Making OERs sustainable – PLSQ framework

As interest in Open Educational Resources grows, one of the main challenges faced by the OER community is the question of sustainability of OER. Sustainability is a fact of life often associated with a healthy ecology. Translated into OER terms, a healthy OER ecology is a sign of healthy OER life.How OER life is sustained has been a subject of many debates at institutional, national and international forum. What do we mean by “sustainable OER”? Do we mean “justification” of an OER programme or “enablers” for continuous development and release of OER? For different players, OER sustainability means different things and here are a few from the literature, by no means exhaustive:

• funding to carry on producing OER
• sustainable technologies to support production and distribution of OER
• sustainable recruitment of students through OERs
• academic support in the development and release of OER
• institution and national policies that support mainstreaming OER

Last two weeks, at Leeds, OER sustainability was the focus of an event organised by the Support Centre for Open Resources in Education (SCORE) based at the Open University. The objective of the event was “to consult and share experiences of working with OER content and tools”. A major outcome was the Leeds manifesto. Here are a few things I picked up from the event regarding sustainable OER development:

Policies

o Work to change how people think about education
o Embed OER development into existing policies and practices
o Think about the size of your operation i.e. small or large scale
o Gather evidence of added value to teaching and learning

Learning design

o Separate learning design from content creation
o Design teaching materials from scratch with openness in mind
o Design for use and design for pedagogical effectiveness

Support

o Have a support team built around existing teams e.g. IT services, research repository teams and copyright clearance officers
o Tie OER development with staff training and development
o Develop methods to engage staff e.g. departmental OER coordinators
o Develop tools that maximize benefits and minimize efforts in OER development

Quality

o Develop a toolkit of good practice e.g. processes for releasing OERs
o Have a mix of formal peer review and star user rating
o Keep resources alive through constant updates
o Develop “consent commons” where human subjects are used

PLSQ is the perhaps the key to a sustainable OER programme.

Samuel Nikoi (26 May 2010)

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