HomeBy Tony Coughlan Regional Academic, The Open University, t.coughlan@open.ac.uk and Leigh-Anne Perryman, Research Associate at the OER Research Hub, The Open University, leigh.a.perryman@open.ac.uk. Open educational resources (OER) and, more recently, open educational practices (OEP) have been widely promoted as a means of increasing openness in higher education (HE). Thus far, such openness has been limited by OER provision typically being supplier-driven and contained within the boundaries of HE. Seeking to explore ways in which OEP might become more needs-led we conceptualised a new ‘public-facing open scholar’ role involving academics working with online communities to source and develop OER to meet their needs.
http://www.elearningeuropa.info/sites/default/files/elearning_papers.pngTo explore the scope for this role we focused on the voluntary sector, which we felt might particularly benefit from such collaboration. We evaluated four representative communities for evidence of their being self-educating (thereby offering the potential for academics to contribute) and for any existing learning dimension, and we found that there was scope for a public-facing open scholar role. We therefore developed detailed guidelines for performing the role, which has the potential to greatly extend the beneficial impact of existing OER, prompting institutions to release new OER in response to the needs of people outside HE. Download the Document.
5. Conclusion

The public-facing open scholar role, located at the intersection of HE and the voluntary sector, has the potential to greatly extend the beneficial impact of existing OER and to prompt institutions to release new OER in response to the needs of people outside HE, not least of all in the voluntary sector, where resources are often scarce. It is envisaged that a public-facing open scholar, in highlighting the existence of relevant OER repositories and showing how resources might be sourced, could contribute to a community further developing their capacity for being self-educating, self-supporting and sustainable beyond the academic’s interventions. It is also possible that following an initial phase of regular work with a community, a public-facing open scholar may then adopt a lower-key relationship with that community, perhaps using a tool such as Twitter to draw the community’s attention to relevant OER when new resources are released.
However, a challenge to the beneficial impact of this new type of academic may be posed in terms of the time required to perform the role and possible clashes with the demands of paid work for the employing university. We share Weller’s (2011) assertion that the time is now right for universities to start recognising digital scholarship as an important part of academic output, according digital scholarship parity with more traditional outputs such as journal publishing.
Furthermore, we propose that universities should formally recognise the activities of public-facing open scholars in reaching out with OER to the benefit of communities outside higher education, perhaps rewarding such activities through the staff appraisal process or by incorporating this role into the job specification of faculty staff. Should such recognition and institutional support for the public-facing open scholar be afforded, a new role for learning institutions may be on the horizon – that of a ‘benevolent academy’ which takes seriously its responsibilities to civic society. Download the Document.