The Case of Australia

1. Introduction

Australia is an Oceanic federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy and a member of the British Commonwealth, with a population of 25.7 million people (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021). The Prime Minister of Australia, currently the Hon Scott Morrison MP, resides in the capital city of Canberra, where the Australian Federal Parliament establishes national policies. Each of the six states and two territories, however, have the power to legislate on education, with the Parliament only prevailing over state law in the case of inconsistencies (Commonwealth of Australia, 2016, p. 26). There are currently 188 registered higher education providers (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, 2022), including 42 universities and one overseas university. Both public and private universities are legally distinct from the government and, whilst education ministers have no operational control, the Federal Government dominates policy making (Norton & Cherastidtham, 2018). Higher education is the responsibility of the Department of Education and Training, including a Higher Education Standards Panel, appointed by the Higher Education Minister. All higher education courses in Australia must be accredited by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Association (TEQSA) against the Australian Qualifications Framework.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, education was Australia’s fourth largest export, with international education worth $35.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2019 (Australian Government Department of Education, 2019) and overseas higher education student revenue growing by $2.2 billion from 2014 to 2017 (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, 2018). Despite the impact that the coronavirus has had on international education, the sector was still worth $26.7 billion to the Australian economy in 2021 (Hare, 2021). In 2019, 1.6 million students undertook higher education study, including 17.6% of domestic students from low socio-economic backgrounds, 18.9% of domestic students in regional areas, and 32.4% international students (Department of Education, Skills and Employment, 2020).

Australia has a strong commitment to digital transformation, as evidenced by an additional $1.2 billion investment outlined in the latest Digital Economy Strategy (Commonwealth of Australia, 2021), and it is ranked third globally for open data initiatives, after Canada and the UK. However, digital connectivity and literacy remain ongoing concerns (Australian Digital Council, 2019). According to the latest Australian Digital Inclusion Index (Thomas et al., 2021), Australia’s average Digital Inclusion score is 71.1, measured across Access, Affordability and Digital Ability, with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) the highest at 77 and Tasmania the lowest at 66. There is a substantial digital divide between richer and poorer Australians, with 67% of Australians in the lowest income quintile having to pay more than 10% of their household income for connectivity. Despite progress being made with rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN) (Australian Communications and Media Authority [Commonwealth of Australia], 2021), only 86.1% of households have access to the internet (OECD, 2022) and there are still more than two million Australians (9%) whose access to the internet is solely through mobile connections. The Government has now made the NBN available to over 91% of Australian homes and businesses, and invested $220 million in the Mobile Black Spot Program to improve mobile connectivity (Australian Government, 2019).

Australia ranks in the bottom 40% of OECD countries for aligning skills to labour market demand, and for improving the skills of workers (OECD, 2019b). In 2017, only 31% of adults had participated in formal or non-formal job-related training, with only 26% of workers in jobs at high risk of automation undertaking training (OECD, 2019a). Recommendations from industry, academia, government and NGOs have included introducing policies to support lifelong learning, building integrated portals, and redefining funding models to allow the funding of online and modular learning (Australian Technology Network of Universities, 2018; Business Council of Australia, 2018; OECD, 2019a). The Australian Government has pledged $52.5 million over four years from 2019-20 to support the development of literacy, numeracy, language and digital skills, particularly in at-risk workers (Education and Training Portfolio, 2019). The introduction of formalised national policies, coupled with Federal funding and support for the adoption of open educational resources (OER), could support the Government to increase higher education access at a lower cost to rural, remote and lower-socio economic students, alongside lifelong learners and time-poor workers who need to upskill (Bossu & Meier, 2018; Bossu & Stagg, 2018; Orr et al., 2015).

The understanding of OER in Australia[1] follows that of the Paris Declaration (UNESCO, 2012):

teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work.

However, major Australian higher education OER projects and case studies (e.g., Bossu & Meier, 2018) have used the following definition by the OER Foundation (2011):

Educational materials…licensed in ways that provide permissions for individuals and institutions to reuse, adapt and modify the materials for their own use. OER can, and do include full courses, textbooks, streaming videos, exams, software, and any other materials or techniques supporting learning.

As of 2018, 65% of Australian universities were using or providing access to OER, 42.5% were creating, sharing and managing OER, and 70% were participating in or facilitating MOOCs (Stagg et al., 2018). All except one university are using institutional repositories to manage and disseminate research outputs and learning resources, which was funded through the Australian Research Repositories Online to the World (ARROW) project and by the Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories (Picasso & Phelan, 2014). However, in a study involving interviews with representatives from 18 Australian institutions, most revealed that they were not involved in collaborative OER initiatives either nationally or internationally, and that most institutions did not include OER practices and initiatives in current strategic policies (Bossu et al., 2012). Further empirical research into institutional open educational practices (OEP) and OER practices has been called for, in order to gain a “more nuanced understanding of openness in Australian higher education learning and teaching” (Stagg et al., 2018, p. 190).

Against this background, this book chapter provides an overview of digital transformation in Australian higher education at the macro, meso and micro levels. The macro level explores aspects related to infrastructure, including digital repositories, quality, policies related to digitalization and the use of OER/OEP, and change occurring at the national level. The meso level reports initiatives occurring within states and institutions, using a desk audit of state government and education digitalization plans, alongside data gathered from a survey conducted in 2019, including participations from 22 higher education institutions from across Australia. The micro level then explores participants’ knowledge and awareness of OER, alongside institutional OER projects and initiatives. This investigation provides much needed further insight into (O)ER infrastructure, policies, quality issues and measures for change across three levels within Australian higher education.

2. Macro level

2.1 OER Infrastructure

In 2002, Australia’s chief scientist highlighted the need for access to and dissemination of research, which resulted in the Federal Government funding ‘Backing Australia’s Ability’ to support the development of research information infrastructure (Shipp, 2006), followed by the Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories and the Implementation Assistance Program (Mamtora, Yang, & Singh, 2015). By 2009, 32 institutions had an active repository, 31 of which were open access (Kennan & Kingsley, 2009). Initiatives developed during this time included the Australian Digital Theses Program, which housed some 30,000 Australian theses when it was decommissioned in 2011[2], the Australian Partnerships for Sustainable Repositories Project, Australian Research Repositories Online to the World (ARROW), and Regional Universities Building Research Infrastructure Collaboratively (RUBRIC). The ARROW project, led by Monash University, investigated how the National Library of Australia could develop a repository and associated metadata, harvested from institutional repositories, to support open access to institution data, including housing Australian theses.

In 2014, an audit was conducted of national government ICT infrastructure, leading to a ‘Digital Transformation Agenda’ (Hamilton, 2019). Whilst Australia has since implemented a range of measures to identify priority state and national digital infrastructure needs, such as Infrastructure Australia, the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Digital Council, the focus has thus far been on infrastructure as it relates to telecommunication connectivity (Australian Digital Council, 2019), ageing tertiary buildings (Infrastructure Australia, 2019a) and digitising government services (Commonwealth of Australia, 2018). The Infrastructure Priority List 2019, for example, focuses purely on roads, transport and housing (Infrastructure Australia, 2019b). However, the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap (Australian Government, 2016) did identify digital data and eResearch platforms as one of nine priority areas for the next decade, with a new Australian Data Strategy released in December 2021.

Australia currently has two Tier 1 High Performance Computing research facilities, the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. The NCI National Research Data Repository houses primarily scientific datasets, such as international climate modelling and geophysics reference datasets. The Australian Government recently released a Research Infrastructure Investment Plan (Australian Government, 2018b) in response to recommendations made in the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap (Australian Government, 2016), announcing $76.3 million towards commissioning a next-generation supercomputer, and a further $72.2 million for eResearch projects (NCI Australia, 2018). The funding “will enable critical upgrades to virtual laboratories, research cloud storage and data security” (Australian Government, 2018b, p. 6), however the focus of this investment is heavily focused on scientific research and the reusability of scientific data, rather than on educational resources.

Current state of digital educational repository infrastructure

The Trove platform is run by the National Library of Australia and is “an aggregation of metadata, and a growing repository of full text digital resources” (National Library of Australia, 2019). It hosts a range of resources from Australian universities, libraries, museums, data repositories and archives, including Australian theses. The Trove Application Programming Interface (API) enables users to integrate Trove into their own site.

The Australian National Data Service, National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources, and Research Data Services combined in 2018 to form the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC). The ARDC provides access to eInfrastructure and platforms, such as the Nectar Research Cloud and Research Data Australia. Whilst Research Data Australia does not store the data, it does provide links to a range of research from over one hundred Australia research organisations, cultural institutions, and government agencies.

AARNet is a not-for-profit National Research and Education Network, owned by 38 Australian universities and the CSIRO, which provides high speed broadband, data storage and high performance computing facilities to a range of institutions such as universities and schools (AARnet, 2018). They also partner with institutions on collaborative projects, such as training and development to enhance digital skills, and the digitisation of records for research use, which are then shared with users in their CloudStor repositories. There is potential, then, for this service to be expanded to host OER.

The Learning & Teaching Repository is run by Universities Australia and contains higher education learning and teaching materials, resulting from projects funded by the Australian Government from 1994 to 2018. It includes a project archive, currently at 694 projects, and a resources list (1,119 records), all of which are licensed CC BY-SA. A search conducted on 30 August 2019 for the phrase open educational resources resulted in 14 records. These projects included:

An Open Education Licensing toolkit was developed through the government funded Open Education Licensing Project by Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Tasmania in 2015/16. This provides higher education institutions with a web application to support the creation, use, modification and sharing of OER.

The schooling sector is where the Australian Government has invested most heavily in, in terms of OER. The National Digital Learning Resources Network is a resource collection, delivery infrastructure and metadata standards for Australian schools, run by Education Services Australia. It provides access to resources aligned to the Australian and state curricula, accessible via Scootle. Scootle is a national repository of over 20,000 learning and teaching resources for Australian school teachers, aligned to the Australian Curriculum, including a range of OER licensed under Creative Commons. The site also includes access to a range of other tools and resources, such as the Digital Technologies Hub, which support the Digital Technologies Curriculum, and the myskills website, which helps students find information related to future training and employment opportunities.

2.2 Quality of OER

The Australian Quality Framework (AQF) is the national policy for regulating Australian education and training, across higher education, vocational education and training (VET) and schools, and accredited by TEQSA, however this does not relate to OER specifically. There are currently no official national standards in regard to OER creation, dissemination and quality assurance. There are, however, guidance materials for higher education institutions, developed as a result of government-funded projects.

The Government made a number of grants between 2010-2014, funded by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching[3], to explore the use, management and adoption of OER. This included:

In 2016, Universities Australia convened a working group to develop a policy statement on access to research outputs. The working group included members of the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), Australian Health Policy Collaboration, Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, The AiGrioup, The Conversation and Universities Australia, alongside advice from the Australian National Data Service, Australian Research Council (ARC), Department of Education and Training (DET), Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS), and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Together, they created the F.A.I.R Policy Statement (CAUL, 2016), based on international standards, which stresses the need to ensure that Australian research output data remains Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. It was hoped that this policy would be implemented by 2020, and it stipulates that any publicly funded research must be made openly accessible using Creative Commons licences and utilising international metadata standards.

The Australasian Council on Open, Distance and e-learning developed the Benchmarks for Technology Enhanced Learning (ACODE, 2014), to assist institutions improve TEL quality. They cover institution-wide policy and governance, quality improvement, technology systems, staff professional development and support, and student training and support. They do not refer specifically, however, to the creation and development of OER.

2.3 OER Policy

The Australian Government currently has no explicit OER or OEP policies, framework or regulation for use in higher education (Bossu & Stagg, 2018; Stagg et al., 2018; Stagg & Bossu, 2016), which has affected widespread ongoing adoption, aside from a few project-based initiatives, most of which have since been discontinued (Bossu & Meier, 2018). Whilst the National Copyright Unit is developing a proposal that recommends the creation of one, and OER will be a key initiative in the future, policy makers remain unsure as to whether a policy should be implemented at the national or state/territory level (Orr et al., 2015). In 2016, the Productivity Commission recommended the need for a National Open Access Policy, which was accepted by the government in 2017, however this has still not yet been created (CAUL-AOASG, 2019). The Federal focus has instead been on economic growth, global competitiveness and opening research and data, including creating a more transparent government (Stagg et al., 2018).

In July 2010, the government made a Declaration of Open Government, which included passing legislation reforming the Freedom of Information Act and establishing the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. In the second Open Government National Action Plan (Australian Government, 2018a), priority has been placed on improving the sharing, use and reuse of public-sector data and enhancing state participation in the Open Government Partnership, amongst other priorities. The Australian Government Open Access and Licensing Framework (AusGOAL) provided support and guidance on open access to publicly funded information and provided a framework to assist organisations manage risk. It incorporated a licence suite including the Australian Creative Commons Version 3.0 and a Licence Chooser tool.

In December 2015, the government announced the National Innovation and Science Agenda (Australian Government, 2015), investing $1.1 billion over 4 years, including the establishment of Innovation and Science Australia (ISA), an advisory body on innovation, research and science. ISA developed a national roadmap for innovation, Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation (Australian Government Innovation and Science Australia, 2017), which makes long-term investment recommendations for policy makers. Education is recognised as the first imperative, in order to equip Australians with necessary skills relevant for 2030, as well as highlighting a strategic opportunity in improving Australia’s high-performance computing facilities. However, it particularly focuses on the school and VET sectors, including investment in professional development (PD) for teachers and school leaders, particularly in the areas of 21st-century skills and pedagogical methods, alongside subject specific PD. The paper specifically mentions social economic factors for students at all levels of education, but does not make the connection with OER, although the Government will invest $9.5 million over four years from 2019-20 for online maths and phonics courses, which will be freely available to teachers (Education and Training Portfolio, 2019).

At the state level, the Tasmanian Adult Learning Strategy 2019-2022 (Tasmanian Government, 2019) focuses on lifelong learning and improving literacy, numeracy and digital literacy, with Phase 2 exploring the development of an online portal/repository. The Western Australian government undertook the first audit of regional telecommunications infrastructure in 2017, and the Northern Territory government has funded The Centre for Appropriate Technology to install 27 mobile hotspots (Australian Digital Council, 2019).

2.4 OER Change

Change in the Australian OER landscape is predominantly happening at the meso and micro levels. However, many government, university and industry bodies have the potential to promote change on OER and OEP infrastructure, policy and practice in the future. One major agent for change in Australia is Infrastructure Australia (IA), which is an independent statutory body that audits Australia’s infrastructure needs, developing 15 year rolling plans to identify state and national priorities (Infrastructure Australia, 2019b). Given the importance of IA to the future of Australia’s economic development, the identification of increased provisions for data repositories and national policy agenda setting as a priority, would garner government attention.

As noted previously, Innovation and Science Australia is an advisory board to the Australian Government, providing recommendations on innovation, research and science. In response to their latest report, the government is investing $1.9 billion in Australia’s National Research Infrastructure to 2028-29, in addition to the $140 million funding for the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and the National Computational Infrastructure (Australian Government, 2018c). The Australian Digital Council was developed in 2018 to help foster across-government collaboration on data and digital transformation, and includes ministers from each state and territory (Riley, 2019). Its priorities include promoting initiatives to reform national data sharing arrangements and to enable equitable access to digital transformation, including reducing the digital divide.

The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) is a consortium of four research-intensive universities (University of Technology Sydney, RMIT University, University of South Australia and Curtin University), which educates 20% of Australian university students. ATN has a particular focus on industry collaboration, with over 18,000 industry partnerships (Australian Technology Network of Universities, 2018), and one of its prime objectives is to influence government policy formation.

The Business Council of Australia is also heavily invested in improving post-secondary education and skills, releasing its reform plan Future-proof: Australia’s future post-secondary education and skills system in 2018 (Business Council of Australia, 2018). The plan stresses the development of a lifelong-learning culture, alongside a shared governance model between government and industry. The Council’s Digital Economy and Telecommunications Working Group has also developed a digital reform agenda (Ernst & Young Australia, 2021), which stresses the need to pilot digital micro-apprenticeships and the expansion of higher education short course funding.

The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) advocates for Open and Fair Australasian research and is supported by 19 Australian universities, alongside eight New Zealand institutions and two affiliate organisations. AOASG collaborates with organisations such as the Australian Digital Alliance and the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), in order to advocate for openness. The Australian F.A.I.R. Access Steering Group is comprised of representatives from CAUL, Universities Australia, AOASG, KPMG, DVC, Australasian Research Management Society, and the Australian National Data Service, and they also receive advice from the Australian Research Council, DET, DIIS, and the NHMRC. Their role is to support implementation of the previously mentioned F.A.I.R Policy Statement.

3. Meso level

As Australia is divided into six states and two territories, with the responsibility for the majority of Education legislation and governance, the second part of this report will focus on state level initiatives, as well as institutional level strategic planning and policies.

A number of studies investigating OER practices in Australian higher education institutions have previously been undertaken, including large projects funded by the Federal Government. The project Adoption, use and management of open educational resources to enhance teaching and learning in Australia (see Bossu et al., 2014a) aimed to gain further understanding of OER use and management, in order to inform the development of a Feasibility Protocol (Bossu et al., 2014b), as well as to make recommendations to assist in the adoption of OER and OEP in Australia. Led by the University of New England, the first phase of the project involved a comprehensive literature review, including a review of institutional educational policies relating to OER (Bossu et al., 2011). This review found that the lack of government policies on the use and adoption of OER and OEP were limiting or at best slowing down the rate of OER adoption amongst Australian higher education institutions.

In order to gain further insight, the project then issued an online survey with 33 questions to capture respondents’ experience and knowledge of OER, as well as their institution’s involvement in OER initiatives, the need for OER policies, and perceived barriers to OER adoption and use. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with 24 (out of 100) participants. Overall, 30 out of 39 Australian institutions were represented. 36% of respondents said that their institution had some form of OER initiative and only 15% reported that their institution included OER initiatives and practices in their current strategic planning. Respondents suggested that the Federal Government could support HEIs through grants, to further develop OER in Australia.

Another study that was undertaken, following on from this project, was a joint effort by the University of Tasmania and the University of Southern Queensland entitled Developing Australian Academics’ Capacity: Supporting the Adoption of Open Educational Practices in Curriculum Design (Bossu et al., 2016). The project aimed to design, develop and test a free, open and online professional development course about curriculum design, in the form of a micro Open Online Course (mOOC), which would then be licensed by CC-BY-SA and hosted by OERu. Feedback for the course identified that it made it easier to apply OEP concepts in practice, but that further refinement was needed.

A similar approach was undertaken in the project A national, open access Learning and Teaching Induction Program (LTIP) for staff new to teaching (Fraser et al., 2019), which involved a collaboration between Swinburne University of Technology, Australian Catholic University, Charles Sturt University, CQUniversity, Curtin University, Flinders University, University of Canberra, University of the Sunshine Coast, University of Tasmania and the University of Western Australia. In response to less than 25% of Australian universities providing teaching induction to those who were new to teaching, this project saw the development of a fully online, open access learning and teaching induction program, specific to Australia. The MOOC, called Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching (HE), is housed on the Canvas Network and is a 12-week self-paced course. Staff from 39 of the 42 Australian universities have enrolled in the course since it was first developed. This, coupled with the sheer number of institutions involved in its development, points to a potential heightened recognition of the benefit of OER and OEP within Australia, however further investigation is warranted.

3.1 Methodology

In order to find out more about current OER practices in Australia at both the meso and micro levels, a two-pronged approach for this study was undertaken. The first was an email sent to all university vice-chancellors regarding their institutional digitalization and OER strategies (sent on the 28th October 2019), and the second was a survey, conducted under the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg Ethics approval number Drs.EK/2019/068. The survey consisted of 32 questions and was largely based on the surveys by Bossu et al. (2014a) and Seaman and Seaman (2018), as well as the questions posed within the overall EduArc project. It was sent on 13th November 2019 to 378 Australian HEI vice-chancellors, faculty deans and library professionals, as well as advertised on Twitter with a public link for others to complete. Requests were also sent to the following organisations:

As of 31st January 2020, the survey had 41 full responses and 29 partial responses from members of 22 different institutions from every Australian state except for Tasmania, unless an anonymous responder from the public link was from the University of Tasmania, indicating an overall response rate of at least[4] 53% of Australian institutions. The institutions involved that were able to be identified (see Table 1) represent at least 50% of universities in the ACT, Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory, and Victoria, and represent 45% of universities in New South Wales and 20% of universities in Western Australia.

Table 1

Institutions Represented in the OER Survey

Institution State Institution State
Australian National University ACT Deakin University Vic
University of Southern Queensland Que. La Trobe University Vic
Queensland University of Technology Que. Monash University Vic
Bond University Que. University of Melbourne Vic
University of Queensland Que. RMIT Vic
University of the Sunshine Coast Que. Swinburne University Vic
Griffith University Que. University of New England NSW
Flinders University SA Sydney University NSW
University of South Australia SA Western Sydney University NSW
Edith Cowan University WA Southern Cross University NSW
Charles Darwin University NT University of Wollongong NSW

Note ACT = Australian Capital Territory; Que = Queensland; SA = South Australia; WA = Western Australia; NT = Northern Territory; Vic = Victoria; NSW = New South Wales

A copy of the survey, raw results and aggregated results are available from ResearchGate.

Given that most questions were not mandatory, respondents were free to choose how much information to share. This has resulted in missing or incomplete data, however in order to capture as much information as possible, no records were deleted. Therefore, where appropriate, response percentages are reported according to the number of participants who responded to that particular question. The aggregated percentages based on the full 70 partial and complete responses are available, however, via the ResearchGate link.

Survey Participants

The majority of respondents were library professionals (n = 24, 34.29%), followed by educators (n = 10, 14.29%), researchers and senior managers (n = 6 each, 8.57%). One Vice Chancellor began the survey, but only completed the first three sections, and five Pro Vice Chancellors began the survey, with two completing all sections. The majority of respondents have been working at their institution for eight or more years (n = 30, 42.86%), although interestingly 20% of respondents (n = 14) have been working there for less than two years. Some of these respondents identified that they may not be fully aware of the state of OER across their institution, which should be considered when interpreting the results. The faculty most represented was Library Services (38.57%, n = 27), followed by Education (n = 8, 11.43%) and Health & Welfare (n = 6, 8.57%).

Participants’ Knowledge and Awareness of OER

Of the participants who responded to the question about awareness of OER, 83% (n = 48) had previously heard of OER, but 17% (n = 10) had not, and 32.86% of respondents had been aware of OER for 5-10 years (n = 23). Respondents were generally either very aware of OER and know how they can be used (31.43%) or aware of OER and some of their uses (22.86%). Most (n = 24, 34.29%) ranked themselves as having Intermediate knowledge, with 12.86% having no knowledge, 20% with basic knowledge, and 14.29% with advanced knowledge.

3.2 OER Infrastructure

According to the participants of the OER survey, Australian higher education institutions remain only partially committed to using OER (n = 26, 52%), with five people indicating that their institution is very committed (10%), eight indicating that their institution is not committed at all (16%), and 11 people being unsure (22%). This might also shed light on why OER infrastructure is still in development in Australia. Of the 51 participants who responded to a question about infrastructure, 11 (22%) indicated that their university has an institution-only OER repository, 30 (58%) stated that their university does not have one, and 10 were unsure (20%). Further to this, when asked about specific technological infrastructure for OER, 16 participants out of 39 who responded (41%) indicated that infrastructure for OER is non-existent in their institution, with only eight (21%) indicating that infrastructure is implemented organisation-wide. Despite this, all institutions have at least a research repository (see Appendix A), where researchers can disseminate their work.

A very low number of participants indicated that their institution uses commercial or other freely accessible OER infrastructure (see Table 2), although unfortunately there is no way of knowing whether these participants are from the same or different institutions. Of the 38 participants who responded, two people (5%) indicated that their institution has a partnership with other organisations or institutions on OER creation and storage and implemented organisation-wide. Ten people (26%) indicated that partnerships were implemented in some departments/faculties/units, eight people (21%) said that there were individual efforts occurring, and 18 people (47%) indicated that OER creation and storage partnerships are non-existent.

Table 2

Use of OER Infrastructure (n = 70)

Platform Number Percentage
MIT Open Education Consortium 5 7.14%
OpenLearn 6 8.57%
FutureLearn 9 12.86%
OER Foundation 5 7.14%
WikiEducator/WikiResearcher 4 5.71%
OER University 4 5.71%
Community College Consortium for OER 1 1.43%
College Open Textbooks Community 3 4.29%
OpenDOAR 6 8.57%
USQ OpenCourseWare 3 4.29%
Flat World 1 1.43%
OER World Map 4 5.71%

Some institutions indicated that they have infrastructure through their University Press or library services, including storing OER materials in their institutional repository, and establishing dedicated OER portals in rare cases. Here are some of the representative responses:

"There’s a push through our specialist materials production area to tag everything as being an Open Educational Resource upon completion. There is very small uptake."
"Liaison Librarians are identifying OER titles from all identified sources for creation of a ‘special’ OER collection via the catalogue."
"The Open Textbook project is an initiative of the university library. The university press is managing the project to create an open textbook."
"We have created awareness using our Copyright web site to promote OER as part of Open Access and Creative Commons. We expect to launch this in 2020."
"The purpose of this project is to establish a university culture in the use and adoption of open educational textbooks as an alternative. One of the key objectives is to partner with key learning and teaching staff to curate and review resources for inclusion into the curriculum, encourage adoption of open educational resources (OER), create an OER portal to facilitate access to quality materials, and ultimately create a consortium of OER Librarians. This project aims to increase student satisfaction by easing the financial burden of textbook costs and increasing student engagement with the curriculum, and to provide access to engaging and up-to-date global open learning resources, in support of new evolving learning experiences and futures."
"Pilot project to develop an open textbook in Australian politics and policy. The content has been commissioned by a set of editors, and authored by many academics across most of the universities in Australia. The text has been professionally edited by the university press, and is available from the custom-developed platform. The chapters are available in undergraduate and postgraduate versions, and academics can request a custom PDF or ePub containing only the chapters (and level) they have chosen. The content is licensed using CC BY-NC-SA."
"Bond University Library Services has an ongoing initiative to upload open access resources into our Digital Collections and we provide these under an Open Educational Resources heading. The collection consists of archived journals, conference papers and out of print books as well as image collections that form part of a humanities data set."

Example institutional press services offering OER include the Australian National University, and the University of Sydney. The Queensland University Libraries Office of Cooperation (QULOC) has recently joined the Open Textbook Network, which is an international open textbook library, hosted by the University of Minnesota in the US.

One of the open textbook projects, mentioned by the participants, is the Australian Open Textbooks as Social Justice project at Deakin University. Created in November 2019, the project has been funded by the National Centre of Student Equity in Higher Education to undertake a scoping study into the potential of open textbooks to act as social justice (Lambert, 2018). One of the goals of the project is to increase the visibility of underrepresented groups, such as indigenous academics. The project will include a comparison of three years of student equity success data with post-textbook adoption data for first year undergraduate courses, and will then compare the results with those obtained in a similar US study. Following this, the project will replicate the Open Textbook national academic readiness survey from the UK, as well as undertaking case studies of Deakin courses.

Another project is the Open Textbook Initiative, a joint effort between RMIT University, Queensland University of Technology, University of South Australia, University of Technology Sydney, Auckland University of Technology (NZ) and Curtin University. The website provides key information about OER and available textbooks to academics and librarians, as well as offering webinars, a student savings calculator, and the facility to request an OER session from experts. Webinars available include ‘Strategies for Increasing Engagement with OER’, ‘RMIT Open Access Webinar’, and the ‘Open textbook initiative’. The ‘Find a textbook’ facility, enables academics to search within the catalogues of six institutions, as well as to search global databases such as the Open Research Library (see Figure 1). A list of ‘Featured disciplines’ provides suggested open textbooks by subject area, and the website also provides promotional material for websites (e.g. GIFs and images), as well as posters to promote the use of OER in Australia. The website also promotes the Australasian Open Educational Practice Special Interest Group[5], who also offer the webinars ‘Course development by higher education partners of the OERu’, ‘From Business School to Business as Usual’, and ‘Open Textbook Publishing in Australia’.

Figure 1

Open Textbook Initiative, Find a Textbook

This is a screenshot that shows you what the website "Open Textbook Initiative" looks like.

When asked what the role of their institutional library is specifically, in the creation and storage of OER, five people said that they were unsure, five participants said that they played no role and four people indicated that their library is leading the way. Further participants indicated that their library acts as more of a support function to academics, that it “provides advice and is business process owner for repository systems”, or that they “are involved in this process and host the Creative Commons”. Representative responses include:

"They do have a role but it seems largely unexplored. They assist academics locate materials. They are currently engaged in significant restructuring so any extraneous services such as this have largely ceased until things calm down."

"Library team is happy to support instructors with the hosting of OERs, and can consult on aspects of creation. However, limited resourcing so this is not widely advertised. We are also waiting on an imminent new feature in our system to be able to publish OERs for Google indexing."

"We have some open educational content in the institutional repository which is run by the library. This is fairly small in scale though."

"Currently our Library does not have much to do with creating or storing OERs (no initiative in place for their creation and no repository to store them), but as the Copyright Officer, I can advise on open licensing and copyright as it relates to OER. Liaison Librarians can advise on the use of OERs in teaching."

"We educate users about OERs, we encourage use of OERs, but do not have a formal creation and storage process. We are participating in the CAUL Digital Dexterity initiative and will make use of and contribute to a digital object repository that is being produced by member institutions."

"We have a digital repository that holds some streaming video resources but currently no e-textbooks or similar resources."

"The pilot initiative is led by the university library. The university press is part of the library. The university copyright team (who advise academics on content included in MOOCs) are part of the library."

Within the context of Australian higher education, each institutional library offers copyright advice and often has someone in the role of a Copyright Officer, such as at the Queensland University of Technology who can provide “general information and advice on copyright issues… as well as information sessions and workshops”, or a Copyright Coordinator, as in the case of the University of Adelaide. Their Copyright Advice website offers “knowledgeable and friendly advice on a whole range of copyright issues, including using and creating copyright material for teaching, author rights, open educational resources, Creative Commons licences, and how to make research more accessible through incorporating open access principles”. The website offers an online copyright induction course for staff, as well as specific information about rights, educational licences (including discipline specific licences, such as music), and copyright in terms of research (see Figure 2).

As mentioned by one of the participants above, and in the macro report for this study, CAUL (Council of Australian University Librarians) is the peak body for university libraries in Australia. One of its strategic priorities for 2020 is Advancing Open Scholarship using the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). Their Review of Australian Repository Infrastructure project investigated how repository infrastructure can improve the findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability of Australian-funded research, and a report was published in 2019, providing recommendations on possible ways forward (Harrison, Frances, O’Connor, & Steel, 2019). The key recommendations to CAUL included establishing an ongoing repository technical advisory working group to “oversee training, minimum metadata standards and repository system requirements and open access policy” (p. 8), and to work with the National Library of Australia to develop a Research Outputs section in the Trove database to provide “a comprehensive Research Australia style collection”.

One of CAUL’s programs mentioned by a participant in this study, Digital Dexterity, has developed a range of resources to encourage the development of digital dexterity within universities. This has included a position statement, an Advocacy Toolkit, and a Digital Dexterity Framework for library professionals, which is based on the Jisc digital capabilities framework. The Digital Dexterity Framework outlines the skills and capabilities that library professionals need to encourage students “to succeed in the workforce of the future” across six areas;

Figure 2

University of Adelaide Library Copyright Advice

This is a screenshot of the website from the University of Adelaide Library that informs you about the Copyright Advice.

It seems that, aside from a couple of new initiatives, not much has changed since a similar study was conducted eight years ago (Bossu et al., 2012), which found that “[e]ven though some of these repositories support the Creative Commons license, very few allow for re-designing and repurposing of the content, which therefore limits the value of these resources” (p. 3). Several of the respondents in that study, suggested that “adopting a standardised metadata for OER and/or a national or institutional repository [were] potential solutions” (p. 7). However, it seems that Australian higher education has not yet come very far in this respect.

3.3 Quality of OER

Quality assurance processes for the creation of OER in Australian higher education institutions can be described as sparse at best. In a previous study (Bossu et al., 2012), poor quality of OER was identified as a serious problem, and a subsequent article (Stagg et al., 2018) found that no Australian university had a quality assurance framework for OER. Four people out of 39 (10%) in the present study, indicated that quality assurance processes are implemented across their institution, eight people (21%) indicated that they are implemented by some departments or faculties, 12 people (31%) indicated that this is up to individuals, and 15 respondents (38%) indicated that quality assurance processes are non-existent. Of the 19 people who responded to a question about quality assurance mechanisms at their institution, the following responses were notable:

"It’s left to individual academics."
"No formal measures exist, guidance is offered by the library."
"The press has a very strong peer review and quality control process."
"Policy procedures and specific committee for review. Own faculty based processes on top around assurance of learning and review. Online system based checking through LMS."
"Mainly undertaken through academic self-assurance before submission."
"OERs are checked by the Canvas Support team. The open textbook is checked using the university’s press standard editorial processes – peer review, editorial review, rounds of proofing and checking."
"All materials uploaded into Digital Collections are curated by Library Services and aim to meet best practice in this area, although some resources do need CC licenses."
"Very few, and mainly implemented through the library."

The Canvas platform is the MOOC platform of choice for some Australian higher education institutions, including Swinburne University. The Canvas Network mission is to promote openness in education, including open content and open data. However, information on how they quality check OER was not readily available via their website.

When asked which actors are involved in setting OER quality assurance, only nine people were able to answer with any authority. The answers were:

"We have a policy framework with an education procedure as well as a well established press. You can see the large number of editorial boards on the website. External peer reviewers and internal peer reviewers are a key part of the process. No title is published unless it meets the quality review, is copy edited and taken through the full publication review and production purposes."
"Individual academics, librarians, Copyright Officer."
"Elearning Library Academics"
"Librarians, academics, research professional services staff"
"Liaison Librarians and Library management"
"Open textbook has been peer reviewed and edited using the university’s current QA processes and standards."
"Individuals and learning teaching and curriculum"
"Educational Innovation team"
"Library services repository and digital services team members"

In two cases, respondents referred to the internal and external peer review of open textbooks. However, they did not clarify whether this extended to other OER content. The Sydney University Press states that all books published by them “have undergone standard quality assessment and peer review”, however further information is not available. The Australian National University Press has published over 800 open-access publications and “collaborates with expert editorial boards to produce high-quality publications in accessible timeframes”. Once a manuscript has been submitted to ANU Press, it “will then undergo a rigorous peer-review process in which at least two referee reports will be obtained (at least one external to ANU) before the Editorial Board determines whether the work is to be published”.

When asked how their quality assurance mechanisms relate and adhere to international eLearning standards and specifications, even less participants responded:

"Resources created here through our specialist resource production area follow open access guidelines and are hosted on externally available webservers. Many structured serving elements seem to be purchased/implemented OER-ready. Examples are openpress, H5P etc."
"They relate to standards of copyright and access."
"Still to be specified but identified through CAUL and QULOC groups."
"Assessment of centralised resources for accessibility and learning practice."
"We aim to provide Open Access materials that meet the FAIR principles."

As previously mentioned under Infrastructure, CAUL is committed to advancing open scholarship using the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). The F.A.I.R. Access Policy Statement states that “by 2020, Australian publicly funded researchers and research organisations will have in place policies, standards and practices to:

  1. Make publicly funded research outputs findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.
  2. make research publications immediately free to read at the time of publication through a range of different strategies, either via a publisher’s website or an institutional or other acceptable public repository.
  3. Make research data directly related to research publications as open as possible and as closed as necessary, in accord with the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement.
  4. Apply Creative Commons licences and utilise international metadata standards to research outputs to ensure accessibility, interoperability and reusability.
  5. Ensure that authors/creators obtain and retain all necessary rights to enable the authorisation of publication and re-use in any format at any time.
  6. Support the development of incentives for researchers to make research outputs available in accord with this policy.
  7. Value and practically support a range of dissemination models, recognising discipline diversity, whilst maintaining a commitment to the principles of this policy.
  8. Ensure that the application of this policy is in accordance with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and other codes of practice which lay out requirements to disseminate research responsibly, ethically and for the benefit of the Australian and international community.”

In support of this, CAUL released a Statement on Open Scholarship in 2019, in which they stated that they and their members are committed to action, including providing resources as well as to advance open scholarship in the areas of advocacy, competency, publishing, infrastructure, content acquisition and educational resources.

The Queensland University Libraries Office of Cooperation (QULOC) is an organisation of university libraries in and around the state of Queensland. They have an OEP Community of Practice, in which members “share ideas and experiences”. Specific information about how they influence quality assurance, however, was not available via their website.

Despite the advice that has been provided to Australian higher education institutions and the Australian government (e.g. Bossu, Bull, & Brown, 2012; Stagg & Bossu, 2016), little progress has been made towards improving quality assurance mechanisms at the institutional level.

3.4 OER Policy

All Australian states and territories have their own digitalization strategies, although these documents tend to focus more on government and/or industry digitalization (e.g., Northern Territory Government, 2018), rather than education specifically (see Figure 3), although the Queensland Digital Strategy (Queensland Government, 2017, p. 16) does refer to embedding digital technology in education, including partnering with industry, universities and researchers. Some of the strategies are quite progressive, explicitly mentioning the use of open and reusable data, cloud infrastructure and investment in repositories. The Australian Capital Territory digital strategy (ACT Government, 2016), for example, is aiming to “promot[e] the use of open data and access to services for those at every level of digital maturity” as well as to influence “all organisations to further the digital agenda” (p. 10). They further state that “[t]his is as much about effecting cultural change as it is about technology adoption” (ibid). The New South Wales digital strategy (NSW Government, 2018) is exploring ways of using predictive tools to measure data quality, as well as removing legislative barriers to digital transformation, and the Tasmanian digital strategy (Tasmanian Government, 2019a) includes a focus on developing opportunities for citizens to develop lifelong digital skills learning, aligning with their Adult Learning Strategy (Tasmanian Government, 2019b).

Figure 3

Digitalization Strategies in Australia

This image shows a map of Australia with information which part of Australia has which Digital strategy.

Four states and territories have an Education digitalization plan (South Australia, Department for Education and Child Development, 2016; Northern Territory, Northern Territory Government, 2019; New South Wales, NSW Department of Education, 2016; Queensland, Queensland Government Department of Education, 2019), with Western Australia having conducted a report into ICT in schools (Education and Health Standing Committee, 2012). However, these digital strategies are generally centred on schooling up to Year 12, prior to higher education.

In order to gain further insight into the current state of digitalization within Australian higher education institutions (HEIs), a desk audit was conducted at the end of October 2019, in combination with contacting HEIs via email, which resulted in a 24% response rate. Nine universities (21%) have a current digitalization or information technology strategy document, one university is currently revising their digitalization strategy, one has a Digital Literacy Framework, two have blended learning strategies, one university has a Library Strategic Plan relating to OER, and one university includes digitalization within their Learning & Teaching Plan, which is not publicly available.

Given the decentralised nature of digital transformation in Australian HEIs, each strategy has a different name, ranging from ‘Digital Strategy’ (Griffith University, 2016), to ‘Information Technology Strategy’ (Moffatt, 2017) to ‘Securing Digital Success’ (Western Sydney University, 2018), which makes them very difficult to locate. The strategies vary from being very business and value for money oriented promotional brochures, to being highly teaching and learning focused, with clearly defined digitalization strategies and action plans. Following the study of 15 German digitalization strategies by Gilch et al. (2019), the 11 publicly accessible Australian HEI digitalization strategies were read and coded according to the following goals:

The goals of digitalization strategies within Australian and German HEIs (see Table 2) are similar within the top five, although with a substantial difference in the percentage of documents. Whilst there were slightly more German strategies analysed (15 compared to 11 Australian documents), a far higher percentage discussed the use of digitalization to improve the quality of teaching. There was also a stark difference between the focus on digitalization to increase the efficiency of higher education administration and services in Germany (90%) as opposed to Australia (55%). Another surprising difference was the low number of Australian strategies referring to an improvement in research quality (27%) and internationalisation (18%), as opposed to German strategies (45%).

The Australian documents were also open coded for other themes, resulting in the addition of the following goals and strategies:

Table 3

Goals of Australian and German HEI digitalization Strategies, as per Gilch et al. (2019)

Rank Australian Goal % German Goal %
  • Increase in the quality of services provided by HE administration and services
  • Skills training for a digital world
  • Improvement of the quality of teaching
  • Improvement of the quality of teaching
  • Profile building at the university
  • Increase in the quality of services provided by HE administration and services
  • Increase the efficiency of HE admin and services
  • Increase the efficiency of HE admin and services
  • Intensification of transfer activities (research and tech transfer)
  • Increase in research performance
55% Skills training for a digital world 86.7%
4 Intensifying research for the digital society 45% Increasing the university’s ability to control itself through digitised support for governance 73.3%
  • Increasing the university’s ability to control itself through digitised support for governance
  • Acquisition of new target groups for study and further training offers
36% Profile building at the university 66.7%
6 Increase in research quality 27% Intensifying research for the digital society 50%
7 Internationalisation of the university 18% Acquisition of new target groups for study and further training offers 48.3%
8 Increase in diversity and heterogeneity of the student body 0%
  • Intensification of transfer activities (research and tech transfer)
  • Increase in research quality
  • Internationalisation of the university
9     Increase in research performance 43.3%
10     Increase in diversity and heterogeneity of the student body 38.3%

When adding the newly created themes from the open coding of Australian digitalization strategies (see Table 4), a clearer picture is gained of the HEI policy priorities. All 11 documents mentioned the enhanced use of learning analytics to gain further understanding of student technology use and the overall student experience, alongside personalisation of services and learning. Ten (91%) strategies discussed the normalisation of blended learning, with a key focus on mobile, on-demand digital solutions, as well as key infrastructure improvements needed. Specific infrastructure mentioned included the increased use of High-Powered Computers, agile software, and data warehouse capability (e.g., Griffith University, 2016). Aside from a focus on service quality and digital skill development of both students and staff, 82% (n = 9), strategies also included increased support for staff, in terms of resources, professional development, and aligning learning and teaching with sound learning design principles, as well as collaborating with other institutions to share the cost of resources.

Table 4

Overall goals of Australian HEI digitalization Strategies

Goal Rank %
Learning analytics and personalisation 1 100%
Normalising blended learning 2 91%
Infrastructure improvement 2 91%
Increase in the quality of services provided by HE administration and services 3 82%
Skills training for a digital world 3 82%
Increased support for staff 3 82%
Collaboration with other universities 3 82%
Improvement of the quality of teaching 4 73%
Profile building at the university 4 73%
Industry partnerships 5 64%
Increased openness to research output 5 64%
Review data management procedures 5 64%
Increase the efficiency of higher education admin and services 6 55%
Intensification of transfer activities (research and technology transfer) 6 55%
Increase in research performance 6 55%
Maximise engagement in OER 6 55%
Intensifying research for the digital society 7 45%
Learning designers to support teaching and learning 7 45%
Short course development/micro credentials 7 45%
Student agency 7 45%
Increasing the university’s ability to control itself through digitised support for governance 8 36%
Acquisition of new target groups for study and further training offers 8 36%
Increase in research quality 9 27%
Internationalisation of the university 10 18%
Artificial intelligence and data visualisation 10 18%
eAssessment 11 9%

OER Policy in higher education institutions

Concerning OER specifically, there are very few OER projects at the national level, as evidenced by entries on the OER World Map (see Figure 4). However, a number of specific institutions are now making the creation, storage and dissemination of OER a priority within their digitalization and strategic plans, with 55% of institutions explicitly mentioning maximising engagement with OER in their digitalization strategies and 64% mentioning increased openness to research output. For example, the University of Wollongong digitalization strategy (University of Wollongong, 2015) has explicitly made Open Learning a priority. Their actionable items include the following (p. 10):

4.1 Develop a policy on MOOC quality

4.2 Develop an international MOOC platform

4.3 MOOC development and maintenance

4.4 Create an open Graduate Certificate in International Studies on OERu

4.5 Creation of online postgraduate courses

4.6 At least one faculty to conduct an OER textbook pilot

4.7 Review teams to consider how in-course use of MOOCs might support students in their learning and reduce costs

4.8 Manager of Open Education to maintain a repository of resources on the UOW YouTube channel and to encourage the creation and reuse of OER videos by faculty members

Naturally, plans do change over time and as of November 2019, the University of Wollongong (UOW) are not a partner with OERu, but rather have six courses currently on the FutureLearn platform, including four free MOOCs. They do have a YouTube channel, although this predominantly features videos about life at the university, overseas study opportunities, and marketing videos. There is a UOW Research playlist, featuring conference presentations and research information by UOW staff, although not teaching and learning materials per se.

Figure 4

OER World Map for Australia (https://oerworldmap.org/country/au)

This picture shows the OER World Map for Australia

Aligning with the Australian F.A.I.R policy (CAUL, 2016) of keeping research Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, any research funded by the Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, is mandated to share publications as open access by the NHMRC Open Access Policy (National Health and Medical Research Council, 2018). This includes listing patents resulting from NHMRC funding in SourceIP, a national repository for patent holders, whose goal is to boost collaboration between science and industry. Likewise, any research funded by the Australian Research Council, must be made open access within 12 months after publication, either in an institutional repository or through a publisher’s website, or other data repository (Australian Research Council, 2017). They must also include the Australian Research Council (ARC) Project ID, contain a DOI, and list the ARC as a funding source in the metadata. This has resulted in the improvement of Australian institutional repositories (see Appendix A) and likewise institutional open access policies (e.g., Australian National University, 2017).

The landscape of OER and open educational practices (OEP) strategies in Australia as of 2016, however, was quite bleak. In their national audit of Australian higher education institutions and OEP strategies in 2016, Stagg et al. (2018) found that no Australian university had an open licensing policy, open assessment, or a quality assurance framework to support OEP, with only 37.5% of institutions having an open access policy. A mere 25% of institutions had an OER and/or OEP policy and 15% had OER/OEP guidelines, despite 65% of institutions using or making OER available. Unfortunately, that particular study did not provide further information or specific institutional examples, and therefore a new study was undertaken for the purposes of this report, which can be found below. A positive outcome of this audit, however, was the development of a Feasibility Protocol (Bossu, Brown, & Bull, 2014b), which is “a set of guiding principles that prompts questions and raises issues to be considered by universities and tertiary institutions wishing to take advantage of OER and OEP” (p. 4). The Feasibility Protocol raises questions on four aspects;

OER in Australian higher education study

Participants were asked to rank how committed their institution is to using OER. 10% (n = 5) said that their institution is very committed, 52% (n = 26) that it is partially committed, 16% (n = 8) that their HEI is not committed at all, and 22% (n = 11) were unsure. When asked about explicit institutional OER policies or frameworks, 25 respondents out of 39 (64%) indicated that these are non-existent in their institution. Five people (7.14%) indicated that OER practices have been incorporated in their institution’s current strategic plan, six people (9.48%) indicated that their institution has no plans to consider OER practice in future strategic plans, and fourteen people (20%) indicated that their institution will incorporate OER practice into their future strategic plans. These results are far lower than results obtained in 2014 (Bossu et al., 2014a). At the moment, OER policy making is largely occurring through library staff and/or the university executive committee, with some institutions involving academics, Associate Deans and Pro Vice Chancellors, although some respondents were unsure.

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is an example of an institution that does not currently have a specific digitalization plan; however, an email response revealed that they do have a targeted strategy to openness along four domains (see Figure 5), aligned to a key imperative within their 2027 Strategy of “transforming to a lifetime of learning”. The UTS library manages UTS ePRESS, which currently publishes 12 Open Access journals, as well as eBooks and conference proceedings. UTS is also the NSW Node of the Australian Data archive and manages the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive (ATSIDA). ATSIDA stores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research data, in order to reduce the burden on Australian Indigenous communities in responding to enquiries.

Table 5

UTS Openness Strategy

Open Education Open Research Open Platforms Community Engagement
  • Promotion and support for integration of OER into learning design.
  • Support in relation to copyright provided via dedicated staff, as well as online tools and resources.
  • Publishing of OER (through UTS ePress) and distribution through global databases (e.g. Khan Academy)
  • Support for publication in Open Access platforms (Green).
  • Internal advocacy for Open Research integrated into all research training.
  • Support for Open Data through provision of specialist curation services.
  • Institutional repository with ongoing program for the provision of Open Research (currently 40% of resources available freely).
  • Leadership in the use of Open Source platforms (e.g. DSpace).
  • UTS Open learning platform provides a range of free online courses to the public via micro credential study, alongside core curriculum.
  • Members of SPARC, DOAJ, SCOSS and COAR.
  • Active involvement with the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) in relation to FAIR principles and ongoing research and advocacy e.g. national repository infrastructure, cost of Open Access.
  • Leadership in the negotiation and implementation of transformational agreements.

3.5 OER Change

Change within Australian higher education is largely shaped by government policy and target-setting, although this has been focused on open research and open research data, including the aforementioned mandate to share funded research data. However, the universities do come together at the national level, to help drive policy and change forwards together. Universities Australia, for example, is comprised of 39 higher education member institutions who “make submissions, develop policy across the sector, represent Australia’s universities on government and industry-appointed bodies and partner with university sectors in other countries to enable bilateral and global collaborations” (Universities Australia, 2019). In the 2016 policy document Keep it Clever (Universities Australia, 2016), Australia’s weakening position in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index was highlighted, alongside the need to strengthen digital literacy, provide flexible, online courses to support lifelong learning, and increased federal funding to support innovation and entrepreneurship. The potential of OER to support this, however, was not made (Stagg et al., 2018).

The Council of Australasian Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT) is owned by Australasian universities and major Australian research organisations, and is comprised of the most senior IT people in each organisation. Each year, members are surveyed to determine the top ten topics affecting the strategic development and application of IT, with 42 university members surveyed in 2019 (Council of Australasian University Directors of Information Technology, 2019). The top ranked topics were consistent across the previous three years, namely ‘Supporting Student Success’ and ‘Information Security’ (see Figure 6), with ‘Business Transformation’ holding steady at rank 3. However, ‘Strategy’ has dropped from rank 2 to rank 7, which is the first time it has been out of the top 5 since 2015. ‘Digital Integrations’ has risen to rank 6, which was also identified as a high impact topic, alongside ‘Delivering Services’, ‘Strategy’, ‘Educational Technology’, and ‘Workforce Evolution’. ‘Educational Technology’ and ‘Information Security’ were considered the most significant and ongoing topics. Compare this to 2021, where the report is now only available to members, ‘New Models of Teaching and Learning’ has been added at rank 4, and ‘Seamless User Experience’ at rank 6.

CAUDIT member institutions are looking towards cloud computing, big data, agility and scalability, as well as mobile network infrastructure on and off campus, and blockchain. ICT leaders, however, are also focused on cost-effectiveness, whilst attempting to meet the needs of students and staff, which is reflected in the ranking of ‘Delivering Services’ at position 4. CAUDIT stresses the need to “position digitisation as the great enabler” (Council of Australasian University Directors of Information Technology, 2019, p. 19), but that this relies on leaders to “[act] as bridges between institutions and innovation in digital technologies”. This leads to the question, what role do ICT leaders play in digital infrastructure strategic planning?

Figure 6

Trends from 2017-2019, CAUDIT (2019, p. 4)

This is a visualization of Trends from 2017 to 2019

Institutional Strategic Planning

The investigation undertaken within the Policy section above indicates that institutional strategic planning is only being undertaken through digitalization strategies to a small extent, with 27% of institutions having a publicly accessible policy document. Whilst other institutions do include digital infrastructure within Learning and Teaching policies or their institution strategic plans, some of these are not publicly available, which makes it difficult to gain an accurate understanding of institutional strategic planning. One non-public plan was provided to this researcher via email, however, and it includes priorities such as ensuring consistent Wi-Fi across campuses, reviewing and improving teaching spaces, increasing video conference facilities, providing subsequent staff professional development in the equipment, and increased IT support for staff.

The HEI survey indicated that change regarding digital infrastructure is largely occurring through bottom-up approaches, including a strong push from library staff and through teaching and learning communities of practice. However, many respondents were unsure or provided an interesting insight into their institution’s strategic planning, as the following quotes illustrate:

Bottom-up though after twenty months of restructuring and job losses, any collaboration in this area – which was significant at a grass-roots level – has all but died. (Learning Technologist, Health & Welfare, 8 years at institution)
Neither, it’s a bit disorganised with local and institutional working patchily together. (Associate Dean, Business, Administration & Law, 0-2 years at institution)

Funding to support the development of OER at the institutional level is rare (Stagg et al., 2018), although there are a couple of notable exceptions. The University of Southern Queensland funded an Open Textbook Grant Scheme in 2015, later renamed the Open Educational Practice Staff Scholarship Scheme (Stagg & Partridge, 2019). The focus was on building professional networks and facilitating communities of practice, alongside producing OER. Participants of the grant program felt that ongoing meetings helped them to generate and refine ideas, as well as a deeper understanding of openness as a result of connecting with other institutions around the world. Another example is the University of Wollongong, as previously mentioned, who have explicitly made the creation of open access textbooks a priority in their strategic plan.

Initiatives that are occurring at Australian HEIs include:

Unfortunately, not a lot of information about these initiatives is available publicly, aside from the institutional repositories (see Appendix A), which limits the ability to share good practice across campuses and between institutions.

3.7 Summary of the meso level and preliminary conclusions

In this second section, the meso level was investigated using a number of methods; a desk audit of state government and state education digitalization plans, analysing Australian HE institutional digitalization plans and then comparing them to those in Germany (see Gilch et al., 2019), contacting Australian HEI vice-chancellors via email about their digitalization and strategic plans, and issuing a survey to more than 350 HEI academics, deans, administrators, and professional staff. Whilst survey responses and information from HEI executives was limited, this data has already provided valuable insight into the state of OER policy and change plans and processes.

Whilst many state government digitalization plans stress the need for digital and lifelong learning skills, as do HE institutions, there seems to be a disconnect between the goal and the reality. Limited funding appears to be available at the national, state and institutional level, to support the investigation into and subsequent growth of OER use and storage (Bossu et al., 2011). Isolated, (generally) bottom-up initiatives do exist, however these are rarely publicly emphasised, or part of a longer-term, ongoing commitment to embedding open access approaches within strategic planning. Quality assurance in particular is an area requiring further development. As previously asserted by Bossu et al., (2014a), the OER movement has moved more efficiently and effectively in countries where national support was provided, therefore further top-down approaches are needed at both the macro and meso levels.

4. Micro Level

4.1 Methodology

The case studies and projects funded by the Australian Government mentioned above will be analysed against the guiding research questions of this study. However, in order to delve deeper into current OER practices in Australia at the micro level, a further two-pronged approach for this report was also undertaken, and reported in section 3.1 of this chapter.

4.2 Results

Participants’ Knowledge and Awareness of OER

Participants were asked how aware they are of Public Domain, Copyright and Creative Commons, with Creative Commons the receiving the most ‘Aware’ or ‘Very Aware’ responses (70%), and 55.71% (n = 39) of participants’ institutions using Creative Commons licenses.

The majority of participants who answered questions to rate various statements about the use of OER in higher education were very positive. 34.29% stated that they either agreed or strongly agreed that using OER leads to institutional innovation (see Table 5), and 36.71% agreed or strongly agreed that the adoption of OER promotes the sharing of knowledge and the university service mission (see Table 6). However, they also recognised the need to provide specific skill support for the development and use of OER (see Table 7).

Table 6

How would you rate the following: Using OERs leads to institutional innovation

Answer Number Percentage
Strongly agree 7 10.00%
Agree 17 24.29%
Neither agree nor disagree 7 10.00%
Disagree 1 1.43%
Strongly disagree 1 1.43%
No answer 8 11.43%
Not completed or not displayed 29 41.43%

Current institutional OER projects/initiatives

Participants were asked whether their institution currently has an OER project or initiative. 30% (n = 21) indicated that they do, 21.43% (n = 15) responded that their institutions does not, and 20% (n = 14) said that they were unsure. The most frequently mentioned initiative involved the institutional library (n = 6), in order “to better connect academics and digital educators to OERs”. The next most frequently mentioned activity was the promotion of using OER (n = 3), as well as one participant mentioning there is a push to “tag everything as being an Open Educational Resource upon completion” but that there “is very small uptake”, as well as storing OER (not just open access publications) in institutional repositories (n = 3). One participant commented that “Liasion Librarians are identifying OER titles from all identified sources for the creation of a ‘special’ OER collection within the catalogue”.

Table 7 

How would you rate the following: The adoption of OER promotes the sharing of knowledge and the university service mission

Answer Number Percentage
Strongly agree 11 15.71%
Agree 14 20.00%
Neither agree nor disagree 5 7.14%
Disagree 1 1.43%
Strongly disagree 1 1.43%
No answer 9 12.86%
Not completed or not displayed 29 41.43%

Table 8

How would you rate the following: In order to stimulate the use of OER, specific skill support is needed

Answer Number Percentage
Strongly agree 11 15.71%
Agree 15 21.43%
Neither agree nor disagree 5 7.14%
Disagree 2 2.86%
Strongly disagree 0 0.00%
No answer 8 11.43%
Not completed or not displayed 29 41.43%

Two participants reported current research studies into the impact of OER adoption, and two mentioned the publication of OER through their university press. One participant reported on a pilot project for the development of an open textbook in Australian politics and policy:

“The content has been commissioned by a sect of editors, and authored by many academics across most of the universities in Australia. The text has been professionally edited by the university press, and is available from a custom-developed platform. The chapters are available in undergraduate and postgraduate versions, and academics can request a custom PDF or ePub containing only the chapters (and level) they have chosen. The content is licensed using CC BY-NC-SA.”

The Open Textbook Initiative, a collaboration between RMIT University, Queensland University of Technology, Auckland University of Technology (NZ), University of Technology Sydney, University of South Australia and Curtin University, was an example of an OER project given by a participant, which not only provides advice on a range of OEP topics for academics and librarians, but also provides multiple ways of helping people to locate open textbooks. The following is a list of Australian higher education institutions that offer OER repositories.

Table 9

List of Australian higher education institutions that offer OER repositories

Institution Website Address
Australian National University https://edtechbooks.org/-jsfA
Charles Darwin University https://edtechbooks.org/-Nkju
LaTrobe University https://edtechbooks.org/-MZZm
Queensland University of Technology https://qut.pressbooks.pub/
RMIT (textbooks) https://edtechbooks.org/-utnq
RMIT (self-created) https://edtechbooks.org/-Vuje
Sydney University https://open.sydneyuniversitypress.com.au/
University of Adelaide https://edtechbooks.org/-VfzC
University of Southern Queensland https://usq.pressbooks.pub/
University of Technology Sydney https://edtechbooks.org/-iBILS
Swinburne University https://commons.swinburne.edu.au/

4.3 OER Infrastructure

The role of libraries in the creation and storage of OER was reported by survey participants in divergent terms. On one hand, many reported that they are vital and central to OER storage and promotion, including creating awareness of institutional repositories and other platforms available for housing OER, such as the eLearning Objects Repository (eLOR) at the University of Southern Queensland. One participant reported that their library was waiting on a new feature to be added to their system, to enable them to publish OER so that they are indexed by Google. On the other hand, some survey participants felt that the role of libraries seems “largely unexplored”, and whilst library teams are happy to support educators with hosting OER and consultation, there was limited resourcing available for this to occur. They are also often pressured by academics and publishers to promote the use of licensed materials (Kandlbinder & Chelliah, 2015). According to prior projects, libraries should be further encouraged to share OER, including changing learning and teaching grants to be weighted towards OER adaptation, rather than creation.

Survey participants indicated that FutureLearn as the non-institutional platform they are most using (12.86%, n = 9) to house their OER and other short courses. Australian universities that are currently offering courses via FutureLearn include Central Queensland University (e.g. Orientation to Educational Neuroscience), Queensland University of Technology (e.g. Child Protection for Teachers), and Griffith University (e.g. Big Data Analytics: Opportunities, challenges and the future). The next most used platforms are OpenLearn and OpenDOAR (both 8.57%, n = 6), followed by MIT Open Education Consortium and the OER Foundation (both 7.14%, n = 7), OERu, the OER World Map and WikiEducator (all 5.71%, n = 4).

Educator knowledge about and use of existing local infrastructure, including the use of institutional repositories, is embedded in institutional practice in rare cases (e.g. University of Tasmania). However, the survey conducted for this report, as well as the literature review conducted, point to a lack of knowledge about tools and repositories available. One example of an effective OER information dissemination strategy was an email from OER project coordinators to all staff in the faculty, which prompted increased engagement (Lambert, 2015).

The ‘Dying2Learn’ MOOC, developed by Flinders University in South Australia, used the OpenLearning platform (Rawlings et al., 2017), which was chosen due to its community and social/peer-to-peer capabilities. The OpenLearning platform allowed “a hybrid approach to be taken where many of the learners’ interactions are akin to the cMOOC experience” (p. 3), which meant that rather than using a range of social media tools in conjunction with the MOOC, all of the conversations could take place within the one platform. The platform developers were also more than willing to assist with the extraction of data and the modification of the interface.

Educators prefer to use OER that requires little modification, for example freely available videos such as TedX talks and YouTube clips, (Kandlbinder & Chelliah, 2015). These were seen as particularly beneficial as “they brought in expertise that didn’t reside with the lecturer” and “they required minimal intervention from the lecturer” (p. 3). However, it was also pointed out that students are finding their own OER. In contrast, other lecturers at the same university had the view that, although students could easily access Khan Academy and iTunes U, they did not necessarily match course aims as closely as their own content would (Kandlbinder, 2015). More than half the lecturers of large classes at the University of Technology Sydney “do not create any additional materials beyond the lecture recordings” (p. 1), most often due to lack of time, and some of the lecturers at the University of Technology Sydney cited a lack of knowledge about video creation as a reason behind their lack of resource creation (Kandlbinder, 2015).

The need to include metadata to improve OER searchability was identified as a barrier for educators (Open Education Licensing Project, 2016c). Therefore, an advanced function to support the input of metadata in a repository would be very helpful, as would an obvious place to input licensing details. One survey participant stated that “unfortunately the repository does not have a visible licence field which undermines our ability to support content in terms of infrastructure”. The ability for a repository to somehow include information about licensing and metadata options, available alongside where to input the information, would possibly also improve educator understanding and ease of use.

4.4 Quality of OER

As reported in the Meso level report, the quality of OER is a major issue and barrier to adoption for Australian academics (Kandlbinder & Chelliah, 2015). In a previous study (Bossu et al.,2012), poor quality of OER was identified as a serious problem, and a subsequent article (Stagg et al., 2018) found that no Australian university had a quality assurance framework for OER. 10% of participants (n = 4) in the present study indicated that quality assurance processes are implemented across their institution, 21% (n = 8) indicated that they are implemented by some departments or faculties, 31% (n = 12) indicated that this is up to individuals, and 38% (n = 15) indicated that quality assurance processes are non-existent. A case study of educators at the University of Southern Queensland indicates that teachers remain concerned about pre-publication quality assurance processes, despite explicit grant programmes and mentoring put into place there (Stagg & Partridge, 2019).

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) was an early adopted of OEP and has instituted a range of policies around OER development and implementation (see Policy section for more information). In the early stages of their OEP adoption, UTAS recognised that there would be a risk to quality and their institutional reputation if OER were not maintained, and therefore highlighted the need to embed good practice from the beginning (Brown et al., 2013). One of the Teaching Performance Expectations for educators in the domain of ‘Excellence in contemporary curriculum design and engagement’, therefore, is ‘Undertakes and/or leads quality assurance and evaluation of curricula, frameworks and standards, accreditation’. There is an institutional expectation that educators are involved in peer review procedures, both for their own work, but also to review the work of colleagues. Staff are encouraged to use the Quality Matters framework and to undertake the professional development course offered, which can then be used in support of applications for promotion.

The course ‘Foundations of University Teaching Practice’ offered by Southern Cross University is a foundation-level program, developed as an online, open-learning, granulated course, integrating a range of OER (G. Wilson, Myatt, & Purdy, 2018). A lot of time was given to the identification of suitable OER, with the identifying markers of good quality OER being “currency, clarity, relevance and brevity” (p. 6). However, the course designers needed to ensure that the OER applied to their learning context, and they also tried to facilitate an environment of reflection on the OERs used. Educators at the University of Technology Sydney were also happy to use OER, as long as they were deemed to be as good as material they could produce themselves and that they required minimal modification (Kandlbinder & Chelliah, 2015): “In most cases, OERs are not seen as high enough quality or not coming as a complete package and therefore required modification to integrate them into their specific subject.” (p. 3)

The library plays a key role in OER development at the Queensland University of Technology, through an optional stage of quality assurance (Stevens et al., 2017). The University Copyright Officer or a Learning Designer can provide guidance to educators on the quality or suitability of OER, as well as appropriate repositories. The library also manages the promotion, education and curation of OER content, including Faculty Liaison Librarians who “provide support and guidance to teaching staff on content suitable for OERs, licensing requirements, and the most appropriate repositories to host the final OER” (Stevens et al., 2017, p. 253), alongside the management of several institutional repositories, such as QUT ePrints, QUT Media Warehouse (video content), and the Research Data Finder (research data). If an educator wants to house their OER in a repository outside of the institution, the repository must enable the content to be open, reusable and shareable, as well as preferably to be licensed under Creative Commons.

4.5 OER Policy

As mentioned in the Meso report, very few formalised institutional policies exist for digitalization, let alone OER development and storage. In their national audit of Australian higher education institutions and OEP strategies in 2016, Stagg et al. (2018) found that no Australian university had an open licensing policy, open assessment, or a quality assurance framework to support OEP, with only 37.5% of institutions having an open access policy. A mere 25% of institutions had an OER and/or OEP policy and 15% had OER/OEP guidelines, despite 65% of institutions using or making OER available. When asked about explicit institutional OER policies or frameworks in the present study, 25 respondents out of 39 (64%) indicated that these are non-existent in their institution. Five people (7.14%) indicated that OER practices have been incorporated in their institution’s current strategic plan, six people (9.48%) indicated that their institution has no plans to consider OER practice in future strategic plans, and fourteen people (20%) indicated that their institution will incorporate OER practice into their future strategic plans.

When asked which actors are involved in OER policy making at their institution, 30% (n = 21) of survey participants provided some level of response. Four participants stated that it was not applicable to them, two participants were unsure, four participants mentioned the Pro Vice-Chancellor’s office or Associate Deans of Education for faculties, one mentioned Learning Design and one mentioned IT. The most involved actors of OER policy mentioned were libraries and, whilst seven respondents mentioned educators in some respect, it seemed that only “individual academics” were involved, or “individual/small groups of educators who are OER champions”. Only one participant indicated that they were aware of an OER policy for individual departments at their institution, with another responding that “unofficially, slight pressure is being applied to lecturers at a very low level to encourage them to consider open textbooks as a cost-reduction measure for students”. Furthermore, whilst 22 participants (31.43%) either agreed or strongly agreed that ‘using OER leads to improvement in educational practices’, only six participants (8.57%) either agreed or strongly agreed that ‘teaching strategies promoting the use of OER are supported in [their] institution’, and only seven (10%) agreed or strongly agreed that the ‘adoption of OER is supported in [their] institution’. The following remarks are notable here:

"We have a distinct lack of policy support across the university to provide _any_ form of guidance related to teaching. Academic use of OER is guided far more in relation to workload, assessment and reporting requirements than any pedagogical needs."
"In the College I work in there is a culture of keeping IP for yourself, sad to say there is little sharing of resources even within our unit. This was a shock for me as the last organisation I worked for shared resources widely, and reaped the rewards, e.g. others shared and developed resources with us."

A lack of awareness of OEP and OER, as well as a dearth of institutional policies, was also noted in the Open Education Licensing Project case studies (Open Education Licensing Project, 2016a).

The University of Southern Queensland have been leaders in OEP in Australia, with moves towards an institutional IP policy, open textbook program and promoting an ‘open first’ agenda (Udas, Partridge, & Stagg, 2016). This also includes ensuring that software procurement is open source friendly. However, a case study of educators who had received an OEP grant (see Change below for further details) revealed that concerns around staff knowledge of copyright and intellectual property policies still abound (Stagg & Partridge, 2019). It is important to note that in many Australian higher education institutions, teaching and learning resources “are traditionally closed to those outside of a course or unit, and ownership is retained by the university – the lecturer must seek policy approval to release course materials outside of the institution” (Stagg & Partridge, 2019, p. 479).

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) has also been a leader of OEP in Australia, with the development of a blended learning model in 2013 (Brown et al., 2013), which saw the beginning of discussions on how to embed OER within teaching and learning practices at UTAS (Bossu & Meier, 2018). The Strategic Plan for Teaching and Learning 2016-2020 then outlined a focus on supporting staff in planning and development of OER, as well as the integration of recognising contribution to OEP through the Teaching Performance Expectations. For example, a Level A academic is meeting expectations by using learning technologies and curating online resources for teaching, but they exceed expectations if they “produce online resources for students, [add] to the online resources and activities available to students or [produce] open educational resources in discipline area”. Despite this, there is still “an overall lack of understanding about the use of open licences and institutional practices in terms of copyright permissions” (Bossu & Meier, 2018, p. 5).

The Queensland University of Technology OER policy was approved in 2016 and outlines how OER is supported and used, as well as the obligations of staff and students (Stevens et al., 2017). It was developed with the input of the University Copyright Officer, Learning and Teaching Unit, Technology, Information and Learning Support, eLearning Services, and various individual academics interested in OER and OEP (Open Education Licensing Project, 2016b). QUT also has an institutional Intellectual Property Policy, which incorporates the use of OER. Before staff are able to release teaching and learning materials as OER, they must first receive approval from their Head of School and then seek approval from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Technology, Information and Learning Support). Despite the creation of policies and frameworks, and increasing awareness of OER, OER use and creation remains low.

4.6 OER Change

When asked how teachers are involved in the technical and informational aspect of creating OER and advancing infrastructure, only 14 participants (20%) provided a response, although two of these said it was not applicable to their context, and three were unsure. The more detailed responses, which are provided below, paint a picture of predominantly a handful of educators becoming involved in limited, predominantly less technical ways.

"Academics are involved as authors in the same way they author non OER works."
"On occasion, academics may provide OER to someone like myself indicating that they’d like to use it. We’d examine the resource to see whether it could be technically incorporated or to repurpose it should the original not be suitable for reuse (specifically, Flash)."
"Educators work with the Library eBureau unit to create open educational etextbooks – academics are particularly involved in the writing/content/subject expertise aspect."
"My understanding is educators play a quite limited role in the technical aspects of creating OER, which is mainly done by the Library…"
"For works in the press and repository, academics are not required to develop new technical skills."
"It is a personal choice. Some stumble upon them by accident whilst others seek to create or use them. There is no overt reward for their development."

Educators at Swinburne University reported creating videos and MOOCs as OER, with some expressing the desire to share their videos, but also to licence them correctly, so as to not to allow their being “cut up” and redistributed. The move of academics at Charles Sturt University to offer two courses on OERu involved a lot of technical and learning design capabilities, which not all educators have (Ward, 2015). This further highlights the need for developing educator digital capabilities, prior to (or alongside) implementing OER strategies.

When asked how teachers are being supported in the technical-informational aspects of OER material creation, a number of participants mentioned being supported by their libraries, including workshops and sessions conducted by them or by OER working groups. Another participant reported that each college in their university “has a full-time learning technologist assigned to it for support and advice. This takes place at an informal level.” Only one participant mentioned the existence of an annual grant for OEP that academics at their institution can apply for, in order “to transform a subject they teach”. They also indicated that their university is “overtly committed to transforming 2 degree programs each year into fully OEP over the next 3 years”.

In the Learning2014 project at the University of Technology Sydney (Kandlbinder & Chelliah, 2015), learning and teaching grants were offered to participating academics, which was primarily used to pay learning technologists to develop resources, rather than for academics to develop resources themselves. A special category was also created in the annual Vice Chancellor awards. “Of the three approaches used in the Learning2014 strategy – recognition, reward and monitoring progress – it was recognition that had the greatest impact on early adopters’ decisions to make a change to their teaching practice” (Kandlbinder & Chelliah, 2015, p. 3).

In 2015, the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) introduced an Open Textbook Grants Scheme, later renamed the Open Educational Practice Staff Scholarship Scheme, which provides funding to academics to develop an open textbook or alternative OER (Partridge, 2015). The grants were developed, based on Fullan and Stiegelauer’s (1991) Theory of Educational Change and Wenger’s (2010) Communities of Practice, which highlights the need for staff to actively participate in behavioural and attitudinal change. Information sessions and direct coaching sessions to prepare grant applications were provided, followed by successful applicants attending fortnightly learning community sessions, to share progress and best practice, which were highly valued by the educators (Stagg & Partridge, 2019).

USQ now have annual Open Educational Practice Grants, with one granted in 2019 for Open Assessment and two for open textbooks (University of Southern Queensland, 2020). However, those responsible for OEP at USQ have admitted that they “have learned that open practice by academic staff needs to be an individual decision but the University can reward and recognise open behaviour and support experimentation” (Udas et al., 2016, p. 338).

Academics at the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Tasmania and the University of Southern Queensland have found it difficult to find suitable OER for their subject, outside of TedX talks and YouTube videos (Bossu, 2015a; Kandlbinder & Chelliah, 2015; Stagg & Partridge, 2019), particularly in regard to licensing and university policy environments. Educators’ limited knowledge about OER, as well as licensing issues, was also mentioned as a barrier at Queensland University of Technology (Open Education Licensing Project, 2016b) and Swinburne University (Open Education Licensing Project, 2016c). This was also raised in a case study by the Higher Education Standards Panel (Ewan, 2016), which suggested “the need to develop the abilities of academics to select and curate content from multiple sources” (p. 2).

Some of the academics at USQ, who were successful in receiving an OEP grant, chose to “[add] value to curated OER by providing an explicit learning design that sequenced and aided students in ‘sense-making’” (Stagg & Partridge, 2019, p. 479). This indicates that educators felt it was not quite enough to simply make OER available to students as they were, but that further scaffolding and guidance was still needed, in order for students to successfully integrate OER into their learning.

5. Conclusion

Educator capacity for OER creation and adaptation remains an area requiring improvement in Australian higher education (Stagg, 2014; Udas et al., 2016). As pointed out by Kandlbinder and Chelliah (2015, p. 3), “the encouragement to use OERs is only likely to succeed if there is an institution-wide approach that makes adoption and modification of OERs more attractive to subject coordinators”. Furthermore, support from senior administrators and at the national level, would also assist institutions in making changes towards further OEP development (Bossu & Meier, 2018; Bossu & Stagg, 2018; Open Education Licensing Project, 2016a, 2016b). Remarkably, evidence is still needed for university administrators (and educators) regarding the advantages of OER and OEP in general, compared with the investment of time and (in some cases) money required (Wills, 2015).

Future Research

A limited amount of research has been undertaken at the micro level in Australian higher education to date, particularly in the area of infrastructure, such as platforms and tools to create OER, and this represents an area ripe for future research, beyond the capabilities of the present study. Case studies, such as that conducted by Baas, Admiraal, and van den Berg (2019) in the Netherlands, are needed to help further answer the following questions posed by the present study:

  1. How do educators know about and use existing local infrastructures?
  2. Which infrastructures/working environments (e.g. tools and platforms) do educators prefer to use to create and edit OER?
  3. Which types of OER do educators prefer to use in their teaching?
  4. Which functionalities would be helpful for educators to edit their own or others’ OER and/or for collaborative work?

Whilst this investigation revealed that educators at most Australian higher education institutions are involved in defining OER quality, further investigation of the role that academics play in this is also warranted, with one respondent commenting:

“I caution against an approach that does not consider quality and focuses on repositories. I think there is much we can learn from innovative educators and work with them to create new digital entities and experiment including co-researching user experience including the students (sic) experience.”

Therefore, specific questions that require further investigation include:

  1. Are educators involved in defining quality of OER and their infrastructures?
  2. Are educators aware of how institutional quality procedures related to OER work and who is in charge of them?
  3. With whom, where and how do educators share OER?


Through conducting a combination of desk-based and empirical research, a number of recommendations are suggested:

  1. National policies, including incentives, regarding OER and OEP are needed (Bossu & Meier, 2018; Stevens et al., 2017).
  2. Consider ease of inserting metadata and licensing information in the development of OER repositories (Ponte et al., 2021).
  3. Explicit institutional policies regarding the development of OER, especially in intellectual property, are needed (Stagg & Partridge, 2019), as well as increased funding for educators’ professional development in the area of OER development and implementation (Bossu & Willems, 2017).
  4. Creating communities of practice that are led by knowledgeable mentors and that facilitate open dialogue and a supportive environment, can lead to enhanced outcomes at the teaching and learning level (Stagg & Partridge, 2019).
  5. Develop and promote a range of free online educator professional development courses on the use and creation of OER, such as ‘Learning to (Re)Use Open Educational Resources’, offered through the OpenLearn platform, and the ‘Curriculum Design for open education’ micro course, available on the WikiEducator platform. Consider offering incentives to staff who complete the courses.
  6. By changing the focus of funding from OER creation to OER adaptation, more academics might be persuaded to change their practice (Kandlbinder & Chelliah, 2015). However, this would also require the further development of educator digital skills and capabilities, especially in regards to moving courses from institutional LMS to other repositories (Ward, 2015).

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Appendix A

Institutional Repositories

Institution Data Repository Address
Australian Catholic University Research Bank https://researchbank.acu.edu.au/
Australian National University Open Research https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/
Bond University Research Portal https://research.bond.edu.au/
Central Queensland University Acquire https://edtechbooks.org/-nazs
Charles Darwin University Research Webportal https://researchers.cdu.edu.au/
Charles Sturt University Research Output https://researchoutput.csu.edu.au/
Curtin University eSpace https://espace.curtin.edu.au/
Deakin University DRO https://dro.deakin.edu.au/
Edith Cowan University Research Online https://ro.ecu.edu.au/
Federation University Australia Research Online https://edtechbooks.org/-Suyx
Flinders University DSpace https://edtechbooks.org/-eEPv
Griffith University Research Online https://research-repository.griffith.edu.au/
James Cook University Research Online@JCU https://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/
La Trobe University Research Online https://edtechbooks.org/-pqE
Macquarie University Research Online https://edtechbooks.org/-HfWg
Monash University Research Portal https://edtechbooks.org/-WgsA
Murdoch University Research Repository https://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/
Queensland University of Technology ePrints https://eprints.qut.edu.au/
RMIT Research Repository http://researchbank.rmit.edu.au/
Southern Cross University ePublications@SCU https://epubs.scu.edu.au/
Swinburne University of Technology Research Bank https://researchbank.swinburne.edu.au
University of Adelaide Adelaide Research & Scholarship https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/
University of Canberra Research Output https://edtechbooks.org/-sQrh
University of Melbourne Minerva Access https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/
University of Newcastle NOVA https://edtechbooks.org/-gZBU
University of New England Research UNE https://rune.une.edu.au/web/
University of NSW UNSWorks https://edtechbooks.org/-jZgd
University of Queensland eSpace https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/
University of South Australia Research Outputs Repository https://edtechbooks.org/-ZjrH
University of Southern Queensland ePrints https://eprints.usq.edu.au/
University of the Sunshine Coast Research Bank https://edtechbooks.org/-ntgk
University of Sydney eScholarship Repository https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/
University of Tasmania Open Access Repository https://eprints.utas.edu.au/
University of Technology Sydney OPUS https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/
University of Western Australia Profiles and Research Repository https://research-repository.uwa.edu.au/
University of Wollongong Research Online https://ro.uow.edu.au/
Western Sydney University ResearchDirect https://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/
Victoria University Research Repository http://vuir.vu.edu.au/

Appendix B

Courses offered by Australian HEIs on OERu

Institution Course
Charles Sturt University Indigenous Australians: the dreaming and relationships to country
Human rights and indigenous Australian peoples
Indigenous Australian histories
Contemporary realities for indigenous Australians
University of Tasmania Social Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age
Understanding Earth Shaping
University of Southern Queensland Introduction to Regional Relations in the Asia-Pacific
Understanding Culture in Asia and the Pacific
Regional Economics in Asia and the Pacific
Tourism in Asia and the Pacific
University of Canberra None currently available
Curtin University None currently available

[1] As provided on the Smartcopying website by the National Copyright Unit

[2] https://edtechbooks.org/-Dhqh, theses are now meant to be stored in institutional repositories, as well as entered into the National Trove database

[3] The OLT has since been closed, see Pitman and Bennett (2016)

[4] Respondents using an anonymous public link were not required to enter any identifying information and may have come from other Australian institutions.

[5] https://oepoz.wordpress.com/

Melissa Bond

University of South Australia, Australia

Dr Melissa Bond is a Lecturer in Digital Technology Education at the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning (University of South Australia) and is a member of the Center for Open Education Research. She also provides methodological and technical support to researchers using evidence synthesis software EPPI-Reviewer for the EPPI-Centre at University College London. Her research focuses on student engagement and digital learning, international research collaboration, the uses of AI in education, as well as the doctoral education experiences of mothers.

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