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What you said about Open Education Resources

Posted by on October 11, 2012

Dr Eva Sharpe, HE Policy Officer at the Society of Biology, reports on the results of our survey into the use of Open Education Resources

Earlier this summer, I blogged about a Society of Biology project to promote the use of Open Education Resources (OER) by the bioscience community.  As one strand of the project we’ve been collecting existing bioscience resources which we’ll be promoting through a new website launching this autumn.

Over the summer we surveyed HE bioscience teachers on their current use of OER, any barriers they have found, and comments on our plans for the new website. Here I summarise the responses.

Only half of our respondents were currently using or creating OER. Those that weren’t using OER gave a mixture of reasons, from only teaching postgraduate courses and therefore needing very specific teaching resources, having excellent “in house” content available, and a pool of respondents who didn’t know what OER were or where to find them.  We’re hoping that our new website will address this, helping to introduce those who are unfamiliar with the concept.

Respondents listed a mixture of resources that they use, including diagrams, videos, images, data handling problems, presentations and handouts. A common theme when asked about the quality of the resources highlighted that although very good resources are available, there is a huge variety in quality, leading to a lot of searching and sorting to find high quality resources. To address this, we have recruited a team of bioscience teaching experts to review all of the resources before including them on our site.

A quarter of respondents currently release their own teaching resources as OER. Unsurprisingly, lack of time was holding people back, but many responded that they did not know how to go about releasing OER, or whether their institutions would allow this. Resources such as the JISC OER infokit and STEM OER Guidance wiki provide information on using and creating OER, covering copyright and intellectual property issues, and ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ for creating your own resources.

The uncertainty over whether institutions allow and encourage their staff to create and release OER is something we all need to be addressing together as a community. Institutional policy needs to be disseminated and embedded at a departmental level and departments need to make it clear whether any staff training is available to support this. In our work with departmental heads through HUBS, and teaching practitioners in our membership and beyond, we will be promoting institutional change to support the use of OER and championing reward and recognition for those involved.

Thanks to everyone who responded to our survey, and congratulations to Justyna Zaborowska of the University of Oxford who was randomly selected as the prize draw winner!  We’ve used the results of the survey to help with our planning for the project, so watch this space for details of the website launch later this autumn.

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