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OER as a scholarly activity within staff development accredited courses


Aim of the project: To embed OER into early career staff development


This project recognised that without academic buy-in, it would be difficult to embed an Open Educational Resource (OER) culture within academic teaching practice. It set out to identify an academic community within which to develop the relationships that would enable OER to be introduced as part of early career staff development, thereby forming the foundations for long-term use of OER in academic teaching practice.


The intention was to be an OER ambassador, working at a national, regional and local level. Starting with South West England, this meant identifying suitable groups to work with.

The first of these was the South West Educational Developers Forum (SWEDF). An introductory presentation on OER was well received. It was followed six months later by an additional presentation on how the OMAC projects using OER in staff development at Falmouth and Exeter were forging ahead.

A request from the Higher Education Academy to act as ‘critical friend’ to both the Exeter and Falmouth OMAC phase-2 projects, reinforced the Fellowship project’s regional focus. This role included facilitating, mentoring, grounding and contextualising the work of the OMAC projects and promoting the HEA UK PSF.

From identifying the community groups within which to work, the project went on to engage the members in OER.

For Exeter’s OMAC (OpenSTEM) project, this was pursued through focus groups and ‘coffee conversations’ with programme participants within its PGCHE course (for Associate HEA membership), and regular reflective meetings with the management team. In its Full HEA Fellowship course, they were pursued through discussing the merits of an OER culture with participants in several targeted seminars.

Engagement in Falmouth’s OMAC (IPR4EE) project included mentoring, contributing to a PGCHE programme workshop, chairing the OER11 (OER1137) symposium and supervising two Masters projects.

National breadth was added to the Fellowship through reviewing a suite of JISC OER case studies, actively participating in the organisation of OER11, contributing a written submission to the JORUM Review and giving innumerable conference presentations.


This project was able to significantly influence the character of the resources created under Exeter’s OpenSTEM OMAC project as well as contributing opinion on what character the resources for Falmouth’s IPR4EE OMAC project should take. Through them, a community of academics were introduced to OER and it is to be hoped that they will engage further in adopting OER, either as creators or as users.

At the same time, important knowledge about the context within which OER operates was formed. This included that academics and institutions each have their own, sometimes discordant priorities in relation to implementing and using OER; that discoverability of resources needs to be placed much higher up the priority by clever techie people (this is subsequently being addressed) ; OER is rarely ‘written for strangers’ but usually comes from a context and invariably in some sort of implicit ‘pedagogic wrapper’ and that OER has some way to travel before it is seen as a mainstream activity.

Other outputs within the SCORE Fellowshp included:

ALT-C symposium 0258. 8/9/2010 : What future for Open Educational Resources in UK Higher Education? Jonathan Darby, Tom Browne. http://altc2010.alt.ac.uk/talks/15061. The presentation contributed to this symposium is available at: http://www8.open.ac.uk/score/news/evaluating-benefits-oer-matching-individual-and-institutional-objectives.(Promoting academic staff development as vital component of sustainable future.)

SCORE conference, University of Nottingham, 11/3/2011 on Institutional Strategies for OER: OER as a scholarly activity within staff development accredited programmes – matching individual and institutional objectives. http://www.slideshare.net/SCORE/tom-browne-presentation-11th-march-2011 (Invited speaker at SCORE promotional symposium.)

Presentation and workshop at University College Falmouth, 18/3/2011 : OER as a scholarly activity within staff development accredited programmes - Matching individual and institutional objectives. (Invited to contribute to Falmouth’s PGCHE programme.)

Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE). Conference, Belfast April 2011. Workshop : OpenSTEM: Transforming teaching in Mathematics and Biosciences. http://www.aldinhe.ac.uk/qub_abstracts/3_7_abstract.pdf (Workshop, with two Exeter staff development colleagues.)


Presentation 1106 : Promoting effective engagement with UK PSF for STEM. http://www.ucel.ac.uk/oer11/abstracts/1106.html (With Exeter colleague and linking in Fellowship as bridge between Exeter’s Phase-1 and Phase-2 projects.)

Chaired Falmouth symposium (OER1137 - The art of sustainable engagement with OERs) and also gave presentation OER1137b : Is there a dichotomy between individual and institutional engagement with OER? (http://www.ucel.ac.uk/oer11/abstracts/1137b.html) (This pulled together various strands relating to Falmouth’s OMAC project on copyright IPR4EE.)


HEA 2011 : Open STEM: discipline-specific resources for CPD in mathematics and biosciences : (With 3 other Exeter colleagues, opportunity to showcase Open STEM resources on LabSpace)

ALT-C2011 : Workshop (0125) Open STEM: open educational discipline-specific resources for professional development in HE. (With 4 Exeter colleagues, another opportunity to showcase Open STEM resources on LabSpace.)

ALT-C 2011 Workshop (0194) Enhancing synergies between technologists, learning support specialists and academics utilizing Open Educational Resources. (With 4 other SCORE Fellows who also worked in arena of academic staff development, showcasing various OER approaches.)

Outcomes and conclusions

Academics and institutions each have their own priorities when it comes to the implementation and use of OER, and institutional strategies therefore need to harmonise these in order for OER to flourish.

OER may be more about ‘community’ and less about ‘stuff’. Changing culture is ultimately more sustainable as an OUTCOME than are various artifacts as OUTPUTS. The life expectancy of the latter may be very limited.

In order for OER to be presented as a mainstream activity rather than as something esoteric, significant co-ordinated work on the part of the Higher Education Academy and SCORE is required. Capacity building should not be restricted to incorporating an OER culture into HEA accredited staff development programmes. It also needs to be built into formal institutional CPD and to require that some OER engagement is evidenced in PDRs.

Working in collaboration with other SCORE Fellows whose projects had similar remits was very beneficial and enabled an exchange of ideas and practice which led to a successful ALT conference submission. It was also inspiring to work with colleagues engaged in the OMAC projects.


More information on Tom Browne’s project can be found at http://www8.open.ac.uk/score/fellows/tom-browne

Case study by Tom Browne, published online at https://web.archive.org/web/20130510160326/http://www.open.ac.uk/score/oer-scholarly-activity-within-staff-development-accredited-courses-1 under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.