ORION: Open Education Resources and Open Practices in Higher Education

September 17th, 2012

ORION is a research project that was initiated in November 2011 and partially supported by a research grant from USQ’s Early Career Researcher Program.

The aim of the study was to explore the extent to which higher education institutions are participating in the development of open educational resources and the adoption of open education practices.

ORION was also aimed at identifying the challenges encountered at an individual and organisational level when considering the development of successful and sustainable OER-based educational systems.

To achieve these aims an OERu compatibility survey was developed as a collaborative initiative between Angela Murphy from the Australian Digital Futures Institute, Gabi Witthaus from the Beyond Distance Research Alliance (University of Leicester) and Wayne Mackintosh from the OERu Foundation.

Many of the questions were derived from a series of interviews carried out with individuals from institutions participating in the OERu network as a component of the Toucans project.  OERu network members also provided input for the survey questions.

Members were directed to additional questions that would enable a contextual evaluation for the partners participating in the implementation of the (OERu) concept. Additional details on the contextual evaluation results are available at


A total of 110 representatives of higher education institutions from  around the world completed the survey. Participants included 12 higher education institutions that are officially members of the OERu network (also known as the OERTen partner institutions) and 98 that are not partner institutions. Institutions from across the world participated in the study with the majority originating from the United Kingdom (40%), North America (17%) and South America (15%), and Australia / New Zealand (9%).

The majority of respondents were practitioners (48%) including lecturers, teachers, trainers, educational designers, and project workers, although 34% were managers, senior managers or executive managers. Universities formed the largest cohort (64%), followed by public organisations, not for profits or other non-teaching organisations (27%), polytechnic universities or institutes of technology (including TAFE) (9%), secondary institutions (8%), vocational training providers (6%) and 3 year community colleges (2%). OERu network participants originated from North America (50%), South America (25%) and Australia / New Zealand (25%). A total of 83 institutions were represented in the results.

The Survey

The survey is available at and will remain open for those who would like to contribute.

The prize draw is no longer available but participants who complete the survey will still be able to obtain an automatic export of their responses which they will be able to use as a benchmarking tool to map the compatibility of their organisations with the OERu concept.

Survey Outputs and Findings

The survey instrument, de-identified data, research publications and presentations of the results are available using the following links:

The results from this research are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The final outcome of the study will be a compatibility indicator for the OERu concept based on a comparison of the findings from the two groups.

The capability indicator will enable universities and other education institutions to determine their compatibility with the OERu concept, by identifying aspects of current policies and practices at their institutions that would hinder or support the implementation of sustainable assessment and accreditation initiatives based on OERs, in collaboration with other institutions.


Open Educational Resources are defined as materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone (Downes, 2011).

Open Educational Practices are aimed at supporting the creation, use and management of OER through institutional policies, which promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path (Andrade, Ehlers, Caine, Carneiro, Conole, & Kairamo, 2011).

The Open Educational Resource University (OERu)

The University of Southern Queensland is one of the founding members of the Open Educational Resource University (OERu) through the work of Professor Jim Taylor (Taylor, 2007; 2011). The OERu is a global partnership in which several higher education institutions are collaborating to offer free learning using courses based solely on OERs and low-cost assessment and accreditation services towards formal academic credit on a mass scale.

The OERu consists of a collaborative partnership between 15 anchor partners, referred to as the OER Tertiary Education Network (OERTen) which includes higher education institutions such as accredited universities, colleges and polytechnics and publicly-funded organisations from around the world.

The initiative is co-ordinated by the OER Foundation which is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that works internationally to support mainstream adoption of OER in the formal education sector (Mackintosh, 2012).

For further investigation or to become involved, visit the OERu home page on Wikieducator.


Andrade, A., Ehlers U. D., Caine A., Carneiro R., Conole G., Kairamo A. – K., et al. (2011).  Beyond OER: Shifting Focus to Open Educational Practices. Open Educational Quality Initiative. Retrieved from

Downes, S. (2011). Educational Resources: A Definition. Retrieved from

Mackintosh, W. (2012). Opening Education in New Zealand: A Snapshot of a Rapidly Evolving OER Ecosystem. In J. Glennie, K. Harley, N. Butcher, T. van Wyk (Eds.), Open Educational Resources and Change in Higher Education: Reflections from Practice, 263-279.

Taylor, J.C. 2007. Open courseware futures: Creating a parallel universe. e-Journal of Instructional Science and Technology (e-JIST), 10(1). Retrieved from

Taylor, J.C. (2011). The OER university: From logic model to action plan. Keynote Address. Open Planning meeting for the OER assessment and credit for students project, Otago Polytechnic, 23 February 2011, Dunedin, New Zealand. Retrieved from