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:


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


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


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)

Can Learning Innovations be Embedded and Sustained?

On 28 April, 2010, Gabi Witthaus and Terese Bird attended a CAMEL meeting sponsored by JISC and which took place at Middlesex University, the theme of which was to examine whether the developments of the DUCKLING project can be embedded and sustained. Once the project is over, can teaching teams continue to use the technologies, findings and deliverables?

In this meeting, Gabi and Terese looked at the sustainability of each of the three technologies implented in the DUCKLING project — ebook readers, podcasting, and Second Life — as well as the pedagogy underpinning the use of each. Since the project is a joint effort amongst the Schools of Psychology and Education, and Beyond Distance, it was helpful to consider how each of the Schools implemented each innovation.

Psychology used Second Life as a forum for role-playing and simulation, to give students a taste of the experience of living and working on an oil rig with its dangers and isolation, as preparation for their assignment to write a health and safety training manual for oil rig workers. Beyond Distance techies supported this work. However, the actual role playing and leading of the sessions was done by Psychology academics and could continue that way, with some tech support. To watch a YouTube video capturing some of the action of the students’ experience on the oil rig, click here.

Education sent their students into existing language class forums in Second Life, where students observed and could participate in the classes. This was a very flexible way of making use of Second Life — students simply went in and signed up for classes already taking place pretty much 24/7. Observing language classes in Second Life has now been embedded into themodule as an optional activity. As long as there are such forums in Second Life, this activity is sustainable.

Podcasts have been fully embedded into the Psychology curriculum for the masters programme in DUCKLING — especially as part of the dissertation-writing process. These podcasts been rolled out to all cohorts on that module. Psychology academics have been making and distributing (via the University VLE, Blackboard) podcasts without any help from Beyond Distance for months now. Education has especially recently begun to record podcasts for its Masters TESOL students, and again the work of recording and posting onto the VLE is straightforward enough to continue without difficulty after DUCKLING’s conclusion.

With the ebook readers, we learned from interviews with students that using the ebook reader is changing their study habits. To quote one student: “I now study more in my workdays using the e-reader. I’ve been putting it in my bag every day and taking it to work and after lunch reading a few pages. I’ve found that way it keeps the content fresh in my mind. Before with the paper version, I’d allocate my weekends for study.”  Another student commented, “I think that the e-book reader changed my way of keeping notes and makes my study more effective. Before, I used my laptop to write a lot of notes because I felt that I would forget the whole thing if I didn’t take them down. But taking notes is time-consuming and not that effective because I never really use the notes. With the e-book reader, it’s not very inconvenient to go back to the material on the e-reader and I can remember where the material was and go back to the module on the e-reader and look through it. As a result of that, I didn’t take a lot of notes and I don’t think it (not taking notes) makes a difference to my study.”

A further aspect of the continuing use of ebook readers can be viewed from the point of view of finance. One department saw savings over printing and shipping stacks of handouts to students, by instead shipping to the students fully-loaded ebook readers. In some cases the students themselves experienced the savings, realising that they did not have to purchase hard copies of notes and choosing instead to simply read these on their ebook readers. Converting module handouts from Word format into format suitable for ebook readers (epub format in the case of the Sony ebook readers we are using) is not a very difficult process — click here for our instructions to do this. The fact that the iPad supports epub documents, public libraries are beginning to offer ebooks for download in epub format, and students are looking for reading material compatible with smartphones, presses the point that the use of this technology will only increase in future. We predict it will be sustained by popular demand.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and Assistant ZooKeeper

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