17 Opening Up your Institution

How education institutions can support open education content, practices, and community with policy.[1]


Photo by Stories of change, CC BY 2.0

Why It Matters

Educational institutions around the world are trying to figure out how to support their educators, staff, and learners in using, revising, and sharing OER, with new open education practices, and the communities that sustain them. How can education leaders use various policy tools to support and promote open education?

Learning Outcomes

  • Consider if and why you need a policy to accomplish your open education goals
  • Understand the menu of open education policy options
  • Assess your existing institutional policies
  • Understand how to develop an institutional open policy

Personal Reflection: Why it Matters to You

What if there were institutional policies that supported your open education work? What if money and time were available to educators who wanted to redesign their courses to make them open? What if promotion and tenure guidelines rewarded sharing your educational resources and/or research? What effect might pro-open education policies have on you and your learners?

Acquiring Essential Knowledge

Educational institutions have a broad menu of open education policy options from which to choose.

Raise awareness of the existence of OER and the benefits for your learners and faculty.

Action: Host an annual “open education” day at your school or university.

Empower stakeholders to drive your institution’s open education strategy.

Action: Create an Open Education Task Force comprised of learners, faculty, accessibility experts, deans, bookstore, financial aid, library, instructional designers, eLearning, etc.

Ensure all of the content you fund is OER.

Action: Draft, adopt, and implement an open licensing policy requiring university / school funded resources to be openly licensed. Use the OER Policy Development Tool to build an open policy for your institution. You can find examples of open policies others have created at the OER Policy Registry (global) and North American OER policies and projects

Issue a call-to-action to solve an education challenge.

Action: Create an OER Grant Program. Appropriate funds for supporting faculty and staff to shift your 50 highest enrolled courses from closed content to OER.

Example: The Maricopa County Community College started an open textbook initiative to lower costs of teaching materials. They provided grants to create open courses and train faculty on OER. Learn more about their process at their website, Maricopa Millions OER Project.

Leverage existing strategic documents to support open education.

Action: Add open education goals to key institutional strategy documents.

Action: Identify and track key performance indicators that improve when courses / degrees adopt OER.

Example: Increasing student outcomes, increasing the percentage of learners who can access 100% of the learning resources on day 1, reducing dropouts during add/drop periods, increasing credits taken per semester, decreasing student debt, decreasing time to degree.

Make it easy to share OER.

Action: Join a global OER repository and make it simple for your educators and learners to find others’ OER and share their OER. Provide professional development.

Ensure educators have the legal rights to share.

Action: Change the contract between the institution and the faculty / teachers so the educator has the legal rights to CC license their work.

Example: A Creative Commons policy in New Zealand gives teachers advance permission to disseminate their resources online for sharing and reuse. The policy also ensures that both the school and the teacher — as well as teachers from around the country and around the world — can continue to use and adapt resources produced by New Zealand teachers in the course of their employment. Creative Commons NZ have developed an annotated policy template for schools to adapt.

Provide OER information to learners.

Action: Require OER Course designations in course catalogs so learners can see whether (or not) a course uses OER or an open textbook. Example: CUNY labels OER in their catalog (video).

Reward sharing

Action: Adjust promotion and tenure policies to reward the creation / adoption / maintenance of OER and publishing in Open Access journals. The creation and adaptation of OER should be appropriately recognized as curricular innovation and service to the academic profession during promotion and tenure review.

Enforcing Open Education Policies

The point of most open education policies is to ensure the publicly (or foundation) funded educational resources are available to the public with 5Rs permissions. When it comes to enforcing open education policies, many people play important roles.

The funder and its program officers need to understand the open policy, communicate the importance of it to grantees verbally and in writing, and follow-up by checking to ensure the public has full access to the openly licensed content under the terms of the policy.

The university or college administration should provide support (e.g., hire a full-time OER or OA librarian) to faculty creating, remixing, sharing, and adopting OER as well as those redesigning their courses toward open pedagogy and practices. Institutions can also review and modify (as needed) promotion and tenure policies to ensure faculty engaged in open education work are rewarded (not punished) during promotion and tenure review.

Final Remarks

When education institutions support their educators, staff, and learners in moving from closed to open content and practices, open education thrives. Educators want to design the best courses, adjust their practices and pedagogy to empower learners to co-create knowledge, and push the limits of knowledge by openly sharing their ideas and resources with a global audience. But educators can’t do it alone. They need political, financial, time, staff, and policy support to shift to, and fully realize, the benefits of open education.

  1. This chapter is adapted from The Creative Commons' CC Certificate Resources, Chapter 5: Creative Commons For Educators, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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Getting Started with Open Educational Resources Copyright © 2019 by Mahrya Burnett, Jenay Solomon, Heather Healy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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