, teaching staff naturally use what is available. The increasing pool of OER not only widens their choice, but also creates opportunities for new resources to be adapted to fit the local context in terms of culture and learning needs — without necessitating lengthy copyright negotiations or duplicating content development. Experience shows that, when institutions make good quality courses and materials publicly available online, they can attract new students, expand their institutional reputation and advance their public service role. Such institutions may also further the dissemination of research results and thereby attract research funding. However, institutions have to position OER within their institutional branding and take into account any income that the sales of their educational materials may generate.

In this context, it is suggested that higher education institutions:

(a) Develop institutional strategies for the integration of OER. These Guidelines suggest elements that institutions may wish to consider in developing corporate strategies for the integration of OER into a range of activities.

(b) Provide incentives to support investment in the development, acquisition and adaptation of high quality learning materials. Institutional policies should be reviewed to:

  • Encourage judicious selection and adaptation of existing OER, as well as development of new materials where necessary;
  • Promote the publication of educational materials as OER within institutional protocols;
  • Promote research on using, reusing and repurposing OER;
  • Promote students publishing their work (with the guidanand materials design and development.

(c) Recognise the important role of educational resources within internal quality assurance processes. This should include establishing and maintaining a rigorous internal process for validating the quality of educational materials prior to their publication as OER.

(d) Consider creating flexible copyright policies. Such policies could make it simple for staff to invoke some-rights-reserved copyright or other licensing permutations when this is deemed necessary. These policies could be part of a wider institutional process to ensure that robust, enforceable IPR, copyright and privacy policies are in place and accurately reflected in all legal contracts and conditions of employment.

(e) Undertake institutional advocacy and capacity building. Ongoing awareness-raising, capacity-building (staff development) and networking/sharing for both women and men can be carried out to develop the full range of competences required to facilitate more effective use of OER.6 These activities could aim to encourage a shared vision for open educational practices within the organisation, which would ideally be aligned to the institution’s vision and mission and linked to incentives.

(f) Ensure ICT access for staff and students. This means striving to ensure that academic staff and students have ubiquitous access to the necessary ICT infrastructure, software and connectivity to access the Internet and develop or adapt educational materials of different kinds. This should include software applications, such as Web content editing tools, content management systems, templates and toolkits that facilitate the creation and use of adaptable, inclusively designed educational resources.7 It might also entail developing a repository of the work of academic staff and students that could serve as a powerful teaching and learning resource, while raising awareness of the distinction between appropriate sharing/collaboration and plagiarism. Staff and students should also have access to training/professional development and support to use these systems.

(g) Develop institutional policies and practices to store and access OER. This includes the capacity to store, manage and share resources and content, both internally and externally, so that academic endeavours build on a growing base of institutional knowledge. This might be done most cost-effectively as part of a coordinated national strategy or in partnership with emerging global OER networks and repositories based on open standards.

(h) Review institutional OER practices periodically. Such reviews will help the institution determine the value of its policies and practices. They could include reviewing the extent of the use of openly licensed educational materials in higher education programmes. They could also include assessing the effects of this use on the quality of educational delivery and its impact on the cost of developing/procuring high quality teaching and learning materials for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Where relevant, this might be extended to showcasing examples of good practice, in both marketing publications and academic research publications.



6 A complete list of relevant skills and competences for consideration is included in Appendix 1.
7 See Appendix 2.

Guidelines for academic staff

Academic staff are vital agents in ensuring the quality of teaching and learning delivered to students. They are central to the teaching and learning experience of students. Teachers face a series of challenges, including:

  • Time constraints in preparing curriculum and selecting, adapting and/or developing teaching and learning materials and assessment tools;
  • Access to high quality, relevant teaching and learning materials;
  • The need to address the often diverse needs of their learners and demonstrate gender sensitivity;
  • Changing teaching and learning environments (from teacher-centred to learner-centred approaches);
  • Increased student access to online materials, collaborative networks and online publishing opportunities;
  • Legal requirements to broaden access;
  • The need to cover a broad and growing knowledge base;
  • The need to update their ICT skills regularly;
  • High student expectations; and
  • Ever-increasing enrolments in many jurisdictions.

Responsibility for assuring the quality of any content used in teaching and learning environments, including OER, will reside predominantly with the programme/course coordinators and individual academic staff members. Whether prescribing core readings/textbooks, suggesting further readings, choosing a video to screen or using someone else’s course plan, they retain final responsibility for choosing which materials — open and/or proprietary, digital or hardcopy — to use. For this reason, much of the quality of OER will depend on which resources academic staff choose to use, how they adapt them for contextual relevance and how they integrate them into various teaching and learning activities. Effective use of OER can address many of the above challenges.

In this context, it is suggested that academic staff in higher education institutions:

(a) Develop skills to evaluate OER. A good starting point is to increase knowledge of OER through exploring existing OER in suitable portals/repositories and determining what might be useful in courses and modules. Academic staff may find existing OER to be useful benchmarks for reflecting on and improving their own curriculum and pedagogy as well as those of others. Such exploration and peer support/review may also develop their confidence to share new and/or adapted resources to address curriculum gaps in the existing pool of OER, which would enable them to contribute to global knowledge.

(b) Consider publishing OER. For some academic staff, this might be initiated most comfortably by starting small, working collaboratively with peers (including peer reviews) and publishing materials openly that are already routinely produced as part of teaching and learning, including course outlines, course information booklets or hand-outs, teaching notes and course assessment tools and instruments. Over time, such practices could generate a rich, inter-institutional repository of materials on which to draw. It would also provide students with a richer understanding of the content area.

(c) Assemble, adapt and contextualise existing OER. Part of the effective use of OER includes developing skills to adapt and contextualise existing OER to respond to diverse learning needs of students and support a variety of learning approaches for a given learning goal. This can be achieved by making use of, and contributing to, the diverse pool of resources available in OER repositories and sharing information on issues and processes related to adaptation and localisation of resources.

(d) Develop the habit of working in teams. Just as modern research is usually a team effort, so the development and repurposing of materials is likely to be more successful and more satisfying for the academic staffs involved, if they adopt a team approach.

(e) Seek institutional support for OER skills development. In order to exploit OER effectively academic staff will need to acquire skills and competences, such as materials design, curriculum development and the location, selection and adaptation of OER through a blended strategy of skills development and professional skills support. They should receive institutional support for professional development in these areas, both as individuals and as teams.8

(f) Leverage networks and communities of practice. Academic staff can benefit tremendously from using existing online networks and communities of practice collaboratively to develop, adapt and share OER, as well as to engage in dialogue about their experiences in teaching and learning. Such communities of practice can also provide an excellent platform for publishing resources in existing repositories.

(g) Encourage student participation. Academic staff can be encouraged to use student feedback on OER to improve their own materials and encourage students to publish and contribute to OER. Students can be encouraged and supported in seeking and using OER for the purposes of self-directed study.

(h) Promote OER through publishing about OER. This can help to increase the body of knowledge available on a subject, particularly if it is done via open publications, journals and other relevant vehicles. This might include articles sharing experiences on the use, reuse and repurposing of OER and encouraging students to participate in OER.

(i) Provide feedback about, and data on the use of, existing OER. Providing feedback and data on the OER that have been created, adapted, used and/or reused, specifically relating to success in meeting learning goals and student needs, is an invaluable contribution to their effective use.

(j) Update knowledge of IPR, copyright and privacy policies. This would entail having access to relevant advice and expertise on these matters, as well as a general familiarity with institutional policies and contractual agreements relating to IPR and copyright. It is particularly important to be clear about rights and conditions relating to works created during the course of employment and how these might be shared with and used by others. Academic staff should understand how these policies might affect their rights.



8 A detailed list of relevant skills is contained in Appendix 1.and, at the more advanced levels, for developing their own curriculum/courses of study.

Guidelines for student bodies

As the role of universities has evolved, so too has the role of the student. Emerging trends include a need for active global citizenship, employability, transferable skills and knowledge, communication skills, creativity and innovation. Key challenges include meeting the rising costs of education (including textbooks) and identifying appropriate educational courses/programmes that meet learning needs. Effective OER use can contribute to resolving these challenges, both by making the content of educational programmes more transparent and lowering the cost of accessing them.

When adequately supported, students have great potential to support higher education providers in sourcing, adapting and producing OER in partnership with academic staff. To promote these changing student roles, student bodies have to play a role in shaping the quality of their educational experience. Although creating teaching and learning environments that harness OER in educationally effective ways is primarily the responsibility of academic staff, student bodies — as key stakeholders in higher education — should be aware of the relevant issues and integrate them as appropriate into their interactions with other higher education stakeholders.

In this context, it is suggested that student bodies:
(a) Understand the issues of OER and undertake advocacy of OER. Student bodies can actively promote awareness among students of the potential of OER to improve the educational experience, based on the understanding of educational and economic benefits of OER mapped out in these Guidelines and the UNESCO-COL document A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) (Butcher 2011).9 Student bodies could also support and advocate the sharing of publicly funded educational materials under open licences and understand students’ own roles as knowledge producers and active participants in the learning process. Student bodies can also collaborate with other countries’ student bodies with similar focus on OER.10

(b) Encourage their members to publish work as OER. Students can make a significant contribution to increasing the use of OER by publishing their work (preferably under the guidance of academic staff and within institutional protocols) under an open licence. A repository of student work could serve as a powerful learning resource, while also raising awareness about the distinction between appropriate sharing/collaboration and plagiarism.

(c) Take an active role in assuring the quality of OER through social networks. Student bodies can encourage students to participate in the social networking environments that have been created around OER repositories, so that they play an active role in assuring the quality of content by adding comments on what content they are finding useful and why.

(d) Recognise that ICT are an increasingly important part of the higher education experience and are often crucial for students with special educational needs. Student bodies should engage in institutional decision-making processes to ensure that the ICT chosen are directly useful to students, are inclusive and conform to existing open standards.

(e) Encourage student participation in activities to support OER development. Student bodies can actively support and promote strategies to allow students to assist in sourcing, adapting and producing OER in partnership with academic staff. Furthermore, student bodies can help to shape the nature and quality of students’ educational experiences by encouraging and supporting the use of OER for the purposes of self-directed study and, at the more advanced levels, by having students create their own curriculum/courses of study.



9 See
10 See, for example,

Guidelines for quality assurance/accreditation bodies and academic recognition bodies

Quality assurance and qualifications recognition have become central elements of higher education at all levels because of its increasing diversity and the mobility of students, researchers and other professionals.

Quality assurance is primarily the responsibility of higher education institutions, although external quality assurance bodies play an essential role in fostering a quality culture through the assessment of programmes and reviews of institutional quality assurance mechanisms. When assessing the quality of teaching, quality assurance bodies normally consider the educational resources that are produced, adapted and used by the institutions (including OER). Quality assurance bodies therefore have a role in ensuring that policies are in place to support the use of OER.

Recognition bodies should also have an understanding of the role of OER in higher education to ensure the fair recognition of qualifications. The missions of quality assurance bodies and recognition bodies are closely linked, and recognition bodies often rely on information provided by quality assurance bodies. Therefore, recognition bodies are also likely to consider the educational resources produced, adapted and used by the awarding institution.

In this context, it is suggested that quality assurance bodies and recognition bodies:
(a) Develop their understanding of OER and how it impacts quality assurance and recognition. This could include ensuring that professionals involved in quality assurance and recognition are aware of the increasing importance of OER in the development and use of educational resources by higher education institutions. Particular attention might be paid to the shifting terrain of IPR and copyright, and to developing an understanding of the range of licensing options available for educational resources.

(b) Engage in debates on OER, in particular on copyright. Like all other stakeholders in higher education, quality assurance bodies and recognition bodies will need to influence policy developments around OER, focusing on both the opportunities and challenges that OER create.

(c) Consider the effects of OER on quality assurance and recognition. As OER become more common it is increasingly important to ensure that quality assurance and recognition principles and processes support the effective use of OER. In this regard, it will be important to review the role and use of OER in improving the quality of teaching and learning and develop criteria for assessing the effectiveness of the integration of OER into institutional practice.

(d) Accept OER as good practice in quality assurance and recognition. If contributing to OER is accepted as good practice by higher education, then external quality assurance processes may redefine their scope and outreach. This would ensure a shift in focus towards embedding the creation and use of OER in the institutional culture while monitoring their integration into internal quality assurance practices.