New Guidance: Strategic Management of Intellectual Property Rights for OER in UK Higher Education

April 14th, 2011 by JISC Legal

For some, the concept of open educational resources has sparked the imagination.  For some, the repeated creation of similar learning materials up and down the country, often paid for by the public purse, doesn’t make sense.  For some, the benefits are clear, though for others the creation of open educational resources might not be a priority.

We are, arguably, at that point in the change cycle where early adopters are leading the way.  The two phases of the HEFCE-funded Open Educational Resource programme have identified the issues and practicalities involved in actually making sharing of learning materials happen, and what needs to be done to reap the benefits where appropriate.  We are moving to a point, though, where it is important for institutions to start making informed strategic decisions about getting the most from the learning materials created everyday by their staff.

In order to assist senior management at universities to address the strategic choices that need to be made in relation to the adoption (or rejection) of an open educational resources approach, the OER IPR Support Project has published guidance on Strategic Management of Intellectual Property Rights for OER in UK Higher Education, available under heading B.8 at (in both MS Word and pdf formats).

The paper considers the changing landscape of the creation of the creation of learning materials, and the shifting diversification from the traditional approach:  create materials necessary for teaching, and allow the pick-of-the-crop to make it to commercial publication, typically via textbook publishers.  It then considers how the release of open educational resources might complement (or replace, for some) this model, with a different set of potential benefits.  Finally, it considers the issues which might be relevant where an institution decides that positive, strategic encouragement of OER production is a strand of activity worth supporting.

Although written in the context of the seemingly technical world of intellectual property rights (IPR), the crux is that IPR is about letting others use your stuff, and being able to use others’ stuff.  The level of support that your institution wishes to give to those seeking permission from others to release their creations as open educational resources is going to be an important decision in time to come.  That’s a question that needs to go on the agenda now.  Support will come in many forms, from having sufficient expertise to act as a conduit for all the good IPR assistance available from organisations such as JISC, to the more personal issues of recognition and reward for staff who increase your institution’s reputation through the release of high-quality OERs.

Any feedback on the paper, and stories about the strategic decisions being taken, are welcome as always – leave a comment here, or email

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