A new model for collaboration with publishers in developing open educational resources
The current economic challenges of UK further and higher education are likely to impact on the fortunes of future generations of students. One area that will surely be affected is the problem students encounter in finding funds to afford high cost text books. The publishing sector shows no indication of reducing prices to help alleviate this situation. As a result, libraries are left struggling to purchase sufficient texts with diminishing budgets in order to support the experience that students expect from higher tuition fees. This is an uncomfortable “confrontation with reality”.
Open Educational Resources (OER) provide new opportunities to widen academic access to online literature. However, this approach can also present a competitive challenge to publishers who rely on a commercial return. This paper describes an initiative which set out to challenge the apparent conflict of interest by exploring ways that academia could actively develop new partnerships with publishers based on the joint production of OERs.
The project was based around a comprehensive professional wiki with over 3,000 pages of content including an extensive set of curriculum resources. In discussion with a number of commercial publishers a mutual benefit in sharing material was identified. By contributing free content to the wiki, the publishers recognised that they could raise awareness of their own commercial resources. Content was provided under a Creative Commons licence and then repurposed so that it could be embedded into the wiki.
A number of strategies were developed in order to drive extra traffic to these new resources. Including translation of the content into French and Spanish, publishing podcast versions of key content on iTunes and promoting resources using Facebook , Twitter and e-newsletter feeds. User statistics on access to this content and levels of referral traffic were recorded and the impact of different promotion strategies compared.
This paper summarises the key findings of the project including describing the learner’s perspective as well as that of the academic and the publisher. It presents some of the benefits of collaboration but also highlights areas that need careful consideration when entering into such partnerships.
This paper will be of interest to colleagues wishing to explore ways that they can access new sources of open content which could enhance their own teaching materials.
 Monbiot G (August 2011). The Lairds of Learning. www.monbiot.com/2011/08/29/the-lairds-of-learning/