Week 6: Adopting OER

Adopting OER: A Case Study of Cross-Institutional Collaboration and Innovation by Nancy Pawlyshyn, Dr. Braddlee, Linda Casper and Howard Miller

This article is about the collaborative efforts between Mercy Collage and Northern Virginia Community College and their approach to improving student learning, retention and achievement. The collaboration in achieving the goal is focused on development and implementation of Open Educational Resources (OER) though innovative course design approaches and course content creation. Participants in what grew to be a cross-national faculty teams gathered to identify common students learning outcomes, high-quality OER and how to construct learning modules that can be embedded in a learning management system with build-in analytics to track effectiveness of the learning process as well as achievement of the outcomes.

There are several requirements to defining an educational resource as ‘open’. For resources to be open, they have to contain the attributes of materials created under Creative Commons licenses, be reusable, revisable, remixed and ability to be redistributable. Such attributes can be roadblocks and pose challenges to developers.
The collaborative project KOCI targets critical reading and math competencies. The implementation of the critical reading skills module at Mercy was focused on several areas:

  • selecting three subject areas available under Creative Commons
  • developing four modules with instructional materials and assessment of critical reading skills
  • piloting the modules and integrating the modules into courses where they had the potential to be most effective.

The success of modules was measured by the greater student learning gains, a positive trend, overall greater student success rate. Another part of the OER project was the implementation of mathematics modules largely with the adoption of resources from IMathAS platform, hosting tools such as My Open Math (MOM) and free open textbooks. Results from implementation of the OER indicated 10 percent reduction rate in course failures, a key to retention of students during the first week was the availability of free textbook and overall increase in successful pass of the course.

Some of the challenges faced by members involved in the OER project were how to motivate the faculty to participate. What they found out was that a key to motivation in this particular case was presenting the opportunity for collaboration with faculty from other institutions, sharing practices and ideas and of course a small stipend and an opportunity for participation in OER conferences and events. Some of the logistical and conceptual challenges were manifested by the issues of academic freedom, corporate influence and distrust of external influence. another challenge was the development of the modules for the learning management system at Mercy College. The modules were designed for Sakai and were incompatible for redistribution at other learning management systems.

The development of learning modules with materials and assessments under the Creative Commons licenses, their implementation and subsequent data analytics produced not only positive trends in achieving outcomes and greater retention. The OER involvement in this particular KOCI project was a key factor for the growth of the culture of collaboration between faculty on local level at the Mercy College but also cross-institutionally. As pointed out by the authors, one of the most important component not only in development but distribution, use and analysis of OER or OER driven modules is the collaboration and motivation to collaborate. Some of the recommendations provided in the article in reference to institutions considering OER integration are in the line of a general framework for development and approach. Thus, it is recommended that the approach for integration for OER is entirely faculty-driven vs coming from top-down as well as presenting opportunities for the faculty involved to be able to present findings and experiences on national or international level. In terms of development of module materials, the authors of the article and also leaders of the project urge for the availability of support from instructional design team and institutional support.


This article presents very valuable findings. The experience as well as the findings shared can be very beneficial to any institution planning to get involved with the OER movement. What I found most valuable are the commonalities of encountered roadblocks and challenges. These can be summed up as: motivation and resources. Even thought the authors shared that faculty were motivated by small stipends and small investment of time and funds, this is a little hard to take as is. Project KOCI was funded by a grant from some of the major players in the OER movement. It included collaborative efforts of deans, provost, faculties, instructional designers and developers teams across institutions. May be on a larger scale it may seem as a ‘small investment’ of funds and time but it is hard to believe. My teams challenge is how to accomplish all this without the funds, the grants, the resources. Can we take a grassroots approach and start from zero?

Adopting OER: A Case Study of Cross-Institutional Collaboration and Innovation by Nancy Pawlyshyn, Dr. Braddlee, Linda Casper and Howard Miller is published at: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2013/11/adopting-oer-a-case-study-of-crossinstitutional-collaboration-and-innovation


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