Survey finds the value of old learning materials
The pre-enhancement survey report for Stellar is now available [STELLAR-Project-Pre-enhancement-survey-report]. Although we have known for some while that there is value in old learning materials as it may be able to be reused in new courses, this is the first time that a comprehensive piece of work has taken place to identify different aspects of value.
Using a balanced scorecard approach as recommended by the espida project Stellar assessed four perspectives of value
- Personal and professional perspectives,
- Value to the HE and academic communities,
- Value to internal processes and cultures and
- Financial and bottom line perspectives of value.
Headline results from the online survey (completed by over 500 respondents) revealed remarkable uniformity of opinion in terms of the value of the materials across all four dimensions; across all departments and faculties; across all respondents’ primary roles within the OU community (academic, academic related, associate lecturer and secretarial and clerical); across the length of time staff had worked at the OU; and across those who were, and were not, involved in module production.
- 89.2% of respondents (501) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that maintaining an archive of non-current OU learning materials is important to the reputation of the OU.
- 75.9% of respondents thought that this should be maintained in perpetuity.
- 90.16% of respondents (504) agreed or strongly agreed that non-current learning materials are important to the context of the history of higher education.
- 91.75% of those respondents who were involved in module production (356) agreed or strongly agreed that when producing new OU learning material, I am likely to look to previous material, whether for inspiration or for potential reuse.
When discussing the personal and professional dimension of value, it was revealed that new academics use the archive of past materials to help bed themselves in to the culture of course production at the OU; that course production was seen as an integral part of the scholarly output of academics; that there was little agreement as to how strongly asset creators felt ownership of the material produced; and that academics and course managers, particularly, had different views of the value of the archive – the former emphasising its historical value and the latter its practical value in terms of reuse. All agreed, however, that the OU produced world respected resources and that that should not be forgotten.
Value to the higher education and academic communities had three components: firstly, that current academics were standing on the shoulders of giants and that to fail to maintain the archive was to remove the opportunity to learn from it, both pedagogically and in terms of course content; Secondly, that it has great value to future researchers and PhD students; and, thirdly, that it forms a great part of the OU’s institutional legacy.
Investigating the archives value to internal OU processes and cultures revealed a reliance on personal or departmental archives. It also revealed four facets of current reuse practices: firstly, that core materials in each subject are seen to be relatively stable and are often published separately from materials that change frequently, thus facilitating their reuse; secondly, a perception that many courses are removed from presentation for business or curriculum reasons and so much current course material is shelved prematurely and could be reused; Thirdly, that there is re-versioning of existing material for new and emerging markets; and, finally, that material no longer in presentation is reused in ways that may enhance the reputation of the OU.
When considering the financial dimension of value, interviewees focussed on four areas. Firstly on the cost-savings to be made through reuse – a complicated calculation, but one that could be made a great deal simpler if the archive were set up in such a way as to facilitate reuse; secondly, that much content could be, or is being, re-versioned in order to generate income; thirdly, that the archive could be promoted in such a way that it enhances the student experience and increases their perception of value for money; and finally, that the digitisation of past resources, while expensive, may have benefits to the academic community.
The report produced is clearly of wider relevance as it assesses attitudes to the value of non-current learning materials. The views in the report may be useful to a range of groups in policy formation. Within the library the data will help to inform the digital preservation policy that is currently in development.
McKinney, P., 2005. espida and Sustainable Digital Preservation.
Society of Archivists: http://hdl.handle.net/1905/443