Developing Open Policy for Higher Education

Timothy Vollmer

In March we hosted the second Institute for Open Leadership, and in our summary of the event we mentioned that the Institute fellows would be taking turns to write about their open policy projects. First up is Amanda Coolidge, Senior Manager of Open Education at BCcampus.

I have been in the field of open education for 10 years, starting in 2006, when I was based in Nairobi, Kenya working on the TESSA Project through the Open University UK.  I joined BCcampus’s Open Education Team in 2014 and have had the opportunity to work on a variety of open education projects provincially, nationally, and internationally. BCcampus supports the work of the British Columbia (Canada) post-secondary system in the areas of teaching, learning, and educational technology. My role is to lead the Open Education team, and in particular to advocate for open education practices across the province of B.C. BCcampus’s Open Education team is best known for the work we have done on the B.C. Open Textbook Project.

The Institute for Open Leadership was the most profound and inspirational professional development activity I have taken part in. I had the chance to meet a group of passionate open advocates from around the world who are changing open policy in museums, non-profit organizations, research, and higher education. From the week in Cape Town, I came away with two small open policy projects, and one large project.

BCcampus Open Education contracts with grantees

One of the smaller open policy projects I have taken on is to change and clarify the wording of our contracts with our B.C. grantees. When we work on projects—either creating or adapting open educational resources—each grantee must adhere to the contract that is outlined between BCcampus and the grantee. The language in these contracts needed to be stronger to ensure that openness was not an afterthought, but that it was deeply embedded into the work we were asking the grantee to accomplish. Changes to the wording of our contracts include:

  • Technical formats for revision and remixing: Completed OER materials must include the original, editable files for re-distribution.
  • Accessibility standards: OER in the form of multimedia, such as videos or audio, must be compliant with accessibility standards and include a transcript and preferably closed captioning.
  • Clarification of the CC license requirements for newly created works and the use of existing resources in the development of materials:
    • New Creation – copyright with author(s)
      • The materials covered by this contract will be a newly created work, for which the copyright will be held by the author or in the case of a new book that is collaboratively produced by more than one author the copyright will be jointly owned by all contributing authors. In both cases, the resulting content will be licensed for reuse with the most current version of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.
    • Use of Existing Content
      • Any existing content used in the development of the materials must have a Creative Commons License. The use of the materials must comply with the original Creative Commons License attributed to the existing content.

Open policy for the Ministry of Advanced Education

The second smaller—yet potentially more impactful—policy project is developing an open policy statement for our B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education. The open policy is directed to granting funds, in that the Ministry would state that all grantees who receive public funds from the Ministry of Advanced Education must use CC licensed material in the development of their said project. While this is still in draft form and has not been formally presented to the Ministry, a part of the statement reads:

Grantees are encouraged to search existing resources and OER repositories for openly licensed learning objects and, where appropriate, reuse these learning objects instead of duplicating existing objects as components of their proposed programs. If existing OER are reused as part of the grant funded project, the grantee shall comply with the terms of the applicable open license, including proper attribution.

Open educational resources policy guide

The third, and largest, open policy project is the creation of an Open Educational Resources Policy Guide for Colleges and Universities in both the United States and Canada. I have the distinct pleasure of working on this project with another IOL Fellow, Daniel Demarte. Daniel is Vice President for Academic Affairs & Chief Academic Officer at Tidewater Community College. Daniel and I are very passionate about ensuring that the development and implementation of OER is successful in higher education. We believe that in order to mainstream OER development and adoption, an open policy should be implemented. The purpose of the guide is to promote the utilization of OER and scale efforts to full OER programs. It is written primarily for governance officials at public two-year colleges in the United States and Colleges and Universities in Canada. The contents of the policy guide are not intended to be prescriptive; contents are intended to be adapted for use according to a college’s culture. The OER policy guide is organized in three sections including:

  • OER Policy Principles
  • Components of an OER Policy
  • OER Policy Resources

The components of OER Policy section includes the following topics that we think decision-makers should consider when developing an institutional OER Policy, or when integrating these components into an existing institutional policy:

  • OER Purpose
  • OER Policy Statement
  • Intellectual Property and Licensing OER Content
  • OER Procedures and Responsibilities
  • OER Training and Professional Development
  • OER Course Design
  • OER Content Development
  • Sharing OER Content
  • OER Technical Format
  • OER Sustainability (college-wide capacity, funding model, tenure)
  • OER Quality Assurance

For each component, we provide an explanation of why the component is needed, sample policy statements, sample resources, and a recommended action checklist. Stay tuned for continued updates on the status of the Open Educational Resources policy guide.

I would like to give my sincere thanks to Creative Commons, mentors, fellows, and the Open Policy Network for including me in the Institute for Open Leadership.