Eight Steps to an Institutional Plan

Writing an institution-wide open education plan is an important step toward both saving students money and energizing pedagogy. The following seven steps are a great way to get started.

Examine institutional mission and strategic plans

Every institution has described a mission that helps guide institutional decision making. It’s important to align open education to the college’s mission.  An easy way to do this is to fold a piece of paper in half. On one side of the page, write all of the benefits you hope to realize from open education. On the other side of the page write keywords from your institutional mission and strategic plans that you think OER  addresses. When the two overlap, make a note. For example, most colleges have some statement about access to education in their mission statement; open education helps to address this by lowering out of pocket expenses for students. When you are done brainstorming you should have quite a bit of overlap. You will need to reference this document as you begin to write your project goals.

Write project vision and goals

An effective initiative starts with a vision that addresses one or more problems facing the institution. Your Open Education vision statement should be far-reaching, but should be grounded in what your institution wants to achieve in the next few years. Examine the brainstorming you did in step one, and use the overlap between institutional mission and the strengths of open education to decide what you want your college to achieve in open education in the next five years. Once you have established a vision, you can begin to define specific goals that will help achieve the vision. For example, if your college wants to increase student retention through open education, then you might center goals around adopting OER in gatekeeper courses such as English and Math. Make sure your goals are measurable, and consider what information you will need to collect to measure success towards your goals.

Your vision should also be easy to talk about and easy for others to relate to. You will probably start with five to seven goals, keeping in mind that you can revise your goals as your project evolves. See our Open Education Planning Template for a helpful tool in your planning.

Assess your readiness

Once you have a vision and goals, it is a good idea to assess your institution’s strengths and challenges in reaching these goals. There are several ways to assess your readiness. Many colleges engage in SWOT analysis. In 2015, Achieving the Dream developed the OER Readiness Assessment tool. The tool is a helpful way for institutions to consider the many variables related to institution-wide projects such as open education.

Regardless of the type of tool that your institution decides to employ, it is necessary to identify organizational tools and barriers that might affect success related to open education.

Evaluate Policies

Most institutions embarking on their first OER projects won’t want to rewrite long-standing policies. However, it is a good idea to identify current policies and practices that might affect how the project can be implemented. For example, some open education projects incentivise faculty by paying stipends for open education work. In many cases stipends must be negotiated as part of a faculty contract, which is a policy that could slow the start of the process if not planned for in advance. Every college is different, however some common policy and practice issues that might need to be surfaced before beginning OER work include: textbook selection and adoption, faculty and staff incentive programs, copyright, intellectual property, technology and authoring tools, tenure and promotion, bookstore, campus printing services, and any local concerns about outreach to students. Implementing OER for wide-scale use encompasses many college departments, from staff who input course schedules to development offices that seek funding to support OER activities. It is wise to recognize staffing and policy impact early in the process.

Eventually, the institution may want to create a policy to support open education work. The OER Policy Development Tool by Amanda Coolidge and Daniel DeMarte is a helpful guide to policies regarding open education. For further interest in open education policy at a larger level, don’t miss the OER Policy videos from Washington State.

Decide on stakeholders

Stakeholders are people who will work on, benefit from, or be impacted by your project. It’s important to identify who those people are, because getting them invested in the project’s success will help you overcome obstacles. The people who are most invested in the success of open education at your institution will be identified through your planning process. Key stakeholder groups include faculty, students, staff, and administrators. While you might identify large stakeholder groups, such as students, you will need to identify specific individuals within that broader group that you want to engage. For example, if your mission is to adopt open education in a specific department, faculty leaders in that department should be identified by name. As you identify stakeholders, you should also try to identify the best ways to communicate with them, and whether they have shown any interest in open education in the past..

Set parameters for success

Small achievements add up to big successes. As you are defining and refining your goals, ensure that you have benchmarks established so you can monitor progress. For example, you may have as a goal that a whole department adopts OER for its courses, which can take several years.  Benchmarks can include the number of faculty who have received professional development in finding and adopting OER, or a certain percent of overall courses that have switched to OER.  Set your goals by deciding what your college is ready to do, and what will best serve your overall initiative.  Think of meeting your goals as steps to meeting your overall vision, and celebrate your progress!  Share these successes widely within your institution and with your institutional communications office.  

Plan assessments

Assessment of your efforts is a key component of realizing your goals. Assessment plans should include a way to decide which open education interventions are most useful in supporting student success. Many institutions examine student grades in classes that use open education in comparison to grades before open education was adopted. It’s a good idea to review previous studies on open education, and then meet with your institutional research team to decide how to assess the impact of open education at your institution. You may also want to include assessment of student and faculty satisfaction with their courses.  

Communication and Advocacy

Advocacy and communication are important elements of an open education project.

  • How will you talk about open education?  
  • How will your communications strategy differ between different stakeholder groups?  
  • At what point should you involve your institutional communications office?

Advocacy will help promote your initiative and win more supporters. A good advocacy plan speaks directly to your overall project plan and includes multiple short messages that can be used in a variety of spaces.

This article on communication planning from BCcampus will give you an overview of the elements of communications plans to consider for your project, along with tools to help you communicate effectively.

The Advocacy Planning Template is a good tool for crafting specific messages about your project. Please make a copy of the template for your use.