Promoting policy uptake for OER and MOOCs
Gráinne Conole, Giles Pepler, Paul Bacsich, Brenda Padilla and Terese Bird
This chapter provides a review of the policy perspectives on Open Educational
Resources (OER) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). It draws in
particular on the findings from two EU-funded projects: OPAL and POERUP1. The
OPAL initiative focused on identifying the practices around OER in terms of how
they were created and repurposed. POERUP explored the ways in which
Governments stimulate the uptake of OER and MOOCs. The aim was to enable
OER and MOOC stakeholders to make informed strategic decisions to promote
the use of OER and MOOCs. It also draws on the findings of the OpenCred project,
which focused on recognition of informal and non-formal learning. Finally it
contextualises these projects in terms of a number of related projects and
initiatives concerned with OER and MOOCs. The chapter concludes by discussing
the policy implications of OER and MOOCs.
Digital technologies continue to develop at a rapid pace. Smartphones and tablets
mean that learning anywhere and anytime is now a reality. Learning analytics 2
tools provide rich data on learning behaviours, which can be used by teachers to
help learners or by learners themselves to improve their learning strategies.
Digital technologies offer a wealth of ways in which learners can interact with
multimedia, and communicate and collaborate with tutors and peers. The pace of
change is evident through looking at the annual New Media Consortium Horizon
reports and the Innovating Pedagogy reports. The latest edition of the 3 4
Innovating Pedagogy report lists the following ten innovations that are likely to
have a significant impact on education in the next few years:
● Massive open social learning
● Learning design informed by analytics
● Flipped classrooms
● Bring your own devices
● Learning to learn
● Dynamic assessment
● Event-based learning
● Learning through storytelling
● Threshold concepts
2 A good site on learning analytics is http://solaresearch.org/
Figure 1 shows the key digital technologies of significance over the last thirty
years or so, starting with the emergence of tools to create rich multimedia in the
late eighties through to learning analytics tools in recent years. As the timeline
shows, Open Educational Resources (OER) emerged around 2001 and Massive
Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in 2008.
Figure 1: A timeline of key digital technologies
OER and MOOCs are challenging traditional formal educational institutions,
enabling learners to learn through studying free resources and courses. As a
result, new business models are emerging and we are seeing a disaggregation of
Higher Education. In the future learners may choose not to do a full degree, but
rather pick and choose learning opportunities to meet their needs. For example,
they may pay for high-quality learning resources, or for a learning pathway
through materials, or for some form of support through peers or a subject-expert
tutor. Finally they may choose to pay for accreditation for their learning.
This chapter provides an overview of the emergence of OER and MOOCs, and
then focuses on two EU-funded projects on OER and MOOCs, Open Educational
Quality (OPAL) and Policies for OER Uptake (POERUP). A summary of the
evaluation of the University of Leicester’s FutureLearn MOOCs is also provided.
Policy recommendations on the uptake of OER and MOOCs are examined,
followed by a discussion on mechanisms to accredit informal and non-formal
learning, drawing on the findings of a project called OpenCred. Related OER and
MOOC initiatives and projects are briefly described.
The emergence of OER
It is now over ten years since the emergence of the OER movement, promoted by
organisations such as UNESCO and the Hewlett Foundation, who argued that
education is a fundamental human right and therefore educational resources
should be freely available. There are now hundreds of high-quality OER
The Hewlett foundation defines OER as: 5
Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public
domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that
permits their free use or re-purposing by others.
Whilst OECD defines them as:
Digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and
self- learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research (OECD,
2007, p. 133).
The Cape Town Open Education Declaration argues that the 6 OER movement is
The belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize,
improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint.
It focuses on three suggested strategies to removing barriers to the use of OER:
teacher and learner engagement with OER, a general policy to publish openly,
and commitment to open approaches at institutional and government levels.
Conole (2013) provides an overview of the emergence of the OER movement,
along with a list of some of the key OER initiatives. There are a number of
perceived benefits of OER. Firstly, they are free, providing learners, who cannot
afford formal education, with access to learning materials. Secondly, they can be
adapted and repurposed by teachers for use in a different learning context.
Thirdly, they provide examples of good practice, which provide inspiration for
teachers’ design practices.
Glennie et al. (2012) in the introduction to their edited collection ‘Open
Educational Resources and change in Higher Education’ state that:
In the last decade in particular, the promotion, sharing and use of open
educational resources (OER) have been growing exponentially. However,
as with any new phenomenon or paradigm, our knowledge of OER’s
ramifications and achievements to date necessarily lags behind actual
5 Definition on the Hewlett Website, http://www.hewlett.org/Programs/Education/OER/
They go on to pose the following questions about OER:
● Can learning resources designed for specific students in particular
contexts be as successful in other contexts?
● Will “reusers” of OER exploit the advantages of open licensing and adapt
high-quality resources to their own teaching situations?
● What are the conditions under which adaptations and improvement
● How will increasingly widespread student access to online open content
(i.e., that is not officially part of course designs) affect the dynamics of the
teaching and learning process?
Whilst the research described in this chapter goes some way towards answering
these important questions, we do not have complete answers yet. More research
is needed to understand the practices around the creation, use and repurposing
of OER, the barriers to uptake, and the strategies for uptake and sustainability.
Policy plays a crucial role in shaping future directions around the use of OER.
They provide guidance for the stakeholders of OER and MOOCs to help them
make informed decision about better promotion and use of OER and MOOCs. In
addition, they are often linked to funding opportunities in the area.
The emergence of MOOCs
The first MOOC, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08), was
launched in 2008. It was based on the principles of connectivism developed by
Siemens (2005). In particular participants were encouraged to harness the
affordances of social and participatory media to support their learning. There
was no right learning pathway; each participant created his or her own
Personalised Learning Environment (PLE) (Atwell 2007). Students 7
communicated with peers through a variety of channels (blogs, wikis, social
networking sites, email, Twitter etc.). Fini (2009) published an evaluation of the
MOOC; he concluded that the course attracted adult lifelong learners who were
not interested in course completion. Time constraints, language barriers and ICT
skills were listed as factors that influenced which tools learners used.
CCK08 is an example of a type of MOOC that has been called a cMOOC. The
emphasis is on learning in a social context, harnessing the power of social media.
Cormier (one of the founders of the CCK08 MOOC) has produced a video, which
describes cMOOCs. In 2011, a second type of MOOC emerged, xMOOC, through
organisations like Udacity, EdX and Coursera. These courses were didactic in 8 9 10
nature, consisting primarily of multimedia, videos and e-assessment elements,
and the focus was more on the individual learner.
7 For research specifically on MOOCs and PLEs see
However, given the variety of MOOCs now being offered, this categorization of
xMOOCs and cMOOCs is too simplistic. Conole (2014) has developed a new
classification schema for MOOCs based on twelve dimensions. The first three are
to do with the context of the MOOC (how open it is, how diverse the learners are
and how massive it is). The remaining nine dimensions refer to the pedagogical
approach adopted (the use of multimedia; how reflection, communication and
collaboration are fostered; the nature of the learning pathway provided; what
quality assurances processes are applied; whether there are any certification
mechanisms; links to formal educational offerings; and the degree of learner
autonomy). The classification schema can be used to describe MOOCs and also to
design and evaluate them.
The list of MOOCs is growing, as are the publications associated with them. 11
These include descriptions of MOOCs and their evaluation. EFQUEL (European 12
Foundation for Quality in E-Learning) have produced an excellent series of
MOOCs focusing on quality and MOOC development and use. There are 13
advocates and opponents of MOOCs. The advocates argue that the benefits of
MOOCs include the fact that they are free and that they enable participants to be
part of a global community of peers, providing them with experience of learning
online and at scale. It is also argued that because they are free, they are socially
inclusive, providing access to learning for those who cannot afford formal,
fee-based education. The opponents argue that learner dropout rates are high
(early MOOCs typically had a dropout rate of 95–98 %) and that it is more about
‘learning income than learning outcomes’ and hence primarily a marketing
OER and MOOC initiatives – the OPAL and POERUP
When OER emerged, there was a naïve assumption that just making resources
freely available would result in teachers and learners using and repurposing
them. In contrast, evaluation of the use of OER repositories and participation in
MOOCs indicates that these resources are not being used extensively and that
there are high dropout rates (McAndrew 2006). Conole (2013) states the
following with respect to this:
The OER movement has been successful in promoting the idea that
knowledge is a public good, expanding the aspirations of organisations
and individuals to publish OER. However as yet the potential of OER to
transform practice has not being realised, there is a need for innovative
11 See for example http://ww.mooc-list.com/
12 See for example the ICDE’s list of MOOC reports
tion.b7C_wRfSYa.ips), the MOOCs research reports site (http://www.moocresearch.com/reports)
and the MOOCs for development site (http://www.moocs4d.org/media.html)
14 For an online debate on the pros and cons of MOOCs see
forms of support on the creation and evaluation of OER, as well as an
evolving empirical evidence-base about the effectiveness of OER.
Indeed, more broadly there are still challenges with persuading teachers to use
digital technologies. A recent Pearson report on faculty attitude to IT states: 15
Few faculty members (7 percent) strongly agree that online courses can
achieve student learning outcomes that are at least equivalent to those of
In terms of MOOCs the report states that:
62 percent of faculty members strongly agree that institutions should start
MOOCs only with faculty approval; nearly as many (59 percent) strongly agree
that MOOCs should be evaluated by accrediting agencies.
It is worth concluding this section by locating OER and MOOCs in the wider
context of openness. This consists of a full spectrum of open practices across
learning, teaching and research activities, from open access through digital
scholarship (Weller 2011), and adopting open approaches to learning and
teaching through OER and MOOCs. Iliyoshi and Kumar (2008)provide an
overview of the open educational movement. They discuss the notion of
‘openness’ and what it might mean in an educational context, in terms of open
content, technology and knowledge. They argue that this is beginning to change
the way resources are used, shared and improved. They suggest that the central
tenet of open education is that ‘education can be improved by making
educational assets visible and accessible and by harnessing the collective
wisdom of a community of practice and reflection’.
The importance of open practices for learning and teaching is evident through
the EU ‘Opening up education’ initiative, which states the following: 16
The main goal of this initiative is to stimulate ways of learning and teaching
through ICT and digital content, mainly through the development and
availability of OER.
The initiative lists the following as key benefits of the initiative:
● It will enable students to build knowledge from open and free sources
other than their teachers and institutions, and with different methods
● It will facilitate everyone to engage in learning/study groups, thus
creating learning communities beyond their classrooms
● It will make personalisation and customisation of education a much easier
● It will enable teachers to create communities of practice to exchange
teaching materials and best practices
● It will provide access to a wider range of educational resources across
borders and languages
The OPAL initiative
The OPAL initiative aimed to address the issue of the lack of uptake and use of
OER. Over 100 case studies of OER repositories were examined. From this a set 17
of open educational practices (OEP) were identified, in terms of how OER were 18
being created, used and repurposed. From these an OPAL metromap was 19
developed, which enabled OER stakeholders (policy makers, managers,
practitioners and learners) to create a vision and implementation map for OER.
Figure 2: The OPAL metromap
Figure 2 shows the metromap. For each stakeholder there are a number of
relevant ‘metro stops’. These are:
● Vision for OEP: what is the vision for the creation, use and repurposing of
OER? What institutional targets need to be set in relation to OER?
● Strategies and policies: what strategies and policies are in place or need to
be developed to achieve the vision?
● Business models: what business models are needed?
18 Open Educational Practices are defined as “practices which support the (re)use and production of
OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and
empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path" (Ehlers, 2011). Initially eight
were identified: strategies and policies, Quality Assurance models, partnership models, tools and tool
practices, barriers and success factors, innovations, skills development and support, and business
● Partnerships: what partnerships with other organisations might be
● Relevance: what is the relevance to individuals and institutions?
● Copyright framework: what copyright framework needs to be developed?
● Motivation framework: how can learners and teachers be motivated to
● Alignment with practices: how do we ensure that OER activities align with
existing learning and teaching practices?
● Mindsets and attitudes: what are the current attitudes of learners and
teachers towards the use of OER and how can these be changed to have a
more favourable perspective on the use of OER?
● Sharing and exchanging: what mechanisms need to be in place to enable
the sharing of good practice?
● Process for creating: how can the processes of creating OER be enabled?
● Using OER: how can OER use be encouraged?
● Repurposing OER: how can teachers be facilitated to repurpose OER for
use in different learning contexts?
● Sharing OER: how can OER be shared and discussed?
● Quality mechanisms: what quality mechanisms are needed for OEs?
● Skills of teachers: what are the current skills levels of teachers around
● Digital literacy: what kinds of digital literacies do learners and teachers
need to make effective use of OER?
● Support mechanisms for teachers: what support mechanisms are needed
The OPAL website states the following in relation to this:
The OEP Guidelines enable learners, educational practitioners, leaders of
organisations, and policy makers to plot their trajectory on the path to open
educational practices. This begins with assessing your current position,
through the creation of a vision for openness and a strategy for open practices,
and finally to implementing and promoting open educational practices.
The OPAL initiative made significant progress in identifying OER practices and
barriers to uptake of OER. The metromap provides useful guidelines to enable
stakeholders to create both a vision for OER and associated practice, and a
roadmap for implementation.
The POERUP project
The POERUP project built on the findings of OPAL. POERUP collated an 20
inventory of over 500 OER initiatives worldwide. Thirty-three country reports
were also collated, which described the following: the educational context
(across schools, the tertiary sector, including for adult learners, and the VET
sector), the level of Internet and e-learning maturity, and the types of OER
initiatives. The following countries were included: in the European Union:
Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and United Kingdom, and
outside of the EU: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United States. In addition,
a series of mini-studies were derived, for the following countries: Southern
Europe: Greece, Portugal and Spain, North/East Europe: Denmark, Finland,
Germany, Ireland, Norway, Romania and Sweden, and the rest of the world:
Argentina, Jordan, Kuwait, Mexico, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South
Africa, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
The key conclusions from the country reports were that many countries seem to
be doing little around OER. However, there is a lot under the radar, such as open
access approaches, the development and use of teacher repositories and specific
ICT initiatives in schools. There is considerable variability in OER activity, which
is specifically related to the level of OER policy (and funding) available in each
country. The UK for example had until 2013 (though mainly in England) a
sizeable amount of OER initiatives and activities, partly because of significant
funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (Jisc) and the Higher
Education Academy (HEA). Very few countries (or institutions) have explicit OER
policies. In some countries (such as Portugal) almost every university has an
open access policy, although this may not necessarily specifically mention OER.
Where there are national policies these are often limited in scope and largely
concerned with publicly funded research in higher education, for example the
Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Policy for open access in
the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework.
Eight in-depth case studies of OER communities were carried out using Social
Networking Analysis (SNA), to ascertain the nature of the communities, the types
of interactions, and the factors that influenced the sustainability of the
communities (Schreurs, Beemt et al. 2014). These included the Dutch Wikiwijs
community, ALISON in Ireland, the OERu consortium and the MOOC consortium
Wikiwijs (no longer funded but the repository is still active) is an OER platform 21
for teachers originally launched by the Dutch Ministry of Education. It aims to
‘stimulate the development and use of OER, improve access to open and 'closed'
digital learning resources, support teachers in arranging their own learning
materials and their professionalisation, and increase teacher involvement in the
development and use of OER. Wikiwijs builds on the wiki philosophy of
Wikipedia but customizes an existing OER platform, Connexions, to host and
distribute its content. Wikiwijs is focused on all levels of education, from primary
to higher education. All content on Wikiwijs is available under the creative
commons CC BY licence.
The Irish ALISON website states that it offers over 600 free online courses. 22
Four types of stakeholder are identified: students, teachers, employers and
publishers. The benefits for students include the provision of a means to gain
verification and certification, and the opportunity to take a free aptitude test.
The benefits for teachers are mechanisms to support the management of large
groups and automatic testing. The benefits for employers are mechanisms to
upskill employees and a means of verifying candidates’ knowledge. Finally, the
benefits for publishers are a means of reaching millions of learners and a
mechanism for earning advertising revenue.
The OER u is an international consortium of institutions, where learners can 23
choose to learn through OER and/or MOOCs and then approach one of the
partners for recognition of their learning and accreditation via that institution.
There are now 37 members of the consortium and a range of courses offered via
the website. The website states that all their courses are taught online, based on
open educational resources, and designed for independent learning. They claim
that the partner institutions offer qualifications through the OER u network,
which are equivalent to those offered on-campus. Some of the benefits listed are
that learners can ‘try before they buy’ since all OER u materials are free, and that
learners can customize their learning via micro courses. Three ways of engaging
with an OERu course are listed: self-directed interest, certification for active
participation, and learning for credit.
The FutureLearn consortium is the most recent MOOC consortium, initiated by 24
the Open University UK. Launched in December 2012, it now has 37 partners and
is no longer confined to the UK. A key aspiration behind the initiative is inspiring
learning for life and providing a means for globally connecting learners with
experts. The platform offers a diverse range of courses. The pedagogy associated
with FutureLearn courses is based on high-quality ‘bite size’ chunks of learning
and it is about learning through storytelling. Courses contain a mixture of text,
audio, video and activities. Participants can pay to get a certificate of
participation. The platform has a rich set of learning analytic tools, to help course
designers improve and refine their MOOCs.
The FutureLearn website lists the following as key principles: 25 open approaches
and practices, listening to learners (and clearly, learning analytics data is key to
this), telling stories, provoking conversation, creating connections, keeping it
simple, learning from others, celebrating progress, and embracing
The analysis of these communities gives a picture of the OER and MOOC
landscape, the focus of different initiatives and associated business models, and
the mechanisms that are needed to make them sustainable.
The University of Leicester is a FutureLearn partner and the Institute of Learning
Innovation undertook an evaluation of the first two Leicester MOOCs delivered
on the platform (Padilla, Bird et al. 2014). The courses were: ‘England in the time
of King Richard III’ and ‘Forensic Science and Criminal Justice’. Each course 26 27
was six weeks in duration, with three hours of learning per week. The courses
adopted the bite-site chunking of learning approach, suggested by FutureLearn,
through a variety of text, audio, video and activities. Participants could pay £25
for a certificate of participation.
The evaluation methodology for the evaluation consisted of interviews with
stakeholders (course designers, tutors, learners and the Director of Education at
Leicester who was the lead on Leicester’s MOOC developments). An online
survey was also sent to MOOC participants. In addition the courses and the
associated learning analytics data were analysed. The number of people
registered for each MOOC and the dropout rates were also collected. The aims of
the evaluation included:
● Gathering perceptions of the MOOCs from course designers, deliverers
● Describing participants’ interactions in the MOOCs
● Exploring the reasons for participating or dropping out of the MOOCs
Figure 3 shows a breakdown of the age of participants. A significant percentage
were older learners. This can be attributed to the fact that the course was
primarily advertised to Open University alumni. 52 % had prior experiences of
MOOCs, and most had some level of higher education qualifications. These
findings mirror those from evaluations of other MOOCs. The Richard the III
MOOC was capped at 10, 066 participants, and 12,511 learners registered on the
Forensic Science course. Most visited the site at least a few times each week and
posted an average of 8-9 posts each week. 87 % had little or no contact with
tutors and 47 % were still active in the final week. 87% of Richard III learners
(n=391) and 77% of Forensic Science MOOC participants (n=140) reported
having no or little contact with MOOC tutors..
Figure 3 Survey findings for the Richard III MOOC
Table 1 shows a breakdown of the activities associated with the Richard the III
MOOC. 97 % of participants liked or strongly liked reading articles. 94 % liked or
strongly liked watching videos. 92 % liked or strongly liked following links to
related content and 90 % liked or strongly liked doing the online quizzes and
getting feedback. Lower percentages were evident for reading the comments
posted by other participants (59 %) and discussing things online with others (28
Table 1: Breakdown of activities on the Richard the III MOOC
Overall the participants were positive about their experience of participating in
the MOOC (Figure 4). 97 % stated that the structure of the MOOC was clear. 92 %
found the MOOC engaging and interesting, 91 % stated that it was a positive
experience. They indicated that the course was about right in terms of level of
difficulty, time and length. The top three reasons stated for participation were:
learning new things (85 %), trying a MOOC (53 %) and experiencing online
learning (46 %). Three common words used to describe the MOOC were:
interesting, enjoyable and informative.
Figure 4: Overall experience of participating in the MOOC
A number of themes emerged from interviews with stakeholders. Firstly,, from
the university’s point of view, participation was very much a marketing exercise.
There was an aspiration that MOOC students might sign up for fee-paying
Leicester courses as a result of participating in the MOOC. Course designers
noted the value of using videos and bite-size chunks of learning, and saw these as
pedagogical innovations that they planned to incorporate into their
campus-based courses. The value of learning analytics was mentioned and in
particular that the data indicated that videos should be no more than 10 minutes
in length. The importance of working with experienced learning technologists in
the course design was also noted, combining subject expert knowledge with
general knowledge about good pedagogy and learning design.
A key concern mentioned by both course designers was the issue of designing for
an unknown audience, and in particular not knowing the level of prior
experience in the subject matter of the participants. However, this did not appear
to be an issue as the majority of participants stated that the level of the materials
was about right. The platform was considered good from the learner perspective,
but not from the developers’ perspective, this view has been fed back to the
FutureLearn platform developers to help them improve the platform. The course
designer for Richard III provided weekly email summaries, whereas the forensic
science course had a dedicated course tutor to address participants’ comments.
In general the stakeholders felt the MOOCs were good for raising the profile of
Leicester courses and for showcasing examples of good practice. 28
These findings map well from evaluations of other MOOCs. Selwyn and Buffin
(2014) did a meta-analysis of MOOC initiatives. They focused on stakeholder
28 See http://e4innovation.com/?p=800 for a list of good practice guidelines for MOOCs
perceptions of the MOOC experience and how these discourses framed some of
the wider concerns around higher education, in terms of access to education, the
relationship between different stakeholders and the nature of knowledge. They
listed the following distinct discursive themes:
● Size and scale in terms of the number of students, course and countries
and the scale of the investment.
● Higher Education marketplace in terms of competition between
universities for students and for credentialisation of degrees.
● General sense of transformation in terms of non-specific descriptions of
characteristics of disruption.
● Business and economics aspects in terms of emerging business models
and methods of monetization and profit making.
● Pedagogical approaches in terms of teaching and instructional design.
● How free the MOOCs were
● Nature of the subject content and knowledge and the subject areas
● Nature of the students taking the MOOCs.
● Perceptions of the teachers, tutors and others involved in designing and
delivering the MOOCs.
● Nature of assessment provided.
● Ways in which technologies were used.
Bliss (2014) argues that effective OER policy is critical for the entire open
education movement. Policies exist at a number of levels: international, national,
and institutional. He refers to the OER impact map produced by the OER 29
Research Hub, which shows policies around the world that have been created in
support of open education. In terms of policy overviews a number of documents
● The USA OER policy overview. This indicates that OER policy in the USA is 30
at federal, state and institutional level. Policy is driven by problems in the
system and there is a wide range of policies at many different levels. The
types of policy include: investing resources to create or adopt OER, inject
open licensing into systems that create educational resources,
endorsements for OER and removing barriers to OER uptake.
● The OER policy recommendations for the Word Summit on the Information
Society 2012. The document concludes with the following statement: 31
Open Education is an important driver for reforming education
locally and globally; a reform that is more urgently needed than ever.
Open Educational Resources enable Open Education and promote
inclusive learning, global collaboration and improved human
conditions for all. It is vital to speed up the adoption of Open
Educational Resources and Open Education worldwide. This will
challenge some of the established systems and practices, calling for
global and local leadership.
Five policy recommendations are made. Firstly, there is a need to
intensify global collaborations on OEP and OER (e.g. through UNESCO,
Commonwealth of Learning, and others), maintaining a sensitivity of
diversity in culture, educational systems and governance. Thus
stimulating institutional and national partnerships for open collaboration.
Secondly, existing Intellectual Property Right and Copyright schemes
represent an important barrier to OEP and should therefore be
reconsidered in the educational context. Whenever learning material is
produced with public funding open licences should be used. Thirdly, there
is a need to promote Open Education in legislation and government
policies as a powerful alternative to current educational approaches.
Fourthly, national governments should take up international
recommendations (e.g. from UNESCO, EU, etc.) to improve OER adoption
and education reforms. Fifthly, there is a need to create an open, flexible,
inclusive educational environment including support mechanisms.
● The UNESCO policy guidelines for promotion of open access. This focuses 32
on the promotion of open access to research outputs. The benefits of open
access are cited as: it improves the speed, efficiency and efficacy of
research, it is an enabling factor in interdisciplinary research, it enables
computation upon the research literature, it increases the visibility, usage
and impact of research, and it allows the professional, practitioner and
business communities, and the interested public, to benefit from research.
● The Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies. 33
Bliss cites Vance Randall who argues that policy is nearly always created to solve
a particular problem or set of problems. He goes on to articulate the nature of
policy at different levels. At the international level it is about raising awareness
of OER and ensuring sustainability. At the national level OER may help solve the
sustainable OER development problem by requiring open licensing on materials
produced with public funds. Finally, at the institutional level it is about ensuring
the mainstreaming of OER.
The POERUP project concluded with a set of recommendations for policy to
promote the uptake of OER and MOOCs (Bacsich, 2014; Phillips, 2014; Pepler,
2014). These conclusions draw on a POERUP-specific policies survey (Pepler,
2014), which has a strong focus on relevance to EU countries. 34 The recommends
were based around the following themes:
● Communication and awareness raising
● Copyright and licensing
● Reducing regulatory barriers
● Teacher training and continuous professional development
● Certification and accreditation
● Further research
In terms of communication and awareness raising, POERUP concluded that there
was still a need to raise awareness of existing resources and, in some countries,
to clarify what OER are and what their benefits are. There also needs to be
continued support for existing programmes. To this we would add the need for
Continuing Professional Development to help practitioners find resources and
enable them to repurpose them for a new learning context. A study by Conole et
al. (Conole, McAndrew et al. 2010) explored how OER could be repurposed for
supporting collaborative learning. They concluded that using OER was hard for a
number of reasons. In particular, the practitioner needs to unpack the implicit
design of the OER and then find a way of repurposing it for a new learning
Funding costs and ensuring sustainability are still key issues. More needs to be
done to ensure the outputs of publically funded research in this area continue to
be used. We also need a better understanding of the cost basis of university
teaching and in particular the costs associated with producing OER and
Not surprisingly, copyright and licensing issues were still evident. Mechanisms
need to be put in place to educate practitioners on IPR (Intellectual Property
Rights) issues and to harness the knowledge of information specialist on
copyright and IPR such as library professionals.
In terms of reducing regulatory barriers, the POERUP project promoted the idea
of a ‘Bologna bis’ and in particular that the focus should be on the competences 35
learner gained rather than the duration of their study. They also recommended
research into standardization of undergraduate syllabi across Europe, especially
in the area of STEM subjects.
34 For an overview of European and International policies relevant to the uptake of OER see
35 The Bologna process is a series of agreements between European countries to ensure
comparability in the standards and quality of Higher Education qualifications – see
There were a number of key issues around the quality of OER and MOOCs. Ways
of improving the visibility of OER included encouraging practitioners to include
OER on approved course reading lists. It was also stated that it was important
that OER sand MOOCs met appropriate accessibility issues. Mechanisms for
improving the quality of OER and MOOCs included the suggestion that peer
review mechanisms are put in place, perhaps through an OER/MOOC evaluation
and adoption panel. It was suggested that an in-depth country cost-benefits
analysis should be undertaken to assess the potential savings that might be
achieved through implementing an OER strategy. POERUP also recommended
establishing a European quality assurance standard for OER content. Finally
there was a need to consider the implications of OER and MOOCs on quality
assurance and recognition.
Teacher training and CPD (Continuing Professional Development) were
highlighted as a key way of increasing the impact and uptake of OER and MOOCs.
The POERUP project stated that very few CPD programmes include much on
teaching online and even fewer on how to use OER and MOOCs. Suggestions to
address this included: establishing and adequately funding a professional
development programme to help teachers and administrators understand the
benefits and uses of OER/MOOCs and open licensing. This would support
teachers/ trainer/lecturer CPD on the creation, use and re-use of OER, with
coverage of distance learning, MOOCs and other forms of open educational
practice, and also IPR issues, and establishing incentive schemes for teachers
engaged in online professional development of their pedagogic skills including
In terms of certification and accreditation the project recommended the
establishment of transnational accrediting agencies and mutual recognition of
accreditation across Europe. There is also a need to ensure that there are
appropriate mechanisms for APL (Accreditation of Prior Learning), including the
ability to accredit knowledge and competences developed through online study
and informal learning.
Finally the infrastructure of the design and delivery of OER and MOOCs needs to
be improved, to make it seamless across Europe and easy to use. This was
particularly relevant to schools who are on the whole less well served by
The project concluded with a number of recommendations for further research.
Firstly, this includes focusing on sustainable business models for OER and
innovation. Secondly, research should be encouraged into the verifiable benefits
of OER, with greater efforts to integrate such analyses with ongoing research on
distance learning, on-campus online learning, and pedagogy. Thirdly, future
research in the K-12 sector should explicitly embrace Repositories, Federations,
Portals and Tools and should consider off-campus learning (both institutional –
virtual schools – and self-directed or home-tutor led). Fourthly, it is important to
support educational institutions in developing new business and educational
models around OER and MOOC. Finally, the project recommended the
establishment of large-scale research and policy experimentations to test
innovative pedagogical approaches, curriculum development and skills
Recognition of informal and non-formal learning
Clearly OER and MOOCs offer opportunities for learners to learn for free and
potentially enable individuals who cannot afford formal education to learn. A
number of accreditation models have emerged for the recognition of informal
and non-formal learning through OER and MOOCs; such as badges for skills and
competencies, certificates of participation and completion, and formal
recognition of learning, through organisations like the OERu. 36
Figure 5 illustrates the relationship between formal and informal learning. There
are two axes: learning individually or socially, and learning informally or
formally. Traditional campus-based course and Distance Learning courses, sit in
the top left hand side, mapping to learning individually in a formal learning
context. Adding a social element shifts this to the top right hand side, examples
include blended courses and Distance Learning courses with an addition of social
media. Learning individual and informally can be achieved through OER and
xMOOCs, as shown in the bottom left hand side of the diagram. Added a social
dimension shifts this to the bottom right hand side; examples include learning
through OER and social media, and cMOOCs. Transition from an informal to a
formal learning context can be achieved in a number of ways: through traditional
Accreditation of Prior Learning (APEL), via e-portfolios that evidence how the
learner has achieved the learning outcomes, through organisations like the
OERu, and through badges for accreditation.
Figure 5: The formal/informal learning landscape
The OpenCred project investigated mechanisms for the recognition of OER and 37
MOOCs (Witthaus, Childs et al. 2014). The purpose was to gain an understanding
of the landscape of recognition of informal and non-formal learning and to
inform a broader project on opening up education, OpenEdu, which is 38
investigating the challenges and opportunities in the recognition of learning
achievements via open learning with the aim of supporting policy development
at a European level.
The study started with a desk research phase, which sought to identify the ways
in which the main open education collaborative networks, consortia and
platforms in Europe offer recognition for open learning. The concept of
recognition was broken down into different levels of formality, with reference to
some key recent discussion documents in the literature, and descriptors were
given for each level in the resulting hierarchy. Various European open education
initiatives were then described in terms of this hierarchy of levels of formality of
recognition. The researchers also carried out four in-depth case studies to
investigate the experiences of a small number of participants in open education
in Europe from different perspectives. Six interviews were held: two with
teachers based in higher education education/research institutions, two with
MOOC learners, and two with employers/employer bodies that are beginning to
recognise non-formal, open learning. The findings revealed that the following
aspects of open learning had a significant impact on recognition of open learning:
robustness of assessment, affordability for the learner, and eligibility for
assessment and recognition. 39
OER and MOOC activities continue at a pace and there continues to be significant
interest in investigating how OER and MOOCs can be developed and used. In
addition to the projects described in this chapter, it is worth highlighting some
The VMPass project is developing an accreditation framework for OER and
MOOCs. This is being achieved through a ‘learning passport, which has three
sections to be completed: a section from the OER/MOOC provider, a sector to be
completed by the learner, and a section from the accrediting organisation or
The European Multiple MOOC aggregator project, EMMA, aims to showcase 40
excellence in innovative teaching methodologies and learning approaches
through the large-scale piloting of MOOCs on different subjects. EMMA provides
a system for the delivery of free, open, online courses in multiple languages from
different European universities to help preserve Europe’s rich cultural,
37 See http://is.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pages/OpenCred/ISUNITWEBSITE-IPTS-JRC-EC.htm for a summary
of the project
39 Please note that at the time of writing the report has not yet been endorsed bu the commissioning
educational and linguistic heritage and to promote real cross-cultural and
multi-lingual learning. EMMA operates in two main modes, as an aggregator and
hosting system of courses produced by European universities, and as a system
that enables learners to construct their own courses using units from MOOCs as
building blocks. The EMMA team are taking a deliberate multi-lingual,
multi-cultural approach to learning by offering inbuilt translation and
transcription services for courses hosted on the platform.
The eMundus project focuses on the state of the art of MOOCs. It aims to 41
strengthen cooperation and awareness among European Higher Education
Institutions and their strategic counterparts worldwide by exploring the
potential of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and Virtual Mobility (VM) to
support long term, balanced, inter-cultural academic partnership.
A recently started project, OpenEdOZ, funded by the Australian Office of 42
Learning and Technology, is developing a national policy for fostering the uptake
of open resources and courses. It has two main activities: i) curriculum design
case studies to answer the question of how student learning outcomes can be
enhanced with OEP and ii) a National Policy Roadmap for fostering relevant
uptake of open resources and courses. The project is due for completion in
September 2015. Australia has perhaps been somewhat behind the other
advanced English-speaking countries in OER-related policy development and this
project, therefore, is a welcome addition.
The chapter has provided an overview of OER and MOOC initiatives and
developments, with a particular focus on the policy lens for uptake. It has drawn
on a number of key research projects exploring this issue. The chapter includes a
set of policy recommendations derived from the POERUP project (which of
course drew on the earlier work from the OPAL initiative, as well as work carried
out by UNSECO and COL and other projects and agencies).
As stated at the start of this chapter, OER and MOOCs are challenging traditional
educational institutions and their associated business models. OER and MOOCs
are an example of what Christensen terms ‘disruptive innovation’ (Christensen
1997). A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new
market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value
network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. It is
about change, about something new, about the unexpected and about changing
mindsets. OER and MOOCs are disruptive in that they are challenging traditional
educational institutions, to rethink their business models and to rethink the
ways in which they design and deliver courses. It is unclear what the future of
OER and MOOCs will be, and whether or not they will have a fundamental impact
on the educational landscape. But if they make traditional institutions rethink
their values and distinctiveness and what is the learner experience of attending
one institution over another then that is for the good. Our feeling is that there
will be a spectrum of educational offerings from entirely free resources and
courses, through to the Oxbridge model of the one-to-one tutorial. This theme is
further developed in Bacsich (2012). This spectrum will offer learners a variety
of possibilities to engage with learning, matched to their individual preferences
Atwell, G. (2007). "Personal Learning Environments: the future of learning?"
eLearning papers 2(1).
Bliss, T. J. (2014). "Musings on OER policy." aperta educationem
Christensen, C. (1997). The innovator's dilemma: When new technologies cause
great firms to fail. Harvard, Harvard University Press.
Conole, G. (2013). Open Educational Resource. Designing for learning in an open
world. New York, Springer: 225-242.
Conole, G. (2014). "A new classification schema for MOOCs." INNOQUAL 2(3).
Conole, G., P. McAndrew, et al. (2010). The role of CSCL pedagogical patterns as
mediating artefacts for repurposing Open Educational Resources’. in F.
Pozzi and D. Persico (Eds), Techniques for Fostering Collaboration in
Online Learning Communities: Theoretical and Practical.
Fini, A. (2009). "The technological dimension of a Massive Open Online Course:
The case of the CCK08 course tools." IRRODL 10(5).
Glennie, J., K. Harley, et al. (2012). Open Educational Resources and Change in
Higher Education: Reflections from Practice. Vancouver, Commonwealth
Iiyoshi, T. and M. S. V. Kumar (2008). Opening Up Education: The Collective
Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and
Open Knowledge, The MIT Press %@ 0262033712.
McAndrew, P. (2006). Motivations for Openlearn: the Open University’s Open
Content Initiative, Openlearning workshop paper. THe OECD experts
meeting on Open Educatinal Resouces. Barcelona.
Padilla, B., T. Bird, et al. (2014). Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs):
evaluation report - University of Leicester. Leicester, University of
Schreurs, B., V. d. Beemt, et al. (2014). "An investigation into social learning
activities by practitioners in open educational practices." IRRODL 15(4).
Selwyn, N. and S. Buffin (2014). MOOC research initiative - final report.
Siemens, G. (2005). "Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age."
International journal of instructional technology and distance learning
Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar - how technology is changing academic
practice. London, Bloomsbury Academic.
Witthaus, G., M. Childs, et al. (2014). The OpenCred report on institutional
practices and approaches to the recognition of non-formal, open learning
in Europe. Leicester, University of Leicester.