Open Educational Practice (OEP) approaches to external collaboration: the arts, charities and business

Atkinson, Sarah; Coughlan, Tony and Martínez-Arboleda, Antonio (2012). Open Educational Practice (OEP) approaches to external collaboration: the arts, charities and business. The Higher Education Academy, York, UK.



As research around Open Educational Resources (OER) begins to shift from their provision to their use through Open Educational Practices (OEP), it is notable that such research still largely remains focused inside higher education (HE) settings. Taking a broader view, Downes (2007) forecasted that:

The sustainability of OER – in a fashion that renders then at once both affordable and usable – requires that we think of OER as only part of a larger picture, one that includes volunteers and incentives, community and partnerships, co-production and sharing, distributed management and control. (2007, p. 41)

More recently, JISC (2012) reflect a current UK higher education priority by expressing a business-oriented focus when identifying the scope for OEP to extend beyond HE into “communities of practice (such as subject or professional discipline, sectoral, regional)”, including “using OER for informal learning or work-based learning” adding that “workplace and employer involvement has been identified as important and deserves more consideration”.

As a response to the perspectives of Downes, JISC and others, this case study explores the use of OER in three partnerships between universities and external bodies that help illustrate the diversity of scenarios and activities that comprise the OEP landscape. The three projects included within this report are:
1) i-mpact: a collaboration between a university and an independent film production company;
2) CharityWise: a collaboration between a university and voluntary sector trainers;
3) Review and Endorsement by Graduate Recruiters of Curricular Employability OER Published in HumBox by HE Practitioners in the Arts and Humanities.

The scale of these three projects ranged from a partnership with a single small independent film production company, through a collaboration with a national sector skills body and three umbrella organisations, to a partnership with an employers’ association and six large national/international businesses. In each it was the academics who made the initial approaches, indicating that OER and OEP are currently led by HE initiatives.

Two other significant differences between these projects were the formality of the education and the copyright environments that they took place in. Taking the range of formality first:
1) i-mpact was aimed at both undergraduate and postgraduate students (although the resources were also used by informal enthusiasts);
2) CharityWise was focused on informal, bite-sized learning across a range of levels from access to postgraduate;
3) the graduate recruiters were appraising OER used in formal undergraduate teaching and assessment.

Turning to the different copyright environments and cultures:
1) the film industry that provided the context for i-mpact operates within a complex tapestry of rights and legal issues;
2) the voluntary sector are not overly concerned with copyright, and there is no tradition of using open-source software, etc.
3) businesses prioritise and value commercially beneficial IPR, patents and trademarks.

These differences and the overall diversity of the three projects has generated a range of context-specific issues, but also a number of common themes that are discussed in the conclusion. The case studies collectively provide an exceptionally rich picture of the spectrum of opportunities that are afforded by collaborative external engagement. The diverse subject disciplines these case studies span provided opportunities to make comparisons and highlight contrasts between the creative arts, modern languages and cultures, arts and humanities, and business and management.

There are sector and institutional drivers to extend economic engagement and industry collaboration; as a result the insights that this report offers can be applied to a wide range of subject disciplines in the HE sector.

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