OER in Australia

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OER Initiatives in OER in Australia

The Survey on Governments' OER policies states that Australia is active in the field of OER. Although there are no national or state-level OER policies at the moment, there are various OER activities at national, regional and institutional levels. A proposal is anticipated within the next 12 months recommending the adoption of an OER policy. Obstacles to such adoption in Australia include suspicions of private schools “freeloading” on publicly funded educational materials, unwillingness by commercial institutions and educators to share materials, and expectations of remuneration. Another problem mentioned by Australia in the implementation of OER is redefining copyright and intellectual property regulations [3].

In Australia, the level of funding for OER is reportedly difficult to estimate as different learning materials are paid for or produced in different way — at a national level, state level, school level, teacher level (teachers produce some learning materials for use by their students and sometimes make them available to other teachers and students) and student level (students directly purchase licences or subscriptions for some learning materials)[3].

An online survey of higher education institutions to ascertain the state of play of OER in Australia was conducted in 2011 as part of the OER in Australia project. The survey was completed by participants from 32 universities (out of the 39 universities) and four other tertiary institutions. Responses from the survey indicate that there is a high level of OER awareness, but low level of adoption of OER and involvement in OER initiatives in higher education, due to the fact that OER practices and initiatives are not included in the current strategic plans of most participating institutions in Australia. As for policies, there is an urgent need for public policies to promote access and availability of OER in higher education section in Australia. At an institution level, the lack of institutional policies to address OER developments is identified as a barrier to facilitate the growth of the OER movement [1].

National OER initiatives

Australian Governments Open Access and Licensing Framework (AusGOAL)

The Australian government is in the early stages of opening access to public data and resources. This is being explored through the Australian government’s Open Access and Licensing (AusGOAL) framework. AusGOAL builds upon the Queensland Government's Information Licensing Framework (GILF), and provides support and guidance to government and related sectors to facilitate open access to publicly funded information. AusGOAL makes it possible for organisations to manage their risks when publishing information and data in a way that drives innovation and entrepreneurial activities, and providing enhanced economic and social benefits to the wider community. AusGOAL is aligned with numerous open government initiatives around the world and supports the Australian Information Commissioners Open Access Principles.

AusGOAL incorporates Creative Commons licences, as well as additional licensing models, including:

  • The Australian Creative Commons Version 3.0 licences
  • The AusGOAL Restrictive Licence Template
  • The BSD 3-Clause software licence
  • Licensing tools
  • An AusGOAL Microsoft Office App
  • The Licence Chooser tool and 'Licence Manager' licence injector software

AusGOAL’s research and innovation sector partner published a cost/benefit study on open access to data (http://ands.org.au/resource/cost-benefit.html). In addition, Education Services Australia (a national body owned by the State Ministers) has education-specific data generated from tertiary research.

Australian Scheme for Higher Education Repositories (ASHER)

Funding for the ASHER program was provided to assist eligible Higher Education Provides (HEPs) to develop their data systems to prepare for the Research Quality Framework (RQF) which has been replaced by the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative. The Australian Government has provided $25.5 million through the ASHER program over three years (2007-09) to assist eligible HEPs to establish and maintain digital repositories. This allowed institutions to place their research outputs, including journal articles and less traditional outputs such as digitised artworks or x-ray crystallography images, in an accessible digital store for a variety of purposes, including assessment of research. It also allowed HEPs to make their research outputs more widely available to other researchers, business and the community. The scheme built on previous Government investment for research and development of data repository technology, the management of user authentication and access, and related copyright issues to improve the discoverability and accessibility of publicly funded research. The ASHER program is a way that the Australian Government shows its commitment to making publicly funded research more readily available.

National Digital Learning Resource Network

In 2010, a national repository of several thousand digital teaching resources - National Digital Learning Resource Network, or the Learning Federation resources, owned collectively by Australian Government Education departments, was transitioned from an FFE (Full Figure Entertainment) model to an OER model using a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC BY-SA). This has allowed increased access to education for the learning community (students and parents can access material from anywhere).

The National Digital Learning Resources Network contains more than 12,000 digital curriculum resources that are free for use in all Australian schools. The resources are aligned to state and territory curriculums and are progressively being aligned to the Australian Curriculum as it develops. The resources are made available to teachers through state and territory portals or Scootle. The tertiary sector can access the content through the eContent repository.

Australian National Data Service (ANDS)

ANDS is a database containing resources from research institutions in Australia. It was funded by the Australian Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR). The funding has been provided through Australian Government's National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) as part of the Platforms for Collaboration Investment Plan. The NCRIS roadmap emphasized the vital importance of eResearch Infrastructure to Australian future research competitiveness. ANDS was established in 2008 to help address the challenges of storing and managing Australia's research data, and making it discoverable and accessible for validation and reuse. It is a joint collaboration between Monash University , the Australian National University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). In mid-2009 ANDS was further funded by the Education Investment Fund (EIF) for the establishment of the Australian Research Data Commons under the Australian Government’s Super Science Initiative.

Guide to Open Source Software for Australian Government Agencies

The Guide to Open Source Software for Australian Government Agencies is a companion document to the 2004 publication A Guide to ICT Sourcing (since updated September 2007). Between them these publications provide a basis for better ICT procurement decisions across the whole of the Australian Government.

This Guide requires that government agencies first consider open source software options when requesting tenders. The Guide seeks to assist agencies by providing practical information and approaches for agencies to consider when assessing open source solutions. Risk management procedures and the different contractual considerations that can apply to open source software issues are addressed in the Guide, as are cost of ownership issues. Understanding cost of ownership issues for open source software is important because, under an open source model, costs are incurred at different phases of the implementation and operation of an information technology system.

Government 2.0

It is an Australian government initiative focused on the use of technology to encourage a more open and transparent form of government, where the public has a greater role in forming policy and has improved access to government information.

Education Network Australia (EdNA)

EdNA is partly funded by the Australian Department of Education, and contained resources for pre-schools, schools, vocational and technical, adult and community, and teacher training. edna provides resources and networks for the education and training community. It includes government and non-government schooling systems, early childhood, vocational and technical education, adult and community education and higher education.

The Le@rning Federation

The Le@rning Federation is managed by Education Services Australia on behalf of the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA). It provides different types of digital resources (learning objects, images, auido, video) for teaching and assessment.

Schools Online Curriculum Content Initiative

This is a project of Education Services Australia which manages the national resource collection and infrastructure of digital curriculum resources. These resources are aligned with the curricula of the Australian states and territories and will be aligned with the Australian Curriculum as it develops. It works with cultural institutions and other public organisations to open collections to schools across Australia and New Zealand. Approximately half of the funding is provided by the Australian Government, with the remainder provided by participating states and territories.


Scootle is the national repository of digital learning resources accessible by teachers across Australia. It is a joint initiative of Australian state governments to create and share open teaching and learning resources for International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 1-3. Scootle provides interactive learning and assessment objects, contemporary and historical videos, documents, photographs, artworks, speeches and interviews, and other teacher support materials. Search results can be filtered by year level, learning area and resource type. The limitation is that the resources are only available to licensed educators and students in Australia and New Zealand.

Australasian Council on Open, Distance and E-Learning (ACODE)

ACODE is funded by the Australian Government to promote the uptake of OER produced by teaching and learning initiatives. ACODE is undertaking a survey (in 2012) to their members (almost all the universities in Australia and New Zealand, plus University of the South Pacific and a few more) on OER, not only focusing on attitudes but also courses, policies and actions, with an emphasis on transparency and evidencing.

Regional OER initiatives

The Survey on Governments' OER policies states that Australian state governments are actively supporting the open licensing of public sector information. Queensland has been leading the development of a process for applying Creative Commons licensing to its content. Queensland’s commitment to open government is reflected in the open availability of government documents (except where this is not in the public interest). In Victoria, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is steadily adopting licensing practices that align with OER. Its licensing framework on its website allows users to copy or use materials for personal use, but does not permit modifications. The Department has also developed its own copyright matrix, which outlines terms of use for various materials. Some allow users to modify materials, whilst others do not. In addition, they have released a range of guides and resources under CC licences. The Government of South Australia’s Department for Education is currently developing resources that will be distributed under Creative Commons licences (CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-SA). The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education has developed several specific interactive teaching resources and released them under a CC licence. The decisions to generate/use OER are made on an ad hoc basis, generally at the level of individual institutions or (occasionally) in relation to specific content collections. The Western Australian Department of Education actively counsels teachers to find and use OER through their preferred search engines, and is currently investigating the issue of applying open licences to materials developed with public funds. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Directorate of Education and Training makes decisions about the licensing of materials on a case-by- case basis, depending on how resources will be used. For example, materials published on the Internet are available under a CC-BY-SA licence [3].

The Survey on Governments' OER policies reveals that different states in Australia experience different obstacles to the adoption of OER. For example [3]:

  • There is a need to provide professional development training to incorporate OER into the curriculum.
  • OER awareness is low in some states.
  • Some states are in the early stages of exploring and developing OER, and it is expected that the movement will gain momentum over time as there is a culture change from “mine” to “ours” and as older resources are reviewed and any missing copyright information and attribution information is added.
  • Dealing with Australian copyright law, which includes a compulsory statutory licence for educational institutions, enabling them to copy a reasonable portion of various works in return for remuneration is a challenge. Issues relating to the scope, administration and fees payable under this licence have commanded much attention in copyright debates. This focus on a remunerated statutory licence may explain, in some part, delays in development of OER and other alternative models in the NSW education system.
  • OER may not be regarded as an urgent priority in Australia, compared to developing countries, as it has a highly developed and reasonably well-funded education sector and therefore may not face the need for free and open resources.
  • In East Melbourne, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) has increasingly not sought copyright ownership when commissioning materials, but has sought a licence for materials to be used for educational purposes, as this is a cheaper option. However, if the DEECD’s rights to use the materials have been limited, this can limit its capacity to make the materials available to others.
  • Clearing copyright problems with embedded materials, where content providers/creators (including students and teachers) incorporate materials with restricted licensing terms, can be challenging.

Institutional OER initiatives

The Survey on Governments' OER policies that in the higher education subsector Australian universities have been slower in adopting OER. However, there is recognition of the value of OER. Several cultural and educational institutions have made content available on a “free for education” (FFE) basis, which generally permits free use but not reuse, remixing or redistribution, as would typically be expected under an OER model [3].

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ)

USQ has a formal OER strategy. The university joined the OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium in 2007. At present, the USQ OCW site offers sample courses from each of USQ’s five faculties and also courses from its Tertiary Preparation Program.

The University of Canberra

The University of Canberra proposed a policy on Intellectual Property (IP) (http://wiki.creativecommons.org/University_of_Canberra_Proposed_Policy_on_Intellectual_Property). Key points of the proposal include:

  • Staff, students and partners retain ownership of their IP
  • IP published through University of Canberra adopts a Creative Commons Attribution copyright license, with an opt-out process triggering targeted education, protection, legal and/or commercialisation services
  • Indigenous knowledge and culture is protected and autonomy promoted.

For more information on this policy visit: http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/University_of_Canberra/Proposed_policy_on_intellectual_property

Macquarie University

The Macquarie E-Learning Centre of Excellence (MELCOE) at the Macquarie University specialises in developing open source software tools and open standards for e-learning.

OER university

University of Southern Queensland (USQ), and the University of Wollongong, are the two Australian universities members of the OER university initiative.

OER in Australia

OER in Australia is run by the University of New England and the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, and Massey University in New Zealand. The project was funded by the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT), formerly the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). The project consisted of a comprehensive analysis of the state of OER internationally and nationally and the collection of national and institutional policies in Australia. A survey of higher education institutions was undertaken to ascertain the state of play of OER in Australia. Key findings from the survey are published in [2].

Another project outcome is to develop a feasible protocol. “The protocol will provide universities and the wider educational sector with an analysis of current policies and resources and provide examples, alternatives, and solutions for institutional barriers to facilitate the potential adoption, use, and management of OER” [2].

ADAPT - Enhancing the teaching of Adaptations through Open Educational Resources (OER)

Adapt will create a repository of Open Educational Resources to enhance learning and teaching in Adaptation studies. The project is funded by the Australian Government's Office for Learning and Teaching, and led by the University of Tasmania, in partnership with Monash University, the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia. Project partners will share learning and teaching materials across the disciplines in the Arts and Humanities to encourage the identification of a community of scholars who engage with the study of textual adaptation in a variety of contexts. The project will be complete at the end of 2012.

Australian universities on iTunes U

In Australa 14 universities and colleges and 8 K-12 schools have a presence on iTunes U. A list of Australian educational institutions on iTunes U by October 2012 is provided as follows:

  • Australian Universities and colleges on iTunes U:
  • Australian National University
  • Bond University
  • Deakin University
  • Endeavour College of Natural Health
  • Griffith University
  • La Trobe University
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • RMIT University
  • Southern Cross University
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • TAFE NSW - North Coast Institute
  • University of Melbourne
  • The University of Queensland
  • UNSW - University of New South Wales
  • Australian schools on iTunes U:
  • Braemar College
  • Catholic Network Australia
  • John Morash Science School
  • John XXIII College
  • MLC School
  • Parramatta Marist High School
  • PLC Perth and Scotch College
  • St. Hilda's School

Institutional repositories

Some Australian universities have created repositories of learning objects. Even though some these repositories support the Creative Commons license, very few allow for redesigning and repurposing of the content, which therefore limits the value of these resources. Some of these repositories can only be accessed by the universities’ staff and students.

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