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Notes on policy-planning

Planning and setting objectives for an educational institution include drawing up institutional policy for the different management areas (e.g. teaching and learning, research and community engagement, as well as for supporting areas such as governance, management, finance, administration, human resources, estates, ICT and organizational architecture, communication and marketing etc.).

What is policy? In the context of education, a policy is understood as a general plan of action designed to achieve particular institutional objectives. It will normally contain guidelines for the way in which people
should exercise their powers and make decisions. A policy also reflects the values that will be taken into account when making decisions.

One of the advantages of having a robust policy framework is that it enables decision-making in the numerous instances where we are forced to choose between alternatives that present themselves as

It is suggested that all who may be affected should be involved in the policy-making process.

The value of collaborative policy-making is that it enables all the role-players who are involved in realizing the objectives of the institution to make effective decisions and thus solve problems.

Key steps in the policy-making process include the following:

  • Step 1: Formulate the policy
  • Step 2: Get the policy approved
  • Step 3: Release and interpret the policy
  • Step 4: Put the policy into effect
  • Step 5: Keep the policy up to date
Step 1: Formulate the policy

Start by identifying the intended end results. This will mean asking questions like the following:

  • What is the objective of this policy?
  • Why is it necessary?
  • What will it accomplish?
  • What other policies will influence or be influenced by this policy?

You then need to collect all the information related to these questions for the management area under discussion. You can then draw up a tentative outline, discuss alternative courses of action, identify and consult whomever will be affected by the policy, identify and consult whomever will be finally responsible for the end results and ascertain the potential impact of the proposed policy on the institution and the community it serves.

Step 2: Get the policy approved

Review draft policy for accuracy, brevity and completeness. Ascertain who should approve it before taking further action and the level of authority required for the final recommendation (e.g. senior management for operational policy, senate for teaching-related policy and usually council for overall approval).

Step 3: Release and interpret the policy

Time the release and manner of release and ensure that every affected party is aware of and has access to the approved policy document (e.g. on the staff intranet). Ascertain the ‘ground rules’ for the day-to-day administration of the policy and who administers exceptions to the policy i.e. develop a related set of policy procedures.

Step 4: Put the policy into effect

Designate responsibility, accountability and authority for putting the policy into effect and clarifying administrative controls: who is accountable for the controls established by the policy?

Step 5: Keep the policy up to date

Establish a timeframe for policy review. Then review, evaluate and report the results of carrying out the policy. Ascertain if there is/was any resistance, and where and why, and take remedial action where necessary.

Notes on the OER policy review process

  1. Evaluate the policy framework of the institution

In evaluating the policy framework of an institution, the following steps may be useful:

  • Explain the purpose of the policy review.
  • Collect information about the mission, strategic plans, teaching and learning, and HR and ICT policies and procedures.
  • Establish the context and indicate whether the vision, mission and strategic planning arecollaboration- and OER-‘friendly’.
  • Identify challenges and opportunities.

Here is an example of the findings of a panel that followed the above steps to evaluate the policy framework of an institution (in relation to health OER in this instance). In brackets after the challenges listed in the first column you will see reference to the institutional policy document(s) relevant to that finding:


Relevance to collaboration and/or OER

Curriculum/course materials challenges

  • The panel found that in some departments the curriculum had not been reviewed for many years (2b) – Visitation Report, Executive Summary).
  • Concerning graduate study, the panel recommends: an urgent review of graduate programmes by departments for relevance and breadth of courses... (2d) – Visitation Report, Executive Summary).
  • ...Library...collection of books...is inadequate... (Council Statement,  Infrastructure and Resources p. viii).
  • Development of new courses can be accelerated through collaborative processes, sharing of course materials and harnessing of existing OER – which is an objective of health OER.
  • Systematic auditing and re-licensing of materials can serve as a vehicle to monitor relevance of curricula and study materials.
  • Existing OER libraries can be made available locally and updated regularly without incurring licensing/acquisition costs.
  • The panel found blurred inter-faculty & inter-departmental linkages, with duplication of activities (CSP p. 13).
  • The panel found inadequate and uncoordinated ICT characterized by low access and utilization (CSP p. 13).
  • There was inability to admit all qualified applicants (CSP p. 13).
  • There was inadequate funding for research, partly attributable to poor marketing of research projects and weak proposal-writing skills (CSP p. 14).
  • Policy review provides  an opportunity to be responsive to Mission – promote innovation, and relevant and cutting-edge technology – by taking cognisance of the changing realities of IP management in a digital age.
  • The creation of institution-wide policies around OER provides an excellent opportunity to introduce new systems for more effective management of institutional resources (human & material) as well as its IP.

HR and curriculum/course materials challenges

  • Ageing faculty, high faculty turnover and the absence of mentoring combine to indicate a crisis in HR supply, which could lead to lowering of output quality... (CSP p. 18).
  • The panel found poor work ethic among some teaching staff coupled with a weak mentoring and supervision system (CSP p. 14).
  • Staff succession planning demands effective management of intellectual capital.
  • Open licensing frameworks provide simple mechanisms to ensure that, in the long term, institutions have effective access to the products of academic staff’s intellectual capital.
  • Imposing a discipline of licensing all materials under an open framework will ensure that knowledge products are stored and tagged on an ongoing basis, thus helping to deal more effectively with staff turnover and induction of new staff.
  • There was lack of formal training in teaching, and poor teaching aids/laboratory equipment (CSP p. 14).
  • Weak recognition and reward systems... (CSP, p. 14).
  • Inadequate funding for research, partly attributable to poor marketing of research projects and weak proposal-writing skills (CSP p. 14).
  • There is a need to ‘do more with less’ by rethinking assumptions about delivery systems, curriculum, organizational structures and personnel (CSP p. 6).
  • The process of adapting OER can be used to build capacity in materials creation/development and the use of educational materials i.e. instructional design.
  • Access to high-quality materials packages and supplementary materials of multiple media is essential to alleviate workload pressure on overstretched academics.
  • Investment in faculty by the university is critical – OER is not a panacea to structural under-funding.
  1. Identify key policy positions

For example: Having analysed some key challenges relevant to OER and collaboration in materials development, it is now possible to explore key policy positions and objectives, in order to assess their relevance.

The example relates to this process. You will see reference to the specific institutional document(s) pertaining to the policy position/objective in each instance:

Policy position/objective

Relevance to collaboration and/or OER

Curriculum/course materials positions/objectives

8.6. A digital library – accessible over the internet, operational by June 2009 [Rolling Strategic Plan p. 83].

  • It is essential to define terms of use of all materials within a digital library, which will be facilitated by systematic materials audit and establishment of systems to manage the institution’s knowledge base.
  • Shared course materials and OER can be used to increase the number of available materials in the digital library without significant additional cost.
  • 13.7. Study materials regularly digitized [Rolling Strategic Plan p. 84].
  • Digitize all the study materials and make CDs [Rolling Strategic Plan p. 64].
  • Establishment of licensing frameworks relevant to digitized materials (e.g. Creative Commons) will be essential to protect rights of the institution.

Financial/HR policy positions/objectives

  • Pay writers and reviewers of study materials adequately and promptly based on guaranteed budget from government and student fees [Rolling Strategic Plan p. 60].
  • Reduce time for developing study materials by contracting full- and part-time academic staff [Rolling Strategic Plan p. 60].
  • In distance education institutions, the major activities of full-time academic staff members are to develop new programmes and review the existing programmes, to develop and review instructional materials, to moderate the work done by part-time academic staff and tutors, and to undertake research and consultancy [Formula for Evaluation of Workload p. 3].
  • Definition of teaching for purposes of calculating workload includes:
    • Supplementing existing study materials (once annually – 4 hours per lecture allocated);
    • Writing scripts for radio broadcasting and other ICT media (where applicable – 6 hours per script allocated) [Formula for Evaluation of Workload p. 4].
  • This is a clear policy indication that materials development is considered important by the institution and that there is commitment to investing in it.
  • Policy positions are essential to ensure high quality of materials and effective collaboration.
  • It may be necessary to include specific references to collaborative activities to ensure that funds are set aside to cover the time of academic staff from the institution participating in such collaborative activities.
  • Sharing of course materials with the African Council for Distance Education (ACDE) members may reduce requirements to pay sub-contracting fees for materials development, as it may open access to already developed course materials in key areas of need.
  • University consultancy is work carried out by members of staff acting as employees of the institution. The work carried out may be additional to normal duties for which additional payment over and above the normal salary may be made, or may be part of normal duties for which no additional payment is made [Consultancy Services Policy p. 2].
  • Enabling staff whose expertise has a commercial value to benefit financially as well as professionally from their external work. This way, the institution will also sustain its operations through increased income generation [Consultancy Services Policy p. 3].
  • University consultancy shall be contracted through the proposed institutional Consultancy Bureau (CB) and will be given a formal registration number [Consultancy Services Policy p. 5].
  • As a rule, the institution will retain 20% of the net revenue for university consultancy after deduction of the related declared and approved direct costs [Consultancy Services Policy p. 8].
  • Participation in materials development/OER collaborations could generate consultancy funds, providing an alternative income stream to the university and its staff, and financial returns on capital investment.
  • Consultancy policy provides clear frameworks to ensure that staff participating in collaborative activities and materials development exercises that are over and above their normal workload can receive remuneration for their time spent.

IP issues

  • There needs to be development of a structured system that forestalls practices of plagiarism, infringement of copyright and other forms of cheating among staff and students [Quality Assurance and Control Policy p. 22].
  • Copyright: Students are not allowed to copy and paste text, images or graphics from websites that are protected by copyright, without ‘proper acknowledgment' or permission of the owner of the IP[ICT Guidelines for Students].
  • Students should comply with legal and university restrictions regarding plagiarism and the citation of information resources [ICT Guidelines for Students].
  • Completing a systematic audit of materials and their licences will create a clear legal framework to guide staff and students.
  • Maintaining proper licences that facilitate use and adaptation of materials further supports this.
  1. Identify issues for consideration

    For example: Some key issues for consideration emerge from the above review. These are as follows:

  1. A policy is clearly required to govern materials development. It will be useful to ensure that it takes account of the above analysis to create a policy environment supportive of collaboration and sharing and to ensure rigour in the management of the university’s IP. Some additional observations are worth noting to feed into development of that policy:
    1. The HR management policy must include references to copyright or IP.
    2. Workshop feedback suggests that materials development does not explicitly count when considering job re-categorization and promotion, performance-based incentives and letters of recommendation, and this may need attention. It would be useful if performance appraisal could include contributions of OER.
    3. It is unclear whether job descriptions/employment contracts take account of the need to transfer copyright to the institution.
  2. It will be important to include open licences (such as the Creative Commons framework) when organizing and executing training of staff and course writers on copyright issues and plagiarism. This will serve to deepen knowledge of the options available to manage IP effectively.
  3. It will be useful for the institution to begin its commitment to sharing resources with others on a limited basis in order to test the potential and explore the policy implications through action research.