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The professional educator

Research Leads

Tina Wilson, Andreia Inamorato Dos Santos

What is it?

The aim of this research strand is to understand the role of lecturers and teachers as professional educators in relation to the development of and use of OER.   Research is split into three themes:

Students learning Spanish in Alicante by Zador Spanish schools Spain, on Flickr
  1. Reuse: to carry out and support action research in the use and reuse of OER in next contexts looking at the cross-cultural issues that are involved
  2. Educators: to understand broadly how various stakeholders (managers, lecturers and students) can be involved in the creation, use and reuse of OER across educational levels and subject areas
  3. Information and Computer Science (ICS): to focus on a single subject and explore potential and actual use of OER for formal and informal learning from lecturers' and students' perspectives within the ICS discipline

Image: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  Zador Spanish schools Spain 

Research Questions

  • Do teachers and lecturers use OER and what is their role in the process of OER creation and reuse?
  • What are the main barriers to OER reuse (technical, support and design)?
  • What is the potential for reuse of OER across different disciplines in HE, FE and schools?
  • What are the main drivers for OER reuse?
  • What are the key impacts of OER on institutions and changes to working practices?
  • What is the potential for reuse of OER in the Information and Computer Science (ICS) discipline?

Progress to date


Case Studies into OER Reuse have been carried out in the UK, Zambia and Brazil, in a variety of contexts and focussing on different target groups, such as HE lecturers, secondary school teachers and student teachers.  The case studies provide a rich description of the contexts in which OER are used and how, as well as enabling the identification of the possible drivers and barrier to use and reuse.  The case studies come from collaborations with the following institutions/projects:

  1. UnisulVirtual (Florianopolis, Brazil)
  2. Aisha Project School (Lusaka, Zambia)
  3. SCORE fellows (open University, UK)
  4. OU Masters' course H800 (Open University, UK)
  5. Universidade Federal Fluminense (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  6. Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora (Minas Gerais, Brazil)
Current status and findings to date:
  • Institutional support and strategy are essential for OER adoption and use
  • Lecturers and teachers are often unclear of what is or is not OER
  • OER encourage the use of new teaching practices
  • Lecturers and teachers tend to perceive OER repurposing as a daunting task

This work has been disseminated internationally, notably through a series of presentations and workshop in Brazil, and at the e-learning Africa Conference (May 2010) alongside two other projects from The Open Unviersity: Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) and Health Education and Training (HEAT).

The Professional Educator

The role of educators and the barriers that have an impact on the process of OER creation, use and reuse have been investigated in three ways:

  1. An evaluation of the Project on Open Content for Knowledge Expoisition and Teaching (POCKET where course materials from three campus-based universities were transformed into OER and uploaded and published on OpenLearn (
  2. A comparison of OER production between The Open University, UK; Open Univesrity Netherlands and Delft University in the Netherlands
  3. The status of OER in Turkey

Educators are anxious initially about the quality of their materials if offered the opportunity to make them openly available.  Production methods can vary greatly between different OER initiatives and savings should be sought for sustainability.

The reuse of OER for teaching and learning across different disciplines in HE, FE and schools were investigated through two initiatives:

  • Curriculum and Pedagogy in Technology Assisted Learning (CAPITAL) investigated the potential of OpenLearn OER for five HEIs in the UK, Germany, South Africa and Kenya and the actual use of OpenLearn OER discussed as case studies by an FE/HE and a HE institution in the UK
  • The potential to reuse HE level OER from the OU Netherlands and the OU UK in schools to help final year pupils decide which courses they might like to follow at university.  OER have great potential for reuse and innovators adopt them, though in the main individuals need support to adapt OER to their context.  OER intended for HE can be tailored successfully for reuse by FE and Schools as a transitional approach.

Information and Computer Science (ICS)

The potential for reuse of OER for formal and informal learning in the Information and Computer Science (ICS) discipline was investigated through the potential and actual use of OpenLearn.  Three studies were conducted in parallel.  One was 'OER and Web 2 for HCI' which looked at possibilities for formal and informal learning from the perspective of two distance learning lecturers.  The second study formed a case study of possible and actual reuse of OpenLearn OER for formal learning by a campus-based lecturer.  The third study also uses the OpenLearn platform to look at the potential and actual use of Web 2.0 and OER by a lecturer and their students studying for their final year undergraduate project.  Another aspect of working with ICS is the sharing of open materials in the ICS discipline area across different countries; this work is being conducted in the European project OpenSE (