Lessons learnt from transforming teaching materials into OERs

As some of you may be aware, the OTTER project has now come to an end here at BDRA. I thought I will share with you some of the things I learnt as OER Evaluator on the project, screening and transforming materials received from academic staff and turning them into OERs. 

It was found that, because materials submitted by academic staff were originally developed for a face to face learning environment, content was included which was linked to Blackboard, the VLE used here at the University of Leicester. Understandably we also found that materials submitted were intended for specific target audience e.g. Masters level studies.

A related finding was that the materials were more oriented towards formal as opposed to informal learners. The other thing which emerged from screening the over 360 credits worth of teaching materials is that they were, pedagogically speaking, instructionally oriented. We also found, on some occasion, images without appropriate reference and a broken links embedded into the material.

I don’t think these findings are exclusive to OTTER and I suspect other projects in the JISC/HEA institutional programme on OERs found similar evidence.

What these issues call for are evaluation tools not just for developing OERs but ones that support the transforming of existing teaching materials into OERs.  In OTTER we spent a significant amount of time addressing these issues to ensure that the final product released was of high quality and reusable. An outcome of these efforts was the CORRE framework.

The above issues clearly have implications for institutions considering transforming existing teaching materials into OERs. I highlight a few:

  • Ensure that management is committed to the development of OERs possibly via an institutional mandate
  • Identify academic partners eager to become OER champions
  • Develop a memorandum of understanding between academic staff and the OER team
  • Ensure that teaching materials are designed from scratch with openness in mind
  • Where possible, decouple OERs from other resources and make them standalone
  • Raise staff awareness of copyright, especially creative commons licensing
  • Ensure that the content to be released is reality checked both internally and externally by staff and students and possibly information practitioners
  • For long-term sustainability gather evidence of the impact of the OERs through tracking of their use and repurpose.

Samuel Nikoi

11 May 2010

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