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Open Educational Quality Initiative (OPAL)

What research questions the project addresses, aims & themes

The overall aim of OPAL is to support Open Educational Practice. This will lead to improvement of the effectiveness of teaching and learning by enhancing the quantity and quality of Open Educational Resources that can be incorporated into higher education and further education provision.

Definition of open educational practices: Open educational practices (OEP) is defined as use of OER to raise the quality of education and training and innovate educational practices on institutional, professional and individual level.

Research questions:

  • What evidence is there of an emerging practice around Open Educational Resources?
  • Can we define and identify a model of Open Educational Practice?
  • What are the dimensions that help to define Open Educational Practice?
  • What actions are available to sustain open approaches to education through shared practice?

How the research questions are addressed by the project (methodology and activity/environment)

The project carried out a phased series of studies and validation processes to develop a shared view on quality and practice in the use of Open Educational Resources.

These included:

  • Identifying key projects and contributors across the world;
  • Carrying out a series of consultations to build a set of guidelines and guidance to develop Open Educational Practice
  • Establishing a consultative group on Quality and Innovation through Open Educational Practice
  • Building a maturity model for Open Educational Resources
  • Developing a set of guidelines shared through a public facing website
  • Holding a series of well-attended events to build community and refine results
  • Develop a European Award for Innovation and Quality through OER.

Findings and outputs

The findings were developed through an iterative process with much of the work supported directly by The Open University team using the cloudworks environment. These were shared openly as the project progressed and resulted in:

A public-facing website was developed towards the end of 2011 to help share findings and offer a sustainable path to those working on Open Educational Practice.

This sites supports:

Project impact

The project significantly raised the profile of "Open Educational Practices" as a concept that augmented the more established view of Open Educational Resources as online content that can be used and reused. The partnership combined strong research base with those who are able to draw attention to results and feed them into policy. In this role EFQUEL, UNESCO and ICDE were able to use the work of OPAL to underpin their aims of influencing policy and aiding innovation.

The project achieved impact through:

  • Close working with the EU commission that was well received
  • Establishing a high visibility and profile through events and awards
  • Developing an area of work that is now recognised by others working on Open Education
  • Significant stakeholder engagement in the process of developing guidance
  • Integration with other OER proejcts and activities within the OU and ouside the OU
  • Presentations and papers to show both the research behind the ideas and the outcomes of the project
  • A sustainable website to provide guides at a critical time in the development of approaches to the use of Open Educational Resources.


Open Educational Practice, OEP, Open Educational Resources, OER, Guides

People involved

Gráinne Conole, OUUK (formerly The Open University, now at University of Leicester)

Paul Mundin, The Open University

Patrick McAndrew, The Open University

Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, UDE

Anna-Kaarina Kairamo, DIPOLI

Project partners and links

International Council for Open and Distance Education - ICDE (Norway)

UNESCO (France)

Open University UK (UK)

European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning (Belgium)

Aalto University, (Finland)

Universidade Católica Portugesa (Portugal)

University Duisburg-Essen (Germany - Coordination of the Project)


Part funded by the European Commission Education and Training Lifelong Learning Programme

Start Date and duration

1 October 2009 - 30 September 2011

Research & Innovation