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How Institutional Culture Can Change to Adopt Open Practices

Teaser

The aim of this case study was to establish a process and gain an insight as to how cultural change within an institution leading to an open culture can be developed and adopted.

At De Montfort, cultural change with respect to OER and open education has developed from the ground upwards, with many academic staff using and releasing OER, and students becoming familiar and involved in activities as users, producers and evaluators. There is now, however, the need to garner the support of senior management and to formulate how open education fits with the institutional vision and strategies. There needs to be institutional ownership and support for this work so as to establish processes to scale and sustain the existing activity and facilitate future developments in a sustainable fashion.

Ten interviews were conducted with senior executive and management staff so as to ascertain the level of OER awareness within the institution, what the benefits and obstacles were to our engaging with open practices, and to formulate a process for shifting culture though policy, strategy and/or other means. The discussions were guided to see how OER could be applied within the institution to deliver existing research and teaching strategies, e.g. internationalisation or supporting student transitions. The senior staff included faculty Deans, pro-vice-chancellors and Directors of Library Services, eLearning, Staff Development Academic Quality, and other faculty leads for Internationalisation and Commercialisation.

Background

The aim of this case study was to establish a process and gain an insight as to how cultural change within an institution leading to an open culture can be developed and adopted.

There’s going to be a revolution about how we deliver education, and that a part of that, a big strand of that will be around open education. (Interviewee)

There is a heritage of open education activities at De Montfort University (DMU), and the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences has received funding for several UKOER projects. In the pilot phase (2009-10) as part of the UK Bioscience Centre project, Biomedical Science staff developed an open laboratory skills resource called ‘Virtual Analytical Laboratory’ (VAL). As part of UKOER2 (2010-11), OER were released to support the teaching of sickle cell disease in ‘Sickle Cell Open, Online Topics and Educational Resources’ (SCOOTER). In the most recent project, Health and Life Science Open Educational Resources (HALSOER), OER are being embedded within a number of life science degree programmes including Midwifery, Forensic Science and Biomedical Science.

Reflecting this activity, the establishment of a ‘Centre for Open Education’ has been proposed as part of the Faculty Learning and Teaching Strategy with the aim of encouraging a healthy cycle of OER use, reuse and publication. The Centre would be the hub for cross-university activity, working with central services such as the library, computer services and the Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT team) to champion open education within the institution.

Context

At De Montfort, cultural change with respect to OER and open education has developed from the ground upwards, with many academic staff using and releasing OER, and students becoming familiar and involved in activities as users, producers and evaluators. There is now, however, the need to garner the support of senior management and to formulate how open education fits with the institutional vision and strategies. There needs to be institutional ownership and support for this work so as to establish processes to scale and sustain the existing activity and facilitate future developments in a sustainable fashion.

Approach

Ten interviews were conducted with senior executive and management staff so as to ascertain the level of OER awareness within the institution, what the benefits and obstacles were to our engaging with open practices, and to formulate a process for shifting culture though policy, strategy and/or other means. The discussions were guided to see how OER could be applied within the institution to deliver existing research and teaching strategies, e.g. internationalisation or supporting student transitions. The senior staff included faculty Deans, pro-vice-chancellors and Directors of Library Services, eLearning, Staff Development and Academic Quality, and other faculty leads for Internationalisation and Commercialisation.

The interviews were around 30-60 minutes long and were recorded and transcribed. Relevant and insightful passages of text were highlighted and then copied into an Excel spreadsheet for clustering into the research questions, and within that, further sorted and clustered into common themes emerging.

The semi-structured interviews comprised of the following questions, but conversations were adapted to reflect the knowledge and expertise of each individual:

1 What do you understand the term Open Educational Resources (OER) to mean?

2 What might the benefit and barriers of using and/or producing OER at DMU?

3 So with that understanding in mind, what would your vision be for DMU being involved in OER?

4 What do we need to put in place to bring this vision to life? What would our strategy look like? What would it incorporate?

5 How could we ‘scale-up’ OER operations and participation within DMU to maximise the benefits on an institutional level, and also for teachers and learners?

6 How we can sustain and grow our activity? Are there financial models to support this?

7 How do we get policy adopted and approved at DMU? What are the routes forward?

Alongside the interviews we repeated our 2009 university staff questionnaire to gauge whether attitudes and awareness of OER had changed (Rolfe, 2010).

The 2009 survey showed that, in general terms, there was some support for OER as an idea or concept and that some staff were using OER in their delivery (Rolfe, 2012). An interesting finding of this survey was that, as might be expected, staff already shared learning resources within subject teams, but there was a barrier to sharing more widely even within different faculty teams teaching similar subjects. Initial analysis of the first returns from the 2012 survey show that both awareness and use of OER has increased, but the attitude to sharing resources is fundamentally the same as in 2009. One of the barriers to a wider adoption of truly open practice might be reflected in the fact that over 50% of respondents have concerns over copyright and merely 70% wanted clarification of the copyright issue. It was also clear from the responses that if adoption of open practices was to increase then institutional policy in its widest sense needs to change with, on a more practical level, more support and incentives being given to those who develop and use OER. Some of the findings are discussed in the context of the interviews throughout the report.

This extract is from a case study by Dr Vivien Rolfe and Dr Mark Fowler, published online at https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/oer_cs_vivien_rolfe_how_institutional_culture_can_change.pdf under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Dr Vivien Rolfe and Dr Mark Fowler, How Institutional Culture Can Change to Adopt Open Practices, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.