OPENING UP UNIVERSITY COURSEWARE: LESSONS LEARNED
Many Universities in the world today are faced with the challenge to develop their institutional strategy in terms of development of open courseware and educational resources. There are various reasons for which a University may decide to open its educational resources, including extending reach and access, building and maintaining university brand, reducing costs or increasing revenues, improving educational outcomes, improving innovation and conducting research on teaching and learning [Holland 2014]. This opening of educational resources however increases international competition and puts Universities of small countries using local languages for their courses delivery in a vulnerable position against international competition. In this paper we report on a large scale exercise in one of the leading Greek Universities in developing Open Courseware mainly in Greek and re-defining the institutional policies accordingly. The Open Courseware project is a large scale action aiming at development of open courses in Greek Universities. The University of Patras in the frame of this action developed around 400 open courses in many different disciplines during the last three years. The lessons learned during the process are discussed in this paper, with main focus on technological and organizational problems and pitfalls, faculty reservations and attitudes, and plans on the way ahead. This project has been devloped in the frame of a large scale action that has been implemented in Greek higher education institutions involving development of a considerable number of open courses, mostly in Greek, that were made available to a wide audience under creative commons licenses. The overall budget of this action that was supported by structural European and national funds was around 20 million euros. Most major Greek universities participated in this program, by defining projects adapted to their institutional strategies on open courseware. The platform used for deployment of the courseware is Open eClass an integrated course management system that is actively supported and distributed by the Greek Academic Network (GUnet) and widely used by Greek higher education institutions. Open eClass was adapted during this project to support deployment of open courseware. In addition, Open Delos video server was developed, as well as a National Repository of Open Courseware. The paper outlines the main characteristics of the project, main outcomes, effect on user engagement with learning material, and focuses on faculty motivation about participating in the action and their concerns related to use of local language for course delivery. The findings of the study, reported in this paper confirm that this action, despite the expressed concerns and criticism, has been a positive experience for the University. The number of courses developed, especially those involving video-lectures, exceeded the original plan. Many faculty members adapted their teaching practice to online use, revised their teaching plans and put a lot of effort in developing further their teaching material (slides, quizzes, etc.). Evaluation of the developed open courses is still in progress, however there have been many indications of their positive effect on teaching and learning, as discussed in the paper.