Part-funded through the HEA/JISC OER programme, the Global Dimensions in Higher Education (GD in HE) project has been developing a fully online open course to engage educators in critically exploring and debating global issues in higher education. Originally undertaken as a collaborative initiative between three UK universities, the project has two broad aims: the first to develop and then pilot the GD in HE course with a view to the course being repurposed in education-related postgraduate programmes for academics, and the second to research and document the challenges in designing and developing a joint online course across multiple partners.
The work undertaken to date has been well documented, with the early stages of the project being presented at OER13 (Smyth et al, 2013). Presently, the GD in HE course is almost complete and ready to pilot. However, during the past year the core members of the project team have all taken up new posts in different institutions. These circumstances have raised interesting new questions and challenges as we seek to finalise development of the course and move towards pilot implementation and evaluation. The original project team remain committed to the project goals, which we believe continue to have significant value to the sector in terms of delivering a resource to support academic development and by informing policy and practice through the lessons learned.
The movement of project staff to new institutions has presented unexpected challenges to the completion of the course, and has led us to reflect on who owns and drives institutionally endorsed open education initiatives. Questions pertaining to copyright, derivation and distribution are central to open educational practices but, in the context of collaborative provision, the sustainability of initiatives or resources may be threatened by an absence of institutional policy (or indeed a cross-institutional framework) pertaining to open education. The GD in HE project has effectively moved with the core project team as they have transitioned to different institutions. This could be an opportunity to involve further partner institutions as well as the original partners. However it also represents a challenge around renegotiating what the original partner institutions, and any new partners, might contribute to the completion of the project – and what they may seek to gain from supporting it.
In this presentation we will explore questions around the extent to which institutional and cross-institutional open education initiatives succeed or not on the basis of individual enthusiasts rather than coordinated institutional support. We will examine the notion of distributed ownership in the context of collaborative open provision and question whether there is now a need for a consistent position or policy framework at a UK level to form a sustainable base upon which such projects can develop and evolve.
Smyth, K., Vlachopoulos, P., Walker, D. and Wheeler, A. (2013) Promoting global collaboration in academic development though OERs: challenges and opportunities. Proceedings of OER13: Creating a Virtuous Circle, University of Nottingham, 26-27 March. Paper available via http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer13/file/68/60/