ALTC Project proposal - wiki version
Adoption, use and management of Open Educational Resources to enhance teaching and learning in Australia
- 1 Purpose of the project
- 2 Rationale
- 3 Project aims and outcomes
- 3.1 a comparative investigation using the previously identified five key areas for the Australian higher education sector: 1. “Not-invented-here” bias, 2. Institutional barriers, 3. Contextual barriers, 4. Discoverability, 5. Sustainability.
- 3.2 extensive sector survey to uncover the state of play of OERs, the extent to which they have been used or considered for adoption by higher education institutions in Australia.
- 3.3 to seek and incorporate feedback of Australian higher education institutions at the symposium to inform the Feasibility Protocol.
- 3.4 to make recommendations to inform and assist the adoption, use and management of OERs within HE in Australia.
- 4 Significance of our project
- 5 Proposed project methodology and approach
- 6 Project team: roles and governance
- 7 The project plan
- 8 TIMELINE
Purpose of the project
The overarching purpose of this project is to develop a “Feasibility Protocol” to enable and facilitate the adoption, use and management of Open Educational Resources (OERs) for learning and teaching within higher education (HE) institutions in Australia. The Feasibility Protocol will provide a set of guiding principles with information on the issues and barriers involved with the adopting of OERs (for example, copyright, intellectual property, licensing and other legal issues), policy recommendations for higher education institutions in Australia regarding adoption, use and management of OERs, and an outline of factors that impact on teaching and learning in higher education, as well as on informal and non-formal education. This project will also explore how OERs will enhance teaching and learning, enable and widen participation for key social inclusion targets in higher education, promote lifelong learning and bridge the gap between non-formal, informal and formal learning in Australia. Some aspects of OERs are problematic and have been the subject of debate for some time with little consensus resolution, particularly licensing, copyright, intellectual property (of the individual and the institution) and their being provided for ‘free’ and subject to use and, in many cases, repurposing. While there has been some attempt to come to grips with OERs internationally, and it appears that OERs are ‘hot’ in the sector (Johnson, Levine, Smith, & Stone, 2010), Australia remains largely outside the movement, even though OERs are marching quickly across the globe. Higher education institutions in Australia should consider adopting OERs for the following reasons:
- “the altruistic argument that sharing knowledge is in the line with academic traditions and a good thing to do;
- educational institutions (particularly those publicly financed) should leverage taxpayers’ money by allowing free sharing and reuse of resources;
- quality can be improved and cost of content development reduced by sharing and re-using;
- it is good for the institution’s public relations to have an OER project as a showcase for attracting new students;
- there is a need to look for new cost recovery models as institutions experience growing competition; and
- open sharing will speed up the development of new learning resources, stimulate internal improvement, innovation and reuse and help the institution to keep good records of materials and their internal and external use” (OECD, 2007, p. 11).
In Australia, a greater adoption of OERs will enable educational institutions to reach socially excluded groups, who have previously had limited access to alternative pathways to higher education, but have increasing access to technologies, particularly the Internet and mobile devices, which can facilitate access to a wider range of content at little or no cost for the learner. Learners in the new generation of OERs (for example, OpenLearn) even form their own learning communities organised around content. Thus, OERs are an innovative possibility for enhancing learning and teaching across educational institutions in Australia for diverse student cohorts. Initiating a successful OER project at an institution involves high levels of commitment from senior management and a detailed analysis of the national and institutional policies and resources currently at play. This project will assist university high-level senior managers and decision-makers to outline factors that should be looked at carefully, policies that should be modified and adapted, and human and financial resources that should be considered. Thus, the key deliverable of this project, the Feasibility Protocol will avoid duplication and save Australian higher education institutions time and resources, ensuring that consideration is given to all factors associated with the potential adoption, use and management of OERs.
This project will also address the ambiguous nature of OERs for learning and teaching within educational institutions, policy development and sustainability of OERs within the Australian context. The project will be undertaken by three universities, who will collectively identify issues, barriers, opportunities and successes to inform how the Australian higher education sector might respond to the OER march. The partners include the University of New England (UNE), Massey University (MU, NZ) and University of Southern Queensland (USQ). With UNE’s expertise in delivering quality distance education for decades, the MU’s excellence and innovation in teaching, learning and research and the USQ’s groundwork in OERs, as it remains the only Australian member of the OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium, this project has the potential to make significant contributions to the higher education sector in Australia regarding OERs for teaching and learning.
The project will have two stages. Briefly, Stage One involves a comprehensive analysis of the state of OERs internationally and nationally. This will be done in the first instance through an appraisal of the international drivers. An esteemed group of OER experts form the reference group, including Professor Belinda Tynan (Chair), DEHub Director, UNE (Professor Belinda Tynan was recently invited by Dr Rory McGreal, Associate Vice President, Research at Athabasca University, and the UNESCO Chair in OERs, to be a member of and assist in building an international network of OER users/creators); Helen Beetham, JISC; Professor Andy Lane, Director of OpenLearn, Open University UK; Professor Asha Kanwar, Commonwealth of Learning; Jenny Millea, Program Manager, Higher Education and Business Futures, Education Services Australia; Professor Andrew Higgins, Professor e-Learning, Auckland University of Technology; Susan D'Antoni, who previously lead the UNESCO OER project; Dr Rory McGreal, Associate Vice President, Research at Athabasca University, and the UNESCO Chair in OERs; and Gordon Suddaby, Director of the Centre for Academic Development and eLearning, Massey University and the President of the Australasian Council on Open, Distance and E-Learning (ACODE). Gordon Suddaby is also the Convenor of the 54th ACODE meeting, which will be held at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand, between 11th and 12th November 2010. The theme for the next ACODE meeting is very timely for this project; “Open Educational Resources”. The reference group members have agreed to participate in this project to ensure its success. A survey of Australian higher education institutions will be undertaken to ascertain the extent of development, use and management of OERs. In Stage Two, the findings of Stage One will provide the basis of a National Symposium, for both gathering more information and feedback, but also as a key dissemination point. This approach is consistent with previously funded ALTC project e-Portfolio. This symposium will include members of the reference group and representatives from each Australian university will be encouraged to attend. The participants will provide feedback on the findings of the survey along with discussion and sharing of practice with the International, leading reference group who have each agreed to participate. The final outcome will be the development of a protocol for conducting a feasibility study in any Australian higher education institution to consider how the adoption, management and use of OERs might bridge the gap between non-formal, informal and formal learning in their specific setting.
Australia is far from the mainstream of the international OER movement. There has been no known funded project seeking to investigate and develop guiding principles to inform the sector’s decision-making in this area. OERs represent an emergent movement and are already re-shaping learning and teaching in higher education worldwide. Named as the next “wave” by the last Horizon Report (2010), OERs are likely to reach the shores of institutions worldwide in one year or less. According to that report, the growth of the open educational trend “is a response to the rising costs of education, the desire for accessing learning in areas where such access is difficult, and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn” (Johnson, et al., 2010, p. 6). Considering their evolving pace and demonstrable impact on the international HE sector, the need for further research and development on OERs is evident. Australia has not yet developed a national or institutional level policy framework that can address access, use, re-use and distribution of open educational resources and content (A. M. Fitzgerald, 2009; B. Fitzgerald, et al., 2008) whereas in the US, UK and some other European countries, frameworks are already in place. Even though there have been some important initiatives regarding OERs in Australia, the lack of a Feasibility Protocol to support educational institutions will certainly limit and slow down the process of adoption, or even prevent universities from pursuing future avenues to better support current students, attract new ones and be internationally competitive. The Feasibility Protocol will provide universities with an analysis of current policies and resources and provide examples, alternatives and solutions for institutional barriers to facilitate the potential adoption, use and management of OERs. Therefore, the Feasibility Protocol will avoid duplication, saving Australian institutions resources and time, while taking into account the adoption, use and management of OERs.
This project addresses Priority 3 – Innovation in learning and teaching, particularly in relation to the role of new technologies. Furthermore, this project meets ALTC objectives A, B and F:
A: By developing a national Feasibility Protocol to inform the adoption, use and management of OERs within higher educational institution in Australia;
B: By showcasing their educational materials through the use, re-use and distribution of OERs, institutions can encourage innovation and improvement of learning and teaching, and thus, raise their profiles and promote the importance of teaching in higher education institutions and in the general community, and
F: Widening participation in HE, promoting lifelong learning and bridging the gap between non-formal, informal and formal learning.
Project aims and outcomes
The major aims of this project are:
a comparative investigation using the previously identified five key areas for the Australian higher education sector: 1. “Not-invented-here” bias, 2. Institutional barriers, 3. Contextual barriers, 4. Discoverability, 5. Sustainability.
extensive sector survey to uncover the state of play of OERs, the extent to which they have been used or considered for adoption by higher education institutions in Australia.
to seek and incorporate feedback of Australian higher education institutions at the symposium to inform the Feasibility Protocol.
to make recommendations to inform and assist the adoption, use and management of OERs within HE in Australia.
Project Outcomes: The outcomes of the project are:
- To expand understanding of the OER trend and impacts for Australia;
- To enhance institutional understanding of the issues, barriers, opportunities and successes of OERs internationally through further collation of international experience and the analysis of national data;
- To inform institutional and government policies and practices for OERs within HE in Australia, and
- To develop a Feasibility Protocol for considering how OERs might bridge the gap between non-formal, informal and formal learning through their adoption, management and use in any higher education setting in Australia.
The Feasibility Protocol will contain a set of guiding principles with information on:
- policy recommendations for higher education institutions in Australia regarding adoption, use and management of OERs ;
- what OERs are and the reasons why higher education institutions have adopted them;
- the issues and barriers involved with the adopting of OERs, for example, copyright, intellectual property, licensing and other legal issues;
- factors related to the use and management of OERs such as scope, purpose, strategic directions, institutional culture and resource allocation;
- short case studies with examples from institutions that have adopted OERs (Who has adopted OERs and how have they used and managed them? What are the lessons learned?), and
- the impacts on learning and teaching in higher education, as well as on informal and non-formal education.
Previous work and need for the project
Stimulated by funding from benefactors such as the Hewlett Foundation and UNESCO, the OER movement has been growing rapidly since 2001, providing educational content freely to institutions and learners across the world. Educational content is increasingly available for free on the Internet. Many organizations perceive benefits both for themselves and for learners elsewhere in distributing their learning resources in this way. The Massachuetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) OpenCourseWare initiative (OCW), set up in 2001, makes content available freely from most of MIT’s courses and has provided the inspiration for many similar institutional projects. When the MIT OCW site was officially launched the following year, over 500 courses were available. By 2004 there were 900, and the total reached 1250 in 2005. Even more impressive were visitor numbers. By 2005, MIT’s OCW site had received more than 8.5 million visits, and visitors were growing by 56% per annum (MIT, 2006). Equally significant was the speed with which the MIT OCW site demonstrated its value to the institution. In 2006, it was reported that 35% of new MIT students had based their choice of institution, in whole or in part, on their exposure to the MIT OCW site. It was also reported that 71% of MIT students using the OCW site found its content helpful or extremely helpful in their studies (MIT, 2006). As expected, the MIT OCW project provided a model for other universities worldwide and the establishment of the OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCWC). Currently, the OCWC has over two hundreds institutional members worldwide (OCW, 2008).
By the end of 2006, there were signs that the OER movement had reached maturity. An important sign were developments in Europe, where alternatives to the MIT model emerged. One of these was OpenLearn, launched by the Open University (OU) in October 2006, which was intended to publish the widest possible selection of OU course materials. It was also intended to do much more: its explicit goal was to engage and support self-directed learners using the latest Web 2.0 technologies. The site would not only host user-generated content (material created by individuals and organisations outside the higher education sector), it would also provide social networking tools to empower users to build their own learning communities (Shuller, 2006). By mid-2007, 560,000 individuals had visited the OpenLearn site. In a single week in June 2007, the site had 8,000 visitors from the UK, 6,000 visitors from the United States and another 4,500 from the rest of the world. More importantly, there were 19,000 registered users (Thomas, 2007). By April 2008, over 4,400 OpenLearn users had become fully-fledged Open University students. This represented additional teaching income of ₤2.7 million for the institution (Gourley & Lane, 2009).
These initiatives form what is now known as the open educational resource movement, which promotes “the open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes” (UNESCO, 2002). While the term "open educational resources" was first adopted by UNESCO in 2002, it is in the OECD report, Giving Knowledge for Free (2007), that the definition of OER currently most often used stands as digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research. The latter is the definition that we will use in this project, although aware of a wider interpretation. As the OECD suggested, OERs might also include three separate types of resources:
- Learning Content. Full courses, courseware, content modules, learning objects, collections and journals.
- Tools. Software to support the development, use, re-use and delivery of learning content including searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools and on-line learning communities.
- Implementation Resources. These include intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design principles of best practice and localization of content (OECD, 2007).
In Australia, there has been some national interest in OERs. For example Macquarie University, with the Macquarie E-Learning Centre of Excellence (MELCOE) in Sydney, which was singled out for special mention in the 2007 OECD report surveying worldwide OER initiatives. The authors of the report noted that MELCOE specialises in developing open source software tools and open standards for e-learning (OECD, 2007). Although MELCOE has been some limited success in this area, Macquarie remains on the margins of the OER movement (Suzor, 2006). USQ also has a clear OER strategy in place. USQ remains the only Australian member of the OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium, which it joined in 2007. At present, the USQ OCW site offers sample courses from each of the institution’s five faculties and also courses from its Tertiary Preparation Program. USQ is currently exploring the means by which it can expand the number of courses available on it OCW site and structure these in such a way that students will be able to formally undertake assessment for these courses and then claim exemptions if they later choose to enrol in a full undergraduate award program. Also, QUT has developed the Australian jurisdiction-specific licenses from the generic Creative Commons licenses (A. M. Fitzgerald, 2009). Creative Commons is a non-profit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright (OECD, 2007). There have been also some signs of changing attitudes amongst other universities. Seven Australian universities (ANU, Griffith, Swinburne, Melbourne, RMIT, UNSW, UWA and Victoria) have released teaching materials through iTunes U. Most of this material consists of podcasts available only to students and staff of the institution. However, individual universities (such as Victoria University) have opted to release their iTunes U podcasts into the public domain. Interest in OER is also growing in the VET and school sector (Browne, 2009). In fact, there has been several innovative activities in Australia in order to make learning resources shareable in education such as the AEShareNet licensing, LORN from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework, the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), amongst others. But, most of the institutional policy issues related to licencing, copyright, intellectual property and so forth remain unsolved.
Need for this project: As discussed above, currently, many universities around the globe have launched OER projects (more than 300 universities). Millions of learners have benefited from learning through OER materials, and many educational institutions, mostly distance education providers, have obtained significant rewards in terms of enhancing their reputations, increasing student enrolment and developing innovative ways to produce distance learning materials. Also, OERs have contributed significantly to the proliferation of virtual communities of learning, where students, teachers and experts in their fields can discuss, make contributions and learn with each other through online collaboration. However, we still have much to learn about the OER movement. It is still grappling with issues such as resistance to giving away information and knowledge for “free”, at no cost and free to use and re-use. Licensing, intellectual propriety and copyright of OERs are also matters that remain ambiguous to educational institutions. In a similar fashion, many questions associated with policy development, sustainability and quality of OERs continue unanswered and under researched. As for Australia, it appears that the use and adoption of OERs to their full potential is a long way off. Even though, there have been some important initiatives regarding OERs in Australia, the lack of a Feasibility Protocol to support educational institutions will certainly limit and slow down the process of adoption or even prevent universities from pursuing future venues to better support current students, attract new ones and compete against other Australian and international institutions. The Feasibility Protocol will provide the HE sector with an analysis of current policies and resources and provide examples, alternatives and solutions for institutional barriers to facilitate the adoption, use and management of OERs.
The five key areas previously identified in this project regarding OERs for the Australian higher education sector are the following:
“Not-invented-here” bias: Although the goal of the OER movement is the mutual exchange of educational resources, much of the movement is one-way. Academics at universities that have implemented OERs are far more likely to publish their own material for reuse than to take advantage of courses produced by others.
Institutional barriers: At many institutions there are significant institutional barriers to the creation and development of OERs. There is often widespread academic concern over the perceived risks of such a step. These concerns include loss of control over intellectual property, threats to reputation (e.g. the danger mistakes will be permanently on view, outdated material will remain in circulation) and a reluctance to give away the “crown jewels”. Addressing these concerns requires institutional policy-makers to commit themselves to a long-drawn out process of consultation and review.
Contextual barriers: These are a more significant obstacle to the effective reuse of OER than was originally anticipated. The educational needs of students differ from institution to institution even within the same country. The capabilities of MIT students are quite different to those of, say, the students of a community college in California (Maktin, 2009). The repurposing of OCW materials for learners from developing countries poses additional problems. It is not enough simply to translate a piece of OCW from one language to another, such material needs to be extensively “localised” if it is to be educationally useful for the majority of learners (Maktin, 2009).
Discoverability: The rapid proliferation of OERs has meant that users are often swamped by the range of materials available. Potential users of OERs need a fairly sophisticated knowledge of how and where to search in order to obtain useful results. Search engines, for example, do not include effective ranking mechanism, while results from MIT sometimes “crowd-out” the offerings of other universities (Maktin & Cooperman, 2009). Although there are a number of sites, which offer assistance in finding OERs, their coverage is uneven. One site, OER Recommender, indexes 110,000 courses, whereas another, OCW Finder, indexes a mere 3,000 (Maktin, 2009). The discoverability issue is compounded by the fact that the quality and useability of OERs varies enormously. In their haste to publish materials online, some institutions have paid insufficient attention to the needs of potential end users. As a result, some widely available OERs are almost unusable. Individuals must wade through hundreds of items to find OER that is both relevant and useful.
Sustainability: This is perhaps the most significant issue in relation to the OER movement. For an OER initiative to be sustainable in the long term, it needs to create value for the host institution. Different sustainability models and the strengths and weaknesses of the various models have been discussed in the literature (Downes, 2007; Maktin, 2009; OECD, 2007; Schuwer & Mulder, 2009).
Significance of our project
This project will develop better understanding and awareness about OERs in Australia and elsewhere and will enable the development of a sector framework for OERs. In the long term, this project will assist institutions to meet current students’ needs for non-formal, informal and formal education, encourage the enhancement of learning communities and to promote social inclusion by reaching those who cannot access formal tertiary education.
Evidence has also shown that OERs are powerful mechanism to bridge the gap between non-formal, informal and formal learning. OERs are ideal for adult learners and learners from lower SES backgrounds, both cohorts which typically begin formal study with poorer academic skills. Schuwer and Mulder (2009) point out that:
- OERs are flexible, open, time-independent and easily accessible.
- OERs require an individual to invest time and effort, but does not force them to incur any significant out-of-pocket expenses.
- OERs are simple and inexpensive for the learner to use. The learner is not required to make any investments in software or specific supplies. A standard personal computer with Internet access is sufficient.
- OERs provide adult learners and learners from non-traditional groups with an easy pathway to formal study. The use of OERs reduces “stress”, because it involves online, self-paced learning in a familiar environment. The learner can then decide whether he or she is ready to take the step to formal learning.
This project will place Australia in the mainstream of the international OER movement by investigating and developing the Feasibility Protocol that will inform the sector’s decision-making and encourage the adoption, use and management of OERs to enhance learning and teaching.
Proposed project methodology and approach
The project will be undertaken collaboratively between the University of New England, Massey University (NZ) and University of Southern Queensland. The methodology and approach for meeting the aims and outcomes of this project are outlined in the following key components, which are consistent with ALTC objectives:
1. deliverables for the project are listed;
2. key participants and stakeholders are identified;
3. the project plan is provided indicating all key milestones and deliverables; and
4. dissemination and evaluation strategies are outlined and discussed.
The project will culminate in the following deliverables:
- updated analysis of literature highlighting issues, barriers, opportunities and successes in the use of OER;
- survey results will inform sector use and management;
- a series of short case studies with examples from institutions that have adopted OERs in higher education;
- a Feasibility Protocol for higher education institutions to inform policy development and to facilitate adoption, use and management of OERs;
Key stakeholders and Policy and Practice Audiences
There are diverse stakeholders, policy and practice audiences for this project.
The key policy and practice audiences for this project will be in the short term:
- University PVC(A)s and Associate Deans concerned with learning and teaching: The project will have a positive impact on social inclusion strategies through the use, re-use and distribution of content materials. By showcasing their educational materials by means of OERs, institutions can attract new students, increase the development of new learning materials, stimulate internal innovation and improvement of learning and teaching;
- Decision-makers involved in developing institutional policies and strategies across the higher education sector in Australia: Provision of a useable, relevant and pragmatic protocol for the adoption, use and management of OERs based on national and international perspectives of current and potential users in relation to the effective use of OERs in higher education.
- Government: Meet the current political agenda to expand access to learning for learners from all walks of life, promote life-long learning and widening participation in higher education through policy recommendations for HE institutions in Australia regarding the adoption, use and management of OERs.
The long-term beneficiaries of this project will be:
- academic staff involved in developing OERs in HE institutions
- educational designers and other staff in HE institutions who are engaged in supporting the integration of OERs into learning and teaching practice
- learners participating in distance and online learning programs or in any other formal, informal and non-formal education.
Project team: roles and governance
Partners: Significant collaboration between the partners will be an important feature of this project. Two universities and a government agency have agreed to engage with UNE as active participants in meeting the project milestones. Each partner will assist in developing and analysing the national survey, attend the workshop, collect practitioner cases and with ethical approval assist in promoting the survey. They will assist in the development of the protocol and final report. They have committed to meet face-to-face four times and attend monthly videoconference meetings.
Governance: In order to ensure the smooth operation of the project and to ensure achievement of the intended outcomes, within the timeframe and budget, the following activities will be implemented:
- at least 4 face-to-face team meetings, complemented by video conferencing and online discussion monthly;
- regular reporting on progress coordinated by the project leader/manager;
- evaluation data collected progressively by the external evaluators;
- regular monitoring of the project‘s progress against the project plan and schedule by the project leader/manager;
- regular dissemination of the project activities and processes to the higher education community through ALTC Exchange.
Project leader/chief investigator: Dr Carina Bossu (UNE) will be the leader and chief investigator for this project. The project leader will oversee the project and take responsibility for ensuring the completion and achievement of the project's stated outcomes, governance of the project, data gathering and analysis, preparation of the final report and dissemination of information about the project outcomes. She will expand the project plan taking into account the established vision and stated aims and outcomes of the project, direct the work of the Project Manager, liaise with the key stakeholders, distribute information and report on performance.
Project team members: The project team members will be Associate Professor Mark Brown (MU – NZ), David Bull (USQ), and Associate Professor Brian Simpson (UNE). Team members will assist in the project activities directed by the project leader, including taking responsibility for ensuring the completion and achievement of the project's stated outcomes, contributing to the governance of the project, preparation of the final report and dissemination of information about the project outcomes. The project team members will have a specific role in encouraging distribution and completion of the survey by higher education institutions in Australia. The team members will meet on a monthly basis by videoconference and/or telephone, with two face-to-face meetings per year.
Project Manager: The Project Manager will provide overarching project management, including responsibility for arranging the regular team meetings, workshops at other universities and providing financial management support to facilitate accurate record keeping aligned with the university and ALTC acquittal processes.
Project Evaluation: Dr Wayne Mackintosh from the University of Otago (NZ), Director of the OER foundation, is very supportive of the project and has agreed to undertake the external ‘iterative’ evaluation of the project. He has significant background and experience relevant to this project. The evaluation plan has been developed in consultation with Dr Mackintosh and is detailed later in this proposal.
Symposium Facilitator: The project team will appoint a symposium facilitator with substantial leadership experience in areas relevant for this project.
Reference Group: The reference group will be expected to attend the project meetings (via videoconferencing), provide feedback on emergent research issues, collaborate in discussions regarding this project findings and the dissemination of the final results. The reference group is also expected to attend the symposium and provide additional feedback on discussions that might emerge during the event. Members of the Reference Group are: Professor Belinda Tynan (Chair), DEHub Director, UNE; Helen Beetham, JISC; Professor Andy Lane, Director of OpenLearn, Open University UK; Professor Asha Kanwar, CoL; Jenny Millea, Program Manager, Higher Education and Business Futures, Education Services Australia; Professor Andrew Higgins, Professor e-Learning, Auckland University of Technology; Dr Rory McGreal, Associate Vice President, Research at Athabasca University, and the UNESCO Chair in OERs; Gordon Suddaby, Director of the Centre for Academic Development and eLearning, Massey University; and Susan D'Antoni, who previously worked on the UNESCO OER project.
The project team members, evaluator, reference group members and their respective educational institutions represent a diverse range of expertise and experiences regarding OERs for teaching and learning that are key for the success of this project. The partner institutions involved in this project have long histories of the use of innovative learning and teaching approaches and have already started some groundwork around OERs. They can act as a pool of knowledge and support for other educational providers interested in adopting OERs and their involvement can also open up opportunities for policy change and development of OERs in Australia.
The project plan
Ethical considerations: All aspects of the project require ethical clearance and the project team will ensure participants’ anonymity and confidentiality during gathering data through the online survey and follow-up focus groups and/or interviews. The survey will be sent to all participants by electronic mail. In the survey, participants will have the option to remain anonymous or identify themselves. All participants will be provided with an information sheet about the research and their consent will be sought.
The project will have two stages: an investigation stage and a development stage.
INVESTIGATION STAGE (1-12 MONTHS)
An ongoing and comprehensive analysis of the body of knowledge available concerning OERs has been undertaken in order to expand, deepen and support the issues discussed in this project. The literature and policy documents have been critically selected and are sources of data. In order to achieve the first aim of this project, five key areas that have relevance for the Australian higher education sector have been uncovered and will inform discussions with partners for the development of the survey and interviews: 1. “Not-invented-here” bias, 2. Institutional barriers, 3. Contextual barriers, 4. Discoverability, 5. Sustainability. A mixed-method approach, predominantly quantitative but supported by qualitative data, will be adopted for data collection and analysis (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2003). The online survey will be used to collect a large amount of data. All Universities in Australia will be invited to participate in the survey. Follow-up focus groups and/or semi-structured interviews will be conducted to collect participants’ understanding and experiences of issues related to the five key areas. Participants will be chosen via purposive sampling, which will assist the researcher to choose specific participants that can provide richer insights through critical, typical and in-depth information to the investigation (Minichiello, Aroni, & Hays, 2008). Policy documents will be collated from across the International and national HE sector and will draw upon the reference group expertise. These will be analysed through the five themes. This will also contribute to the Feasibility Protocol.
Analysis: In this project, data analysis will be an ongoing process. Data will be analysed as data collection progresses. NVivo8, software that assists the management, storage and analysis of qualitative data, will be used to support the researchers during the analysis phase of this study (Minichiello, et al., 2008). Digital files of recorded interviews, literature, policies and online survey will be stored into NVivo8. Thematic analysis will be adopted as the methodology of analysis, which will support and confirm themes and concepts identified in the literature, as well as ones that emerge during data collection. Thematic analysis assists the researcher to identify patterns and to reduce and refine the data into themes in order to facilitate interpretation “as an inductive inquiry” (Boyatzis, 1998, p. 5). This comprehensive set of analysis tools will enable a thick and deep description upon which to ground the protocol and fulfil the second project aim. A preliminary data analysis summary report will be made available through wiki to research participants and members of the research team and reference group. Members’ checking is a strategy used to confirm data analysis, to collect additional data through participants’ feedback and to build stronger rapport and trust. In addition, this process builds upon the validation and trustworthiness of the data, as well as adopts powerful instruments for community and team collaboration. Then, participants will send their confirmation, contributions and additional reflections back to the researchers. With the confirmation of the findings by participants and the reference group, a symposium will be organised to disseminate the findings and to encourage further discussion and input from across the whole higher education sector. The symposium will also fulfil the third aim of this project. Lastly, the project findings, together with additional data gathered from the symposium will form the basis for the development of the “Feasibility Protocol”, which will have the potential to assist Australian higher education institutions during the adoption, use and management of OERs. The protocol will accomplish the final project aim.
DEVELOPMENT, EVALUATION AND DISSEMINATION STAGE (13 - 24 MONTHS)
The development of a Feasibility Protocol that will assist Australian HE institutions to bridge the gap between non-formal, informal and formal learning through the adoption, management and use of OERs are critical aspects of both development and dissemination. The dissemination strategy is consistent with ALTC objective to provide information and embed practices widely across the sector in relation to the project aims and outcomes and is integral to the project activities. A key activity here is the symposium, which will include representatives from across the Universities in Australia, as well as the project team and reference group, to discuss and provide additional feedback on the project findings and policy analysis and leading to the Feasibility Protocol for OERs. The evaluation process will be an iterative process with feedback from the symposium and integrated into the Feasibility Protocol for OERs.
The symposium will be a one-day event and will take place in the second semester of stage two. It will be held in Sydney and facilitated by an expert with leadership experience appointed by the project team. The venue chosen for the symposium is the International School of Business and Technology (ISBT) at Wynyard, in central Sydney, which is well-located and will enable wider participation. A whole range of technology (such as wikis and twitter) will be used to assist data collection and interaction amongst participants. The symposium facilitator will explore several facilitation strategies in order to present the project findings and gather participants’ feedback through interactive and participative activities. Participants will be divided in to groups of 8 to 10 people, and their discussions will be audio-recorded. Feedback gathered from the symposium will be included in the project findings and will inform and improve the Feasibility Protocol.
Other dissemination activities
In addition to the symposium, information about the project will be disseminated broadly across the sector through a range of activities including:
- a project community group within ALTC Exchange;
- connecting international and national communities of practice around use of OERs through the use of the Distance Education Hub Wiki pages for community construction and dissemination (http://wikieducator.org/DEHub). The Distance Education Hub website has potential for the wikieducator audience via partner university research bulletins, learning and teaching bulletins and showcases across the four institutions;
- ASCILITE/HERDSA Conference paper presentations;
- international and national communities of practice via the wiki (UNESCO, CoL etc.);
- publications of journal articles in ranked journals such as AJET, BJET and book chapters;
- distribution of protocol, final report and link to project wiki to TEQSA, HERDSA, ASCILITE ALT-C, EDUCAUSE;
- synopsis of project results and outcomes sent to Vice-chancellors of every Australian HE institution by post or electronic mail, with contact details of the project team for further consultation, if needed;
- distribution via mailing lists of HERDSA, ASCILITE and ODLAA (potentially a total of 1,500 members) of protocol and final report and link to project wiki; and
- final report and Feasibility Protocol posted on the ALTC exchange.
Project report: The project report will be written at the end of the second stage of the project and submitted to the team leaders in the partner institutions for distribution to senior management, such as PVC(A)s, institutional policy developers, ICT Director’s and Associate Deans Teaching and Learning. The final report will include the evaluation report.
Given that this is a project about OER, we have a strategic advantage in being able to use an open collaborative model for the design and development of the project and evaluation plan. Following the recommendations of the project team members and evaluator, we will consider releasing the research outputs under a Creative Commons license. This will increase return on investment for the funders and participants. We will also use a wiki model for the planning, execution and dissemination of the findings through open access journals.
All aspects of the project will be evaluated iteratively throughout the duration of the project. The purpose of the evaluation will be to improve processes and ensure that the outcomes are reached and ascertain the success of the aims and outcomes of the project.
|Evaluation Criteria||Key Questions|
| Effectiveness of data collection processes in achieving project aims
|| * Does the survey address the key questions of the project in relation to the five key areas already identified in the literature (1. “Not-invented-here” bias, 2. Institutional barriers, 3. Contextual barriers, 4. Discoverability, 5. Sustainability)?
|Identification of key themes and trends|| * How effective have the data collection methods been in uncovering key trends, experiences and preferences in relation to the adoption, use and management of OERs?
|Appropriateness of framework and guidelines in relation to the themes and trends identified in the data|| * What lessons have been learned from this project and how might these be of assistance to other institutions, researchers and decision-makers interested in the “feasibility framework” for adopting, using and managing OERs within their institutions
|Effectiveness of dissemination strategies|| * How effective were the symposium in providing further feedback, evaluating and refining the framework and guidelines?
| Effectiveness of project processes
|| * What changes /amendments need to be made to ensure the project meets its intended aims?
|Timeliness|| * Were timelines managed appropriately?
|On budget|| * Did the budget describe accurately the extent of time required to undertake the project?
Evaluation activities and timeline: During the project commencement stage, a meeting will be held between the Project Team and the Project Evaluator (Dr Wayne Mackintosh from the University of Otago - NZ) to further develop and confirm the project evaluation plan. Dr Mackintosh is well-qualified and sufficiently experienced to conduct the evaluation of this project. He is a committed advocate and user of free software for education. He was the founding project leader of New Zealand's eLearning XHTML editor (eXe) project and founder of WikiEducator—an international community of educators collaborating on the development of free/libre teaching materials in support of all national curricula by 2015. Currently, Wayne is the founding director of the International Centre for Open Education at Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand and the director of the OER Foundation. Dr Mackintosh is an elected member and inaugural Chair of the WikiEdcuator Community Council. He is a strategy innovator with a passion for making educational futures happen.
A meta-evaluation will be conducted to refine and finalise the evaluation criteria for the project. An evaluation criteria matrix will be developed and agreed with the project partners. Sources of data will be identified and collection planned. An evaluation timeline and feedback process will be developed. An Evaluation Assistant located at UNE but working under the direction of Dr Mackintosh, will collect evaluation data from participants and the project team members, attend meetings representing Dr Mackintosh, as required and assist in analysis and reporting of evaluation outcomes during each phase of the project. Transcriptions of all meeting notes and other data will be supplied to the evaluator. The evaluator will participate in monthly videoconference meetings and attend one face-to-face meeting at the symposium. The Project Evaluator will provide interim reports and write the final evaluation report at the end of the project.
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Stage 1 – Nov 2010 to Oct 2011
|Team members||Nov to Dec|| - Establish communication strategies with team members, institutions partners and reference group: workgroup in ALTC Exchange and wikis.
- Agree detailed project plan, including the mission and goals
- Organise the first face-to-face meeting with team members and partners.
|Team members and reference group||Jan to March|| - Develop full evaluation plan
- Employ a project manager
- First meeting with team members and partners institutions. This will be a one day meeting held in Sydney to plan the first stage of the project
- Meet the reference group online regarding the meeting in Sydney
- Start the Ethics Application
- Develop data collection instruments (survey, focus group and interview)
|Team members and reference group||April to May|| - Submit Ethics Application (due early May)
- Start contacting the research participants for data collection
- Videoconference or telephone meeting with partners and reference group
- Finalise evaluation process
- Piloting survey and the interview instrument
|Carina Bossu||June to Aug||- Data collection, send survey and follow up with interviews and focus groups|
|Carina Bossu||Sept to Oct|| - Preliminary data analysis finished
- Second face-to-face meeting with team members and partners to finalise Stage 1 and plan Stage 2
|Outcome of Stage 1||Complete Stage 1: data collection and preliminary analysis|
Stage 2 – Nov 2011 to Oct 2012
|Team members and reference group||Nov to Jan|| - Send preliminary data analysis to the participants for validation
- Send preliminary data analysis to the reference group – validation and confirmation of data analysis
- Third face-to-face meeting with team members and partners institution to discuss findings and start planning the Symposium
|Team members||Feb to April|| - Finalise data analysis using participants and reference group feedback
- Draft the Feasibility Protocol
|Team members||May to July|| - Organise the Symposium for consultation with higher-level management staff of tertiary institutions across Australia to disseminate and gather their views on the results of the project.
- Symposium held in Sydney Aug/Sept
- Develop the short case studies
- Incorporate additional feedback collected during the symposium into the findings and the Feasibility Protocol
|Leaders and members||Aug to Oct||Final report, final version of the Feasibility Protocol and final evaluation report|
|Outcome of Stage 2|| - Updated analysis of literature highlighting issues, barriers, opportunities and successes in the use of OERs
- Project findings and state of play concerning the position of Australian higher education sector about OERs
- Feasibility protocol containing a set of guiding principles with information on: