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EVOL-OER: The Evolution of Open Educational Resources


Aim of the project: EVOL-OER aimed to develop a deeper understanding of the re-use and adaptation of open educational resources (OERs) by academics in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and how these resources evolved over time.


EVOL-OER built on the JISC OER impact study by expanding on the ‘Ratified’ quadrant of the study’s ‘landscape of reuse’ framework, developed by White and Manton (2011). It considered the drivers, barriers and strategies for re-use and adaptation of OERs amongst academics at higher education institutions. Through its investigation it sought to identify examples of how academics reuse OERs for curriculum enhancement and develop a greater understanding about what supports or prevents academics from engaging with open education practises


  • Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews with twelve higher education academics, ten of whom were from the UK and two of whom were from Africa.

  • A mixture of face-to-face and telephone interviews were undertaken.

  • Interviews were recorded and transcribed.

  • Data was coded and analysed to develop categories and those categories were synthesised into themes.

  • Examples and case studies from the OER Africa site (http://www.oerafrica.org/) formed part of the study and were analysed through a similar process as the face-to-face interviews.


    A range of outputs were produced as a result of this project. They include:

  • A report detailing the project aims, actions and conclusions.

  • Case studies of re-use.

  • An evaluation report including key findings, lessons learnt and recommendations from EVOL-OER.

  • The ‘OER-Enhanced Curriculum’ framework.

  • OER-Enhanced Curriculum Design and Delivery, presentation at the Cambridge 2012 conference, Cambridge, 16-18 April 2012.

  • Enhancing Curriculum and Design with OER, paper published in the Cambridge 2012 conference proceedings.

  • Academic OER use and re-use: case studies and evidence of good practice, presentation at the Follow the Sun conference, Leicester, 28-30 March 2012.

    Outcomes and conclusions

    The findings from this project have resulted in the production of an ‘OER-Enhanced Curriculum’ framework (see Figure 1 below) to support learning design workshops incorporating re-use and adaptation of OER. The framework is formed of four quadrants representing four types of enhancement which can be achieved during curriculum design and delivery stages by reusing OERs, from rapid and planned enhancement at curriculum delivery stage, to low-cost and strategic enhancement at curriculum design stage.

During the course of the project, drivers for re-use were identified as:

  • A vision of the benefits of sharing.

  • Improving the quality of teaching materials.

  • Increasing reputation.

  • Opening up new pedagogies and approaches for teaching and learning.

  • Saving time.

  • Access to resources which were previously not available.

On the other side of the scale, barriers for re-use were identified as:

  • A lack of technical skills and support.

  • A lack of understanding of copyright and licensing.

  • A lack of a culture of sharing.

  • A lack of relevant OERs.

  • Difficulty in searching for and finding OERs.

  • Localisation of the OERs.

  • Restrictive licenses.

  • Difficulty in adapting formats that resources are made available in.

  • Granularity of the resource, with parts of courses or single assets being preferred to whole courses.

  • Lack of infrastructure in some parts of the world.

The project will continue to impact on the use of OER through its ‘OER-Enhanced Curriculum’ framework which has been embedded into the University of Leicester’s Carpe Diem learning design workshops (http://www.le.ac.uk/carpediem). In doing so, it will continue to contribute to the development of OER, shape academic practice and drive the development of OER strategy and policy at the University of Leicester.

More information on this project can be found at http://www8.open.ac.uk/score/fellows/ming-nie


White, D. & Manton, M. (2011). Open Educational Resources: The value of reuse in higher education. JISC funded OER Impact Study, University of Oxford. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/oer2/oerimpact.aspx

Case study by Ming Nie, published online at https://web.archive.org/web/20151124055713/http://www.open.ac.uk:80/score/evol-oer-evolution-open-educational-resources under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Ming Nie, EVOL-OER: The Evolution of Open Educational Resources, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.