OERu/Strategic plan 2014 - 2017/2014 OERu Annual Report/Single page version

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Annual report 2014

A key recommendation arising from the proposal for action "Getting it done" at the 2nd meeting of anchor partners in Canada, was to establish institutional responsibility beyond the individual course contributions to progress completion of key components and processes required for the successful implementation of the OERu. The need for a multi-year plan with concrete targets was highlighted to hold the network to account for the implementation of agreed targets.

During 2014, the OERu network trialled an organisational model comprising a number of working groups and established an OERu Management Committee to provide oversight and coordination of activities in progressing identified operational priorities. A number of partner institutions including Charles Sturt University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the OERF, Thomas Edison State College, Thompson Rivers University, the University of Southern Queensland, the University of Tasmania and the University of Wollongong took on additional responsibility to convene the activities of the working groups supported by volunteer members from across the OERu network.

The OERF, through the strategic planning working group identified a number of operational priorities for 2014 with corresponding targets and commenced an open consultation process to develop a multi-year strategic plan for the OERu.

The subsections of the 2014 annual report have been prepared by the conveners of the working groups focusing on three components: the aims and objectives, main outputs and recommendations for 2015 and the future.

2014 Operational priorities

Introduction: At the November 2011 founding meeting of OERu anchor partners, we agreed a Bachelor of General Studies as the inaugural credential; and aimed to develop 3 prototype courses during 2012 / 2013 in time for the launch meeting in November 2013. Before the launch, we completed: Regional Relations in Asia and the Pacific (University of Southern Queensland), Open Content Licensing for Educators (Otago Polytechnic), Art Appreciation and Techniques (Thompson Rivers University) plus a bonus micro Open Online Course (mOOC), Scenario Planning for Educators (University of Canterbury) which we were able to run in parallel mode with full fee registered students studying with free OERu learners. In short, we achieved our initial targets.

Summary of progress on selected project activities

The OERu planning portal keeps a record of all the initiatives and activities in the logic model, including:

  • As requested by the OERu Council of CEO’s, the open strategic planning consultation progressed on on schedule.
  • Membership recruitment: To date, five new partners have confirmed joining the OERu international partnership. We are lagging a little behind our target to achieve ten new partners by the end of 2014.
  • Programme Development: To date 31 full course equivalents have been nominated. We now have two full programmes on the table. (Graduate Diploma in Tertiary Education and a Postgraduate Diploma in Disaster Risk Studies.) This means that the OERu will have two additional credentials and a foundation for streaming, for example the Bachelor of General Studies with a specialisation in Vocational Education.
  • Google Summer of Code (GsoC) peer evaluation project - the alpha release was tested and the beta version was completed by the "pencil down" date of 11 August 2014.
  • The OERu technical infrastructure for hosting courses is based entirely on open source software. This offers unique opportunities for the OERu to build a community source model for partners to contribute to technology innovation for the benefit of the network. To date, the University of Southern Queensland is the only partner contributing to our community source effort. We aim to achieve 1 FTE equivalent contribution in kind spread across the network of institutions by the end of 2014.
  • Design and development of Academic Volunteers International got off to a good start with extensive brainstorming of ideas for the design, but this project is currently stagnant.
  • OERu Management Committee and associated working groups have been established, and two series of meetings have been completed. More details are available via Quicklinks.
  • Course site design project - to develop a CSS framework for responsive design to improve the presentation layer of OERu courses on mobile devices based on the OERu website theme plus the ability for OERu partners to customise the theme for local branding. Project is on track.
  • A course sprint is planned for mid-September so partners can work together in finding out how to develop courses for OERu and to build capability in digital skills for collaborative OER development.

Conclusion: Overall, we are making good progress. The strength of the OERu network is in the rigour of our planning combined with a healthy dose of openness.

Report from the OERu Management Committee

The OERu Management Committee (OERuMC) was established during 2014 to provide managerial and operational oversight over the implementation and coordination of the activities of the OERu working groups recommended at the 2nd meeting of OERu partners in November 2013. The OERuMC also aims to seed activities which may be required for the OERu network to achieve the outcomes for which it was established.

Mode of operation

Following the OERF's commitment to open governance and transparent planning approaches, the meetings of the OERuMC are broadcast live so that any member from the OERu or open community can attend meetings and contribute using the microblog backchannel. The agendas, recordings of the meetings and minutes are published openly on WikiEducator thus maintaining a public digital record of decisions.

The OERuMC comprises the conveners of the active working groups and is chaired by the Director of the OERF. The selection of the conveners for the individual working groups are guided by the principle of meritocracy where the conveners have demonstrated expertise in the focus area of the working group or have demonstrated experience in the OERu community. Staff members from OERu partners are free to join any of the working groups as part of their staff time contribution to the network. Decision-making is informed by a rough consensus model relying on the strength of the argument underpinned by the principles of engagement of the OERu network rather than an absolute count of votes. As the OERuMC is assembled from active working groups, this means that once the objectives of the working group have been achieved, conveners will not be required to continue service on the OERuMC thus enabling rotation of volunteer contributions to the management of the OERu as a dynamic, needs-driven structure.

Currently, the OERuMC is represented by the conveners of eight working groups determined by the recommendations of the OERu 2013 partners' meetings and guided by the published 2014 operational priorities:

  1. Strategic planning working group
  2. Curriculum and programme of study working group
  3. Course design and development partner manual working group
  4. Course approval and quality working group
  5. Credit transfer and course articulation working group
  6. Technology working group
  7. PLAR portfolio working group
  8. Marketing, recruitment and communication working group.

Summary of main outputs

During 2014, three OERuMC meetings were convened approximately every four months. The OERuMC has agreed on its aims, objectives and modus operandi. The OERuMC meetings considered progress reports of the individual working groups and established target outputs in preparation for the 3rd meeting of the OERu anchor partners. Details are available in the corresponding reports of the working groups.

Future perspectives

The OERuMC will continue in its current form to coordinate progress of the activities of existing and future working groups. To date, all the conveners of the OERuMC reside in time zones which have been amenable for synchronous meetings. However, the group will need to consider solutions for working across twenty four time zones as conveners from different regions join the OERuMC in the future. The OERuMC model has evolved as a pragmatic response to the need to coordinate activities of the OERu network using an open planning model. The structural and operational design of the OERuMC will need to be reviewed as part of the input evaluation of the implementation of the OERu.

Report of the strategic planning working group

The aim of the strategic planning working group is to coordinate the consultative development and corresponding documentation for the OERu Strategic Plan 2015-2017 and to guide its implementation.

Composition of the group and liaison with associated network structures

The strategic planning working group comprises four members of the OERF Board of Directors (Robin Day, Wayne Mackintosh, David Porter and Jim Taylor) and the Chair of the OERu Council of Chief Executive Officers (Alan Davis).

A key function of the strategic planning working group is to liaise with associated structures of the OERu network including the:

  • Executive Committee of the OERu Council of Chief Executive Officers representing executive leadership of the OERu partner institutions.
  • OERu Management Committee on the development of the sub-components of the strategy and implementation of the operational priorities of the collaboration.
  • Board of Directors of the OERF to ensure alignment between the high level strategy of the Foundation and the OERu strategic plan.

Main outputs

Two formal meetings were convened during March and August 2014 respectively and members of the working group communicate regularly. In the absence of a strategic plan directing activities for the current year, the working group published the 2014 operational priorities to guide the work of the OERu network this year. additionally, the strategic planning working group launched the 2014 audit of course nominations in May 2014, which rendered thirty one full course equivalent nominations exceeding the anticipated target of twenty courses.

The team also coordinated the establishment of the strategic planning portal on WikiEducator in May 2014 publishing a number of strategic goals and corresponding objectives derived from the 2nd meeting of OERu partners for the open consultation process, culminating in the online SCoPE synthesis seminar convened during August 2014. Collectively, the strategic planning portal has generated +4,000 page views indicating that the draft plan has been consulted. Commentators have provided constructive feedback which has been incorporated into the refinements for the current version of the plan.

The working group prepared a summary of progress on the 2014 operational priorities which was included in the letter from the Chair of the OERu Council of Chief Executive Officers distributed to the Vice-Chancellors and Chief Executives of the OERu partners in August 2014.

The key recommendation of the strategic planning working group is that the OERu Strategic Plan 2015-2017 should be implemented as an evergreen and living document whereby the plan will be adapted and re-calibrated each year at the annual OERu meeting of partners in response to the dynamic open and higher education environment.

Future perspectives

Feedback from the mid-year summary of progress on the 2014 operational priorities indicates that this was well received by the Vice-Chancellors and Chief Executives. The strategic planning group recommend that a mid-year progress report for the Chief Executives be instituted as an annual milestone for the annual operational plan.

The working group recommends the inclusion of high level, three-year targets in the strategic plan recognising that with an evergreen approach, strategic goals and corresponding objectives may change over the duration of the plan. The annual iteration of the Strategic Plan will incorporate key performance indicators and corresponding outputs for the forthcoming year to guide operational priorities each year of the plan which will be revisited at the annual partners' meetings.

Report of the Curriculum and Programme of Study working group


The aims of the working group are to:

  • Develop a clear degree structure with streams and exit points whilst still providing for student flexibility and choice
  • Develop pointers to universities that can grant the whole Bachelor of General Studies degree
  • Develop clear marketing about cost of assessment and degree (and support where appropriate)


The working group has the following objectives:

  • Develop a clear degree structure with levels, streams and exit points whilst still providing for student flexibility and choice
  • Develop clear pointers to universities that can grant the whole Bachelor of General Studies or equivalent degree.
  • Agree solutions for communicating degree pathways, cost of assessment and degree completion for prospective OERu learners.

Summary of main outputs

The working group met once in May 2014 via Google Hangouts and have conducted follow-up business via email. Our mapping in November 2013 of partner’s initial suggested subjects showed some clear streams within a Bachelor of General Studies including foundation skills: business/IT; professions/vocations; global citizen/international issues. At the postgraduate level there is a clear stream in Education especially of course open education and higher education. This mapping needs to be repeated based on the updated list of subject offerings.

The working group has recently conducted a survey of the now greatly expanded partners to determine how many have a Bachelor of General Studies and how many can accept for credit the current OER list of subjects on offer. The results will be discussed at the Partners Meeting in Tasmania in November.

Recommendations for 2015 and the future

In 2015 our priorities will be to continue efforts in building a coherent programme of study and to agree solutions for communicating degree pathways, cost of assessment and degree completion for prospective OERu learners.

Report of the Course Design and Development Partners Manual working group


The partners manual aims to:

  1. provide existing and new partners joining the OERu with the information they need to maximise the benefits of membership and participate actively in the operations of the OERu network.
  2. incorporate guidelines and suggestions for course design and development incorporating exemplars of "best practice".


  1. Agree to the scope and objectives for the partners manual
  2. Determine the table of contents for the partners manual
  3. Collaboratively author the first draft of the OERu partners manual.

Summary of main outputs

  1. Multiple online meetings held with project team led to consensus around scope, contents and objectives for partners manual.
  2. Content completed with the following elements, much of it compiled from (linked to) other areas of the OERu wiki.
    1. Overview of the OERu including membership criteria, logic model, planning pages, how to become a partner, and FAQ about the organization.
    2. Links to important communication channels e.g. mailing lists
  3. Features of OERu courses including:
    1. Overview of, and informational links to, open content details and requirements
    2. Elements of a complete course
    3. Information on credit options
    4. How to consider learners with multiple aims in learning design
    5. Suggestions to work in collaboration.
  4. Information on how to make course contributions.
  5. Design and development of OERu courses including:
    1. Team composition
    2. Development tools (with multiple references to WikiEducator tutorials and OERu course style guide)
    3. Collaboration and communication
    4. Resources
    5. Learning design for open courses

Recommendations for 2015 and the future

  1. Pilot with small group of new members for feedback and improvements
  2. Create small ongoing maintenance group

Report of the Course Approval and Quality working group


  • Design and implement a streamlined process for nominating OERu courses which contributes to building the OERu programme of study incorporating a peer review element for feedback.
  • Develop quality instruments for both the design and review OERu courses that include minimum quality standards and essential inclusions for OERu courses
  • Develop a streamlined process of approving nominated OERu courses which use the quality instruments, as well as guidelines for open and early sharing of ideas to support collaboration, re-use of materials and multiple credit pathways via OER partners.

Summary of progress in 2014

The Course Approval and Quality Workgroup consists of 13 members from 9 partner institutions across 6 countries. The chair convened 4 virtual meetings with 2 agendas (26/27th June and 13/14th August) to accommodate members in different timezones. After an orientation to the issues, the group moved rapidly to look at a 2 pronged approach to quality documentation and processes. The first is to review, modify and build on the "OERu design blueprint" which should embody the elements seen to be essential to quality course development. The second is to review and modify for OERu purposes the eAlberta Quality Framework for online courses. The group feels that the former can be used to ensure quality whilst new subjects are being developed, and the latter as an after-the-event quality checklist for course which already exist including the basis of a developing OERu course review cycle. The group noted the importance of communicating early regarding course Learning Outcomes with a view to facilitating internal discussions regarding collaboration, credit transfer and re-use in local contexts.

Main outputs

  1. Annual Course Development Hub website- provides links and encourages clear and regular communication between partners with regard to upcoming subjects. Provides links to concise overviews and timelines, and links to the active "OERu Course Quality Planning Blueprints". A current example of an active Blueprint is here.
  2. "OERu Course Quality Planning Blueprint" - an online, wiki based template that can be used as is or with modifications to suit partners preferences. The "Blueprint" brings together the items that need considering and inclusion for a quality OERu course. It guides the development of new subjects. It is brief and can be scanned by OERu partners with a view to stimulating communications with the project team and local stakeholders with regard to suitability for local re-use and credit.
  3. "OERu Course Quality Review Guidelines" - for use retrospectively ie in periodic quality review cycles. .

Recommendations for 2015 and the future

The instruments need to be refined by using them with the next batch of new courses to be developed. Frequency of review for existing courses needs to be discussed. A schedule of when existing courses need to be reviewed by needs to be considered. It would also be timely to review options for centrally posted call for EOI for subjects needed (ie a call for courses to be developed, rather than developing a process that relies solely on partners to nominate based on capacity or local priorities)

Report of the Credit Transfer and Course Articulation working group


  • To develop an implementation guidelines document to inform credit transfer and course articulation decisions for the OERu network drawing on the remix scenarios published in the Report on the Assessment and Accreditation of Learners using OER.
  • To implement an OERu Transnational Qualifications Framework modelled on the Transnational Qualifications Framework developed by the Commonwealth of Learning for mapping OERu courses according to level and type of qualification.
  • To establish foundations in the design of the OERu credit transfer and course articulation guidelines with future scalability in mind to enable the network to implement systems like the British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfer (BCCAT).
  • To specify the minimum requirements related to credit transfer and course articulation for inclusion into the quality standards for an "OERu designated" course (for example, acceptable OERu standards for validating student identity and assessment design and practice).


  • Develop a glossary of terms to support clear OERu communication across national boundaries.
  • Consultative development of OERu guidelines for credit transfer and course articulation.

Summary of main outputs

  1. Decided to start with survey of partner institutions currently offering and/or developing OERU courses; one institution assigned per working group member
  2. Four simple questions re: ability to transcript student outcomes
    • Is your OERu course being offered for credit at your own institution?
    • If yes, can you provide a transcript for students who are not enrolled in a credential program at your university?
    • Can you offer a summative assessment for students who do not register for the course with your institution?
    • If you can provide such a summative assessment, can you put it on a transcript for transfer to another institution?
  3. Obtained responses from Otago Polytechnic, Thompson Rivers University, Thomas Edison State College, Athabasca University, North West University and Institute of Technology Sligo. Still pending are responses from working group members assigned UNISA, Kwantlen Polytechnic, University of Southern Queensland.
  4. Results so far: several courses being offered for credit through partner universities, student can receive summative assessment and grade can be transcripted (for a fee) for students not enrolled in program at that institution (Otago, TRU, Thomas Edison, Athabasca).
  5. Have basis for model to recommend to CEO meeting.

Recommendations for 2015 and the future

Model OERu’s Credit Transfer and Course Articulation guidelines on those used by TRU, as the most flexible and comprehensive model available.

Report of the Technology working group

Project team

Sarah Lambert (University of Wollongong); Wayne Mackintosh (OER Foundation); Jim Tittsler (OER Foundation); Timothy McCallum (University of Southern Queensland); Tim Klapdor (Charles Sturt University); and Brian Lamb (Thompson Rivers University).


  • accommodate the needs and desires of the course development workgroup
  • maintain scalable, secure, cost-effective infrastructure for collaborative course authoring and delivery
  • interoperate with partner institution legacy systems, ideally federating similar systems
  • share open data formats, sources, and services to the greatest extent possible
  • deliver content in a variety of formats, including mobile (maintain separation between content and rendering)
  • implement solutions for customised local branding and theming of shared content resources
  • adapt to the increased importance of audio and video


  • make significant improvement to the webpages as used for course delivery to OERu students
  • develop the OERu delivery platform up to the same professional standard as the OERu public website
  • find ways to make it easier for individual designers and non-technical academics to use the OER technologies especially WikiEducator

Summary of main outputs

2014 has seen significant progress in terms of lowering the barriers to participation in WikiEducator for course development, and in professionalising the look of the OERu course delivery websites. Significant progress has been made in enhancing the content development and delivery capacity for OERu, particularly with respect to mobile-friendly, customizable theming and design. A snapshot approach was implemented, in which a bullet-list outline of the course pages in the wiki is used to produce a responsive design course site. USQ developed videos demonstrating how responsive design web sites could be created using Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets and MediaWiki. A professional graphic design team (newSplash) was commissioned to develop responsive CSS look and feel that mirrors the OERu website. This framework will be customisable, so partners could develop their own branding for remix and reuse of any OERu course content for their own full-fee students. The most recent iterations of the framework demonstrate enhanced aesthetic appeal and navigation. (More iterations here.)

The WikiEducator MediaWiki environment was updated to version 1.23, SSL enabled, the discussion software upgraded to be more robust, and the Visual Editor was successfully implemented. This was an important step in getting non-technical users feeling comfortable using the wiki for course development, and equals progress on our objective to lower the barrier of entry for designers getting into the wiki.

The WikiEducator Peer Evaluation extension is a minimalistic tool that lets one use peer evaluation and self evaluation techniques for wiki based content. This project was started as part of Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2014 for the Open Education Resource Foundation supporting the WikiEducator and OERu initiatives.

Recommendations for 2015 and the future

There has been encouraging progress on the technical outputs of the OERu. The next logical step would be to widen participation and input from technically skilled staff in OERu partner organisations. This would enable us to make some progress towards a "community source model" and meeting needs that it is hoped this model could address. It has been a struggle to find any interested developers either within the partner institutions or the wider community. Some of these needs might be partially addressed by an inventory from partners to identify possible existing tools and capacity. In the coming months, there will need to be an appraisal involving the wider OERu partner community to articulate working aims that reflect needs and a realistic appraisal of what is possible.

Report of the Marketing, Recruitment and Communication working group


1. To create, deliver and communicate the value of OERu study for prospective learners

2. To support the effective recruitment of new OERu partners

3. To improve OERu member relationship management guiding interactions of the OERu with its member institutions


1. To recruit a small team of marketing professionals from OERu member institutions to support the activities of the marketing, recruitment, and communication working group.

2. To review and improve existing marketing and recruitment materials.

3. To identify strategies for future student recruitment

Summary of main outputs

The 2014 target for recruitment of new institutional partners is close to being achieved.

A range of strategies for recruitment of students to courses have been tried with varying degrees of success.

More work is required to convey the benefits of OERu study to targeted populations of students.

Recommendations for 2015 and the future

This working group requires more members with expertise in marketing and recruitment.

It is proposed that partner institutions draw upon the skills of their marketing professionals for advice on effective promotion of OERu.

The existing working group could be sub-divided into two groups, one specifically concerned with student recruitment and marketing, the other charged with determining and enhancing effective communication strategies between existing partners but more importantly to the wider global community.

An overarching action plan for recruitment of both additional partners and students should be developed.

Report of the PLAR portfolio course working group


  • To develop an OERu course or process on how to prepare a portfolio for PLAR or otherwise document prior learning, including possibilities for credit recognition at partner institutions using the OERu model.


  • To determine a process for evaluating the possibility of a general OERu policy governing the assessment of prior learning and/or leveraging it toward completion of academic requirements
  • To link the work of this Working Group to the work of the credit transfer and course articulation Working Group
  • To evaluate the options for offering a course or other process for the assessment of prior learning.

Summary of main outputs

  • Few as of yet, due to transition of convener in recent months--group has not had a formal meeting to date.
  • Resolved to discuss general approach for this Working Group as an agenda item at the OERu meeting in Hobart.

Recommendations for 2015 and the future

Work to review PLAR courses offered by Thomas Edison State College and Thompson Rivers University, as well as Learning Counts course offered by CAEL.