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Planning a project and selecting materials

Page history last edited by David Porter 13 years ago


This module draws upon and expands on advice found in the UNESCO OER Toolkit to provide a framework for consideration when planning an institutional or organizational OER project for implementation. 


In some cases your need may be personal and you may simply be considering an OER approach for your own work or your own course. That's fine, too.


Open educational resources (OER) are a relatively new area of educational practice with specific implementation challenges when considering an institutional or organizational implementation. For this reason, there is usually a need to track and assess progress, to record successes and to identify challenges. You can do this with a plan, a journal or an online document that tracks the steps you take to identify value in OER models for you or your organization.



Planning your project

It is usually a good idea to outline the main ideas and objectives for a project in a planning document. This serves as a project management tool to make sure your project is successful.


OER projects should usually address the following points in a planning document:


  • State the purpose and main objectives of the project, and describe the reasons why it should be undertaken.

  • Identify the target audience. How will the project will have a positive impact on them?

  • Identify the key participants and partners. How will you collaborate with them?
  • Define the technology requirements, ongoing support services and training.

  • Outline the staffing needs.

  • Describe the time frame for achieving the project goals. What are the milestones that determine whether the project is achieving its goals?

  • State the project budget and the sources of funding.




Activity: Begin to plan your own OER project

Use Google Docs to build a table like the one below to describe the OER project you will design for your institution or organization.


Start by clearly stating the purpose, target audience and OER products for your project. This Google Doc and its notes will become the foundation of your own plan for OER creation or adoption.


My OER Project

Description of project goals

Purpose of the project





Target audience for the project





Kinds of OERs the project will provide





Establishing an OER strategy

Institutional staff members are often concerned that publishing OERs will add to their already high workloads. 


Two strategies can help to address this:

  • Start by creating, publishing or reusing OERs within existing processes. If instructors already share their resources in an internal learning management system, try to find solutions to make these existing resources available publicly, or at the least across the institution.

  • Second, provide support services for the things that instructors are least likely to spend time on. This includes formatting the OER for use on a website, or supporting copyright clearance.



Some strategies to consider


Instructor-focused strategy

An instructor-focused strategy uses lessons from courses as the main source for OERs. The aim is to make it as easy as possible for instructors to publish their course materials online. Instructors need support to address content licensing issues, and usually need help for the design of digital resources and their conversion into web-based resources (HTML pages, LMS lessons).


The MIT OpenCourseWare strategy has been widely replicated at other institutions. It was designed to add support and services to move content online and make it public (i.e. to move it from a learning management system, or from instructor files into a digital library).


For universities in resource-constrained countries, there may be challenges for an instructor-focused approach. For example:


  • Instructors are busy. It is often not possible for them to do more work. Even instructors who are enthusiastic and want to get involved may find it difficult to balance other responsibilities.

  • Since no one can expect instructors to take on all of the work themselves, it is important to provide support services. Support services are required for developing digital course material and for moving it into digital libraries.

  • The necessary support services usually require long-term support and funding from the institution. Sometimes this funding is difficult to get.


Student-focused strategies

Some universities are experimenting with involving students more directly in the production of OERs.


For example the University of Michigan's dScribe project provides incentives for students to record lecture notes, collect presentation materials and upload them to the institutional OER library. The professor is only required to make available the resources he or she uses to teach the class, and review the final online version.



Most of the work in thedScribe project is done by students. Some students stated that the main benefit of working on the project was getting more opportunity to interact with their professors.


In developing countries, other incentives might be needed, such as prizes or payment as part of student-work arrangements.


Personal strategies

One of the most powerful strategies in education is the modelling of good or innovative practices. One way to quickly get started on an OER initiative is to make your own course, course notes or textbook available as an OER for colleagues and students to use.


This approach takes confidence and the knowledge that your work is entirely your own and that you can make it available as an OER with a Creative Commons license.


Projects like WikiEducator encourage individuals to join its community to learn OER skills for the creation, editing and sharing of open educational resources. 


WikiEducator offers frequent guided tutorials for individual and groups to learn wiki skills.


WikiEducator also provides a hosting environment for individuals and groups to share the OERs they create.


WikiEducator provides a model of practice that can also be replicated at institutions using the open source MediaWiki software as the foundation for building a shared environment for collaboration in any subject or discipline.


The University of British Columbia is an example of an institution that has invested in wiki technology to support its faculty and students.



Discussion: Which strategy appeals to you or fits your organization?

Think about some of the ideas presented about the instructor-focused and student-focused OER strategies. Think about your own institution or organization.


  • Which of these strategies might work best?

  • What factors would support an instructor-focused strategy?

  • What factors would support a student-focused strategy?

  • What factors would support a personal strategy? 



Activity: List important factors that will guide your OER strategy

Use the table below to begin to list important factors that you must consider if implementing one of these strategies.




Important factors

Instructor-focused OER strategy








Student-focused OER strategy








Personal OER strategy









Comments (3)

wayne mackintosh said

at 4:28 pm on Apr 7, 2011

Under "Establishing an OER strategy" I think we need a point about how reusing existing OER can save time.

wayne mackintosh said

at 4:27 pm on Apr 7, 2011

I like the inclusion of Google docs here. Suggest creating both a .doc and .odt file with the table which participants can upload into their own doc. From experience with the anticipated target audience it may be worth developing a support resource on how to create a google account with a basic getting started guide for Google docs. Perhaps an OER already exists?

wayne mackintosh said

at 4:22 pm on Apr 7, 2011

I think that the need to plan, track progress etc is true of all projects. Not sure if this is a distinct feature of OER. Consider rewording intro paras.

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