Chapter 1: Introduction

Free and open educational resources (OER) have been informally on the public Internet in Canadian post-secondary institutional environments at least since 1993 (Swettenham, 2020). However, formal recognition of OER began in 2002 with UNESCO’s (2022) statement that:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others.

The articulation of OER as a form of educational material that is free from cost, having open copyright, and manipulable without restriction, was realised in policy to promote and support OER. UNESCO’s Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER) in 2019 declared that an area of action was to develop a supportive policy (UNESCO, 2019b). This call to action on OER policy aligned with the Ljubljana OER Action Plan 2017 (UNESCO, 2017) that recommended seven considerations for developing a supportive OER policy environment:

  1. Open licencing of public-funded educational resources
  2. Financial sustainability
  3. Incentives
  4. Embed in vision and mission statements
  5. Demonstrate effective use and benefits
  6. A holistic approach and account for stakeholders
  7. Connect OER policies to other open education policies

The Ljubljana OER Action Plan 2017 (UNESCO, 2017) explicitly used OER policies as entities that were different from other open education policies such as Open Access (OA). A distinctive OER policy (i.e., a dedicated OER policy) could be considered as an application of UNESCO’s OER actions for education. Since educational jurisdictions are broad and can include, but are not limited to, international, national, state, and institutional, my research focus was at the post-secondary education level (OECD, 2017; UNESCO, 2012b).

Problem Statement

The adoption of a dedicated OER policy in post-secondary institutions to promote, support, and sustain OER, has largely been non-existent in the Canadian OER landscape (McGreal, 2020; Skidmore, 2019). According to McGreal et al. (2015), “OER development and open initiatives in Canada have tended to focus at the level of individual institutions and concentrate on access and availability issues as opposed to development of practice and policy and/or initiatives to encourage openness” (2015, p. 162).

The near absence of dedicated OER policy in Canadian post-secondary institutions is further evident in the small sample of world-wide post-secondary institutions with a published dedicated OER policy, given that the concept of OER was formalized in 2002 and promoted by many UNESCO declarations (UNESCO, 2002, 2012a, 2017, 2019b). There is a gap between Canadian post-secondary institutional use of OER and the adoption of a dedicated OER policy to support such OER activities. Ebooks and etextbooks are digital materials that can qualify as OER when they conform to UNESCO’s definition of OER (UNESCO, 2022). Hence, a policy that promotes, supports, and sustains OER could be an important consideration for post-secondary institutions and academic community engaged with OER.

Academic open epublishing of free educational resources on the public Internet has occurred in Canada since the early 1990’s, such as the SciTech BBS/ISP (Swettenham, 2020). Furthermore, academic Internet publishing of OER in the form of ebooks and etextbooks has grown in post-secondary institutions across Canada. Two forms of electronic publishing (epublishing) for OER ebooks and etextbooks are offline authoring and online social networked authoring. Thus, two distinctive Internet-based publishing paradigms exist in the Canadian post-secondary education OER landscape for ebooks and etextbooks, either authoring offline for uploading to a web space or authoring online from an Internet-based publishing platform. OOETP is a form of epublishing that involves the authoring of content online from content management systems such as blogs, wikis, and cloud word processors (e.g., Google Docs).

Canadian post-secondary institutional websites that employ the aforementioned offline form of authoring and reading include, but are not limited to, AU Press ( and University of Regina Press ( Institutional websites that have employed online authoring and reading of ebooks and etextbooks include, but are not limited to, BCcampus (, eCampusOntario (, and the former Athabasca University project ( Canadian post-secondary epublishing of OER, such as ebooks and etextbooks for Internet distribution, continue to operate in the near absence of any dedicated OER policy.

A proposed broad description for dedicated OER policy (e.g., documents titled as OER policy focused on OER), is an exclusively allocated “subset of OER policies that are formally adopted public policies that directly relate to OER” (Allen & Shockey, 2014, p. 2), which are applicable to open ebook and open etextbook publishing in post-secondary educational institutions. The purpose of OER in the proposed description of dedicated OER policy is assumed to be primarily for teaching and learning materials. Although broad policies such as OA are relevant to OER when used for teaching and learning purposes, my research is focused on the intersection between OER and policy at the operational level, which this study posits as dedicated OER policy, with implications for the post-secondary education context. Further discussion on the distinction between OA and OER policies is in the study boundaries section of this chapter.

A prevalent OER activity is OOETP, a form of epublishing, has emerged across Canadian academic institutions as early as 2012 (Caldwell, 2022), that is relevant to the OER situation in post-secondary institutions where there is little adoption of dedicated OER policies. Many organisations linked to institutions, such as BCcampus, ManitobaCampus, and eCampusOntario, are involved with OOETP (Burgess, 2013; eCampusOntario, 2017; “ECampusOntario, Ryerson University to Create Open Publishing Infrastructure for Ontario Post-Secondary Educators, Learners,” 2017; Klassen, 2012; Province of Manitoba, 2015). Additionally, institutional collaborations such as the Open Education Alberta initiative, are engaged with OOETP (Brailey & Hurrell, 2021; Weilandt et al., 2020). Although provincial governments such as British Columbia have invested millions of dollars for open etextbooks (Caldwell, 2019), OER production and consumption of open e-textbooks have existed in the near absence of a dedicated OER policy within Canadian post-secondary institutions (see Table 1). According to Hoosen and Butcher (2012):

Despite widespread growth in development, adaptation, sharing and use of OER at many institutions worldwide, very few institutions have yet adopted new, or adapted existing, policies to reflect their practices or to explicitly encourage and formally endorse such practices at institutions. (p. 230)

Internationally, the Polish open e-textbook project found that OER policy could have value as a strategic direction and support for integrating OER into educational practice (Tarkowski, 2016). Hoosen and Butcher (2012) asserted that university OER initiatives were mostly project-driven and add-on, rather than an integral part of institution-wide operations. This described the situation of a Canadian institutional open e-textbook pilot project (Swettenham, 2015a), that now remains as an archival snapshot at on the Wayback Machine Internet Archive ( Thus, an institutional dedicated OER policy could have provided the required support for sustaining the aforementioned project that has now vanished.

Despite the lack of institutional OER policies in Canada, OER production of open ebooks and open etextbooks, has expanded across Canadian post-secondary institutions. Table 1 is a brief overview tracing the emergence of OOETP across Canada between 2012 to 2021.

Table 1
A Brief Review of Canadian OOETP and Open eTextbook Initiatives

Date Event Description
2012-10-16 Government of British Columbia (B.C.) commits $1million to BCcampus Open Education Open Textbook Project which contributed to adoption of Pressbooks (Burgess, 2017; Caldwell, 2022; S. Swettenham, personal communication, July 19, 2022).
2012-10 University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) Robertson Library hosts a Pressbooks site for UPEI’s Open Textbook Project (Landry & Mears, 2018)
2013-04-04 Pressbooks version 2.0 epublishing software is open source under GPL v2.0 license (McGuire, 2013). The readme.txt of Pressbooks version 2.0 source code states that “all PressBooks code is copyright Book Oven Inc.” (Chartrand, 2013).
2014 BCcampus second phase of B.C. Open Textbook Project (“The Project – BCcampus OpenEd Resources,” n.d.; Training, 2014).
BCcampus holds first open etextbook development sprint (Training, 2015).
2014 Campus Alberta Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative (ABOER) 3-year 2-million-dollar funding (Campus Alberta Open Educational Resources (ABOER) Initiative, n.d.; McGreal, 2017; Wikipedia contributors, 2021c). Portion of ABOER was $1,277,537.62 for development projects including open etextbooks (Campus Alberta Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative, 2017; McNutt, 2017).
2015-08-14 Launch of Athabasca University Open e-Textbook Pilot Project –, inspired from BCcampus Open Textbook Project (Swettenham, 2015a). This pilot project textbooks and OER objects were funded by the ABOER development projects grants (Campus Alberta Open Educational Resources (ABOER) Initiative, n.d.; Provincial Initiative, n.d.).
2015-09-11 Government of Manitoba announces program for online open etextbooks (Province of Manitoba, 2015) and partners with BCcampus (“About – Manitoba Open Textbook Initiative,” n.d.).
2016-03 University of Regina Press Open Textbook Publishing Program (McNutt, 2017, p. 20)
2017-03-30 B.C. Government commits $250,000 to BCcampus for support of B.C. Open Textbook Project (Ministry of Advanced Education, 2017).
2017-06-06 Government of Ontario commits $1million to eCampusOntario for development of an Open Textbook Library (Lam, 2018; Ministry of Colleges and Universities, 2017).
2017 eCampusOntario launches open etextbook platform in Partnership with BCcampus (eCampusOntario Staff, personal communication, October 23, 2019).
2018-06 B.C. Government commits $250,000 to BCcampus for development of open etextbooks (Open Textbooks Now!, n.d.; Training, 2019).
2018-07 BC Federation of Students donates $30,000 to BCcampus for creation of one open textbook and updates to three open textbooks (Students Applaud Open Education Resource Funding, 2019).
2018-09-05 eCampusOntario announces Pressbooks publishing for member institutions (“Pressbooks Now Available to ECampusOntario Member Institutions,” 2018).
2019-03 eCampusOntario develops own publishing and library infrastructure (eCampusOntario Staff, personal communication, October 23, 2019).
2019-04 B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, announces $3.2 million to BCcampus for OER investment including open textbooks (More Open Textbooks Arriving on Student Bookshelves, 2019; Open Textbooks Now!, n.d.; Training, 2019).
2019-05 Athabasca University Faculty of Health Disciplines OER (previously Open etextbook Pilot Project) book sites migrated to off-campus commercial Pressbooks service (Swettenham, 2015a).
2020-03-23 Open Education Alberta program (Brailey & Hurrell, 2021; Bratland, 2020; Weilandt et al., 2020).
2021 University of Calgary Students’ Union announces commitment to free textbooks (Pike, 2021).
Government of Saskatchewan commits $250,000 in development of OER including textbooks, workbooks, guides, manuals, as well as audio and visual products (Paul, 2021)

Table 1 highlighted the short time span that online open e-textbooks activities have proliferated across Canada. However, institutional dedicated OER policy to streamline OER has largely been absent in this Canadian post-secondary OER landscape. Furthermore, Canadian institutional OER discordance with policy is incongruent with UNESCO’s OER policy recommendations, such as the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration (2012c) recommendation on developing specific policies for OER and the Ljubljana OER Action Plan (UNESCO, 2017) statement that institutional OER policy “will facilitate OER mainstreaming” (sec. 5. Developing supportive policy environment). Hence, a post-secondary institutional dedicated OER policy could provide the support and commitment necessary for effective open educational practices and mainstreaming OER.

Study Purpose

An aim was to examine a world-wide corpus of dedicated OER policies to gain insights and a rich picture of this form of OER policy that can have relevance and implications for post-secondary education institutions engaged in or considering OER initiatives. Furthermore, the open ethos of the research was to utilise free and open source software (FOSS) tools, freely accessible literature, and sharing online data sets, such as online interactive text analysis results. Furthermore, an open research website ( was used to support the dissemination of free and open data and information to support future OER researchers.

Additionally, the study was aimed at hermeneutic congruency in the literature review and methodology, including text analysis techniques. An intention of this policy research is to inspire change in fostering OER within post-secondary education through dedicated OER policy.

Inquiry Framework

My inquiry is framed by an interpretivist paradigm and hermeneutic methods to explore dedicated OER policy texts from an OER context. Hermeneutics provided a dialectical approach between the researcher and a dedicated OER policy corpus. According to Gadamer (1975), “the hermeneutical rule that we must understand the whole in terms of the detail and the detail in terms of the whole” (p. 258). Thus, the hermeneutic circle provided a circularity of understanding between the context and dedicated OER policy text, whereby the researcher’s understanding of the part and the whole of dedicated OER policy texts was transformed through iterative recontextualization (Wikipedia contributors, 2022c). Gadamer (1975) asserted that “the discovery of the true meaning of a text or a work of art is never finished; it is in fact an infinite process” (p. 265). However, this study is a snapshot such that the hermeneutic process was a moment in time toward finding meaning in post-secondary institutional dedicated OER policy texts published online. These policy texts were distinguished by an OER focus corresponding to the definition of a dedicated OER policy. A hermeneutical methodology provided a foundation for a preliminary investigation of institutional dedicated OER policy. Hermeneutic cycles in the literature and methodology involved actions leading to collection, followed by interpretation of the data which led to further action based on the data (Lincoln et al., 2011, p. 105). The guiding research question was formed from a holistic perspective as suggested by literature on constructing hermeneutic questions (Dickman, 2021; Moules et al., 2014).

Research Design

The inquiry framework aligned with an exploratory design for investigating the research problem to gain a better understanding of OER in a world-wide Internet-based public dedicated OER policy corpus from post-secondary education institutions (Exploratory Research, 2019). The exploratory research was limited to insights, familiarity for future investigation, and tentative results rather than definitive conclusions for decision-makers, due to the small sample size of 28 dedicated OER policy documents (Exploratory Research, 2019; Labaree, 2020). The exploratory design was useful for developing a background, clarifying concepts, and aiding in future research directions, such as applying an hermeneutic methodology from this study towards new dedicated OER policy texts (Labaree, 2020). This study provided the following insights, as adapted from Labaree (2020):

  • familiarity with dedicated OER policy
  • a rich picture of dedicated OER policy in post-secondary education across the world
  • refinement of OER policy for more research investigations
  • direction for future research employing an exploratory hermeneutic approach

Qualitative Research

According to Sinclair and Rockwell (2016g) this study could be considered a methodological hybrid that is part hermeneutics and part quantitative in tokenization of the texts. Although, numbers are used in text analysis, the study is positioned as qualitative research. Maxwell (2010) and Sandelowski (2001) argue that using numbers is legitimate in qualitative research. Maxwell (2010) asserted that “quantitative data can help you to identify patterns that are not apparent simply from the unquantitized qualitative data” (p. 479). Thus, a qualitative exploration provided deeper insights into dedicated OER policy.

A hermeneutic methodology provided congruency with the interpretivist paradigm of a relative reality dependent on the individual (Lincoln et al., 2011, p. 102). Hermeneutics assumes “that humans experience the world through language and this language provides both understanding and knowledge” (Byrne, 2001, p. 1). Thus, findings in this study are the interaction between the researcher and the language of the texts.

Byrne (2001) asserted that hermeneutics is a method of textual analysis that reveals hidden meaning and “emphasizes the sociocultural and historic influences on qualitative interpretation” (p. 1). Gillo (2021) advanced the notion that hermeneutics can be used as a qualitative research theoretical framework. Gillo (2021) maintained that “hermeneutics utilize [sic] the constructivists’ ontology methods in collecting data” (p. 45). Guba (1990) stated that a constructivism paradigm has a relativist ontology such that “realities exist in the form of multiple mental constructions, socially and experientially based, local and specific, dependent on their form and content on the persons who hold them” (p. 27). The interpretivist or constructivism paradigm (Lincoln et al., 2011, p. 102), aligned with hermeneutics for this study of dedicated OER policy as such policy documents are constructed and co-constructed by persons. Guba (1990) stated that epistemologically, the “inquirer and inquired into [sic] are fused into a single (monistic) entity” (p. 27) such that findings are derived from the interaction with each other. Thus, the interpretations (i.e., hermeneutics) from close (i.e., via human) and distant (i.e., via computer) readings were fused into an understanding of OER within dedicated OER policy digital artefacts. According to Guba (1990) in constructivism methodology, “individual constructions are elicited and refined hermeneutically, and compared and contrasted dialectically, with the aim of generating one (or few) constructions on which there is substantial consensus” (p. 27). Patterson and Williams (2002, p. 18) asserted that the role of interpretation in hermeneutic epistemology rejects the assumptions of: unbiased observation, independent observation, and numerical systems as passive data representations. Patterson and Williams’ argument aligned with the assertion by Guba (1990) that, “‘reality’ exist only in the context of a mental framework (construct) for thinking about it” (p. 25). This study developed an interpretation of a dedicated OER policy corpus by using close and distant readings, within a hermeneutic frame; such that interpretations were aimed at providing greater understanding of OER in dedicated OER policy texts, insights for post-secondary institutions, and improving dedicated OER policy.

Close and Distant Reading

Dedicated OER policy documents are artefacts that have meaning towards facilitating the creation and use of OER (Allen & Shockey, 2014, p. 2). According to Castilla (2017, p. 136), a close reading needs to be conducted on text to infer meaning. Various definitions of close reading exist depending on context. In the literary context, close reading is denoted as:

The nuanced and thorough analysis of a literary text. Close reading places particular emphasis on the interrelationships among textual elements (such as allusions, diction, images, and sound effects) and provides a means of interpreting the text and illuminating its complexities and ambiguities. Close reading is often associated with explication de texte, a method of exegesis that originated in France, and the New Criticism, a formalist variety of literary criticism that arose in the United States. (Murfin & Ray, 2018, sec. Close Reading)

In my research context, “close reading, also known as close textual analysis, investigates the relationship between the internal workings of discourse to discover what makes a particular text function persuasively” (Castilla, 2017, p. 136). A common element in close reading definitions is the examination of the internal aspects of a document to reveal the meaning and effectiveness of the text (Castilla, 2017; Murfin & Ray, 2018).

A distinction between close and distant reading is:

While close reading retains the ability to read the source text without dissolving its structure, distant reading does the exact opposite. It aims to generate an abstract view by shifting from observing textual content to visualizing global features of a single or of multiple text(s). (Jänicke, 2016, p. 7)

In conjunction with close reading was the distant reading by computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) that provided such features as term counts, concordances, and keyword analysis of the multi-document dedicated OER policy corpus (Rockwell & Sinclair, 2016). Jin (2017) discussed the fluidity of scale (e.g., zooming between a word to a corpus) in distant reading, whereas close reading operated at a fixed scale (e.g., mesoscale). According to Seale (2018), “keyword analysis provides something more akin to an ‘aerial view’” (p. 467). Digital text analysis provided a way to gain an ‘aerial view’ of the dedicated OER policy corpus. Rockwell and Sinclair (2016) asserted that digital text analysis has a dialogical performance and no a priori advantage in the reconstruction processes compared to traditional methods; therefore, “processes that radically reorganize the text can be a justifiable response” (p. 220). Rockwell (2003, p. 7) summarized hermeneutical principles in the context of digital text analysis as:

  • Text generated by software are new hybrid text that are interpretations in relation to the original text.
  • Hybrid text are analytic, from the decomposition and recomposition process of information by user choices for the purposes of discovery and reflection.
  • Hybrid interpretative works leverage computing capabilities in quantification and visualization of multimedia and transmedia.
  • There is no a-priori privilege to computer-generated hybrid text compared to human interpretations.

A hermeneutics of dedicated OER policies employed close and distant readings to discover insights and a rich picture of the texts. This research adopts the hermeneutic approach that “meaning arises from awareness of contexts and the dialectical relationships between contexts and texts” (Given, 2008, p. 501). According to Given (2008, p. 501), meaning in a hermeneutic perspective is actively constructed, renegotiated, relative, open to interpretation, open to transformation, and varies across contexts, speech, and groups. Thus, this study used an exploratory design with hermeneutics with close and distant reading towards an understanding of dedicated OER policy texts.

Research Question

In this studies’ hermeneutic approach, an open-ended question guided exploration of the subject (Agrey, 2014). Agrey (2014) asserted that hermeneutics facilitates an emergent process such that “open-ended questions establish the territory to be explored” (p. 401) with the advantage of freedom in research approach and meaning towards new interpretations that can develop from the dialogic relationship between researcher and texts.

My exploratory study of dedicated OER policy using hermeneutics had the following holistic research question:

How can we understand OER in a dedicated OER policy?

The research question is in search of understanding and interpretation of the contexts in which the OER phenomenon has been articulated in dedicated OER policy, such as consideration for consistency, commitment, and comprehensiveness of the policy. Familiarity with a dedicated OER policy corpus can reveal details such as patterns in the texts, leading to improved understanding and interpretation of OER in policy for post-secondary institutions.

According to Thomson (2014), an inquiry into OER policy should address what it contains. Therefore, text and context in dedicated OER policy documents form the basis of understanding for addressing the research question (Cunff, 2020). An interpretation of dedicated OER policy provided greater understanding and insights towards the consideration of an OER policy to support OER initiatives. A hermeneutic approach to the study employed close and distant readings of a dedicated OER policy corpus from post-secondary institutions to interpret OER policy in the context of the OER concept. Text analysis was a way of gaining meaning, interpretation, and illuminating understanding of the texts in dedicated OER policies.

Study Significance

Dedicated OER policy is important to guiding, promoting, and supporting the creation and use of OER for post-secondary institutions. There is a gap in research on post-secondary institutional dedicated OER policy. The study contributes to the OER policy discourse by understanding how OER is articulated in dedicated OER policy. Interpretations of dedicated OER policy texts can reveal meaning and patterns that provide insights and perspectives that can lead to the adoption and improvement of this kind of policy to support OER in Canadian academic institutions.

The understandings and interpretations from a dedicated OER policy corpus have implications for post-secondary education institutions considering or have adopted OER, such as consideration of technologies, academic community inclusivity, and alignment with UNESCO OER declarations. Gianni argued that OER policy ensures accessibility, effective funding, and expanded access to quality education (Miao et al., 2019, p. iii).

Dedicated OER policy research offers insights and opportunities for post-secondary institutions considering OER or already engaged in OER, such as consideration of an institutional dedicated OER policy to guide, support, and sustain the Open Alberta Pressbooks Publishing (Brailey & Hurrell, 2021; Bratland, 2020; Weilandt et al., 2020). Furthermore, a dedicated OER policy could be a bridge between social networking (e.g., metaverse engagement) and social authoring of OER, as described by Stacey and Rominger (2006). Producers can be consumers and vice versa in an OER ecosystem, which may evolve in the metaverse. Institutions that are seeking new opportunities to engage learners and teachers may consider a dedicated OER policy to promote and support OER and OOETP. OER initiatives, such as the Athabasca University OOETP pilot project (2015-2019) engaged students as producers and consumers of open etextbooks (Huezo, 2018; Swettenham, 2015b, 2016). A greater understanding of dedicated OER policy could have implications for Canadian educational institutions and organisations, such as BCcampus, ManitobaCampus, CampusOntario, and stakeholder inclusivity, such as students as producers and consumers of OER. Furthermore, Skidmore (2019) asserted that “strong institutional policy supports for open educational resources will protect students and instructors from publishing practices that do not serve the best interests of teaching and learning” (p. 25). Additionally, Skidmore (2019) reported that “eCampusOntario can play a vital role facilitating the development of policy alternatives at Ontario’s colleges and universities” (p. 25). Hoosen (2012) concluded that there “was value in conducting a more in-depth analysis on OER policies” (p. 26). The Open Education for a Better World website (Alsrraj, n.d.) promotes OER policy and research that may benefit from this study of dedicated OER policy. According to Neumann et al. (2022), “the concept of ‘OER policy’ is fuzzy and must be sharpened in the future” (p. 139). Furthermore, Neumann et al. (2022) concluded that “policy documents make a good starting point for identifying policy initiatives” (p. 140). Hence, a study on dedicated OER policy is both timely and potentially beneficial towards improving this form of policy and supporting OER initiatives in Canadian post-secondary education.

Study Boundaries

The focus of my study is on the intersection of OER and policy (i.e., dedicated OER policy) at the operational level within post-secondary educational institutions. Thus, my research examined official OER policy titled documents published online from post-secondary institutions that directly related to OER creation, use, and licensing to clearly distinguish between a dedicated OER policy and the broad spectrum of policies in the OER landscape, such as OA, strategic OER policy, and open education policy. The selection of dedicated OER policy documents provided a homogeneous corpus. The researcher was dependent on the online access to the published dedicated OER policy documents. Furthermore, the policy documents were limited to the post-secondary level which is also relevant to OOETP in Canadian post-secondary education. However, future OER policy research may extend to other OER activities and educational sectors such as, primary, secondary, and non-governmental organisations.

An assumption was that an official OER policy dedicated to OER constituted formal adoption by the same post-secondary institution that created the policy. Research would be required to investigate implementation of the dedicated OER policy adopted by an institution. Therefore, the scope of research was focused on official dedicated OER policy documents from post-secondary institutions across the world that were freely accessible on the Internet and written in or translatable into English for coherence. The aim was to understand and interpret dedicated OER policy rather than investigating a broad policy spectrum from sources such as, OER policy frameworks, open education policy, and OA policy. According to Tarkowski (2016), strong OER policies take into consideration technical formats and accessibility standards. N. Allen and Shockey (2014) asserted that “policy supporting digital learning materials might enable the creation, use or improvement of OER, but it is strongest if it either specifically prioritizes OER or requires the use of an open license” (p. 2). Thus, a strong dedicated OER policy text encompasses both action and OER qualities such as licencing, formats, and accessibility (Coolidge & Nicole Allen, 2017).

The extent that dedicated OER policy was embedded with procedures apart from policy statements could provide a different avenue for future inquiry. During the collection of dedicated OER policies, the Africa Nazarene University (2015) and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (2010) were comprehensive texts that included both policy statements and procedures, whereas the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (2018a, 2018b) created a separate OER policy statement text to the procedure document. Literature searches did not find a dedicated OER policy standard to formalize institutional OER policy documents. Thus, the format and content of the dedicated OER policy documents was assumed to vary with each post-secondary institution. Although there has been research on OER certification (Schön et al., 2021), creating an international OER policy standard could be challenged by diverse global social-cultural contexts that are beyond the scope of this study. Institutional OER policy templates have been developed, such as the free downloadable document by the Commonwealth of Learning (2021a). However, a global institutional dedicated OER policy standard could be an area for future research and development.

OER policy literature encompassed a broad area, such as open education and OA. According to EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (2018), “open education policies are designed to support the creation, adoption, and sharing of OER and the design and integration of OEP into programs of study” (p. 1). However, this study is concentrated on the intersection of OER and policy at the operational level exclusively dedicated to OER within post-secondary education institutions. Dedicated OER policy and open educational practices (OEP) (BCcampus, 2023), intertwine as policy can inform practice, and vice versa (Scott, 2001). Skidmore’s (2019, p. 24) open education policy tool links OER with practice for policy. Thus, the boundary between dedicated OER policy and open education practice policy is more distinct in policy document titles, despite having overlapped open purposes concerning OER.

The discourse on OER and OA, distinguished OER as focused on resources that permit free use, distribution, and modification under an appropriate open license, whereas OA refers to materials that are freely available online, but cannot normally be revised, remixed, or re-distributed (Aubron, 2018; FVTC Library, 2018; University of Mary Washington, 2020). McGreal (2017) asserted that “there is a large grey area between open access and OER” such that OA publications that are used for teaching and learning contexts could be considered as OER (p. 295). According to McGreal (2017), “OA supports open licensing for research rather than education” (p. 297). Suber, (2004, 2004/2015) identified three major public definitions of OA from the Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin declarations or OA BBB. Suber (2004) broadly described OA as having no permission or price barriers to online content. According to Suber (2004), the three OA BBB definitions may include licencing for commercial re-use, with one definition having a no-derivatives option. The literature notes similarities between OA and OER on financial concerns between commercial and education agendas, and common adoption issues within institutions (Creative Commons contributors, 2011). However, the direction of OA is for no barrier access to online-published research, whereas OER is focused on barrier-free content for teaching and learning (Creative Commons contributors, 2011). OA and OER have different motivations and permissions, whereby OA involves sharing research and OER concerns sharing learning materials. Rather than a separation of concepts, Anderson (2013) argued that OA content should be considered as OER. Anderson (2013) asserted that the “focus of this definition on access and redistribution rights has tended to conflate OA resources and thus limited OA to online materials while works can be published and distributed in any medium” (p. 82). Absorbing OA into OER would no longer necessitate distinguishing OA material from OER, as open research publications could be considered as learning resources. The use of OA materials for teaching and learning aligns with the perspective by McGreal (2017) on the purpose and designation of OA as OER. A potential convergence of OA and OER within praxis and expressed in OER policy, could be a future avenue of research. Since the aim of the study is focused on a hermeneutic approach to a dedicated OER policy corpus, OA policy is outside the scope of the current research.

In the open arena OER policy and open source policy have similar motivations in sharing under licence. However, OER policy is concerned with actual and virtual educational resources, whereas open source policy involves software source code (European Space Agency, 2022). Furthermore, OER policy is typically governed by a Creative Commons licence, whereas open source policy involves various permissive and copyleft licensing that are not necessarily free of charge (D. Graham, 2019; Open Source Licenses, 2020; Wikipedia contributors, 2023a). According to Todogroup (2016/2022), “an open source policy exists to maximise the impact and benefit of using open source, and to ensure that any technical, legal or business risks resulting from that usage are properly mitigated” (sec. Open Source Policy Examples and Templates). Although open source software is appropriate to the production and consumption of digital OER, open source policies are not exclusive to education. Furthermore, an open source software could be considered as an OER that produces an OER, such as Qlogo (Sikes, 2017/2022) and UCBLogo (Cogliati, 2019/2022) that are free open source programming language versions of Logo (Feurzeig et al., 1970; Wikipedia contributors, 2022e). Hence, open source policy describes the characteristics and governance of software that can contribute to the creation and use of digital OERs. OER policy aligns with open source insofar as there is open copyright of OER.

Limitations and Delimitations

The dedicated OER policy documents were examined in English language. Text analysis was agnostic for terms in American and British language. A language limitation of the dedicated OER policy corpus was the necessity to translate non-English documents. Three dedicated OER policy documents were exclusively in German language that needed to be translated to English, which risked questions of accuracy in translations. Three dedicated OER policy documents were available in German and English language versions. According to the volunteer human German translator for this research, the computer translation from the free online DeepL service ( produced a coherent English version of the German texts with minor differences in translations such as the word ‘content’ missing from the first paragraph of the University of Graz OER policy (S. Swettenham, personal communication, March 8, 2022). However, literature on language translation revealed other issues surrounding accuracy, whether from humans or by computers (Dreyer & Marcu, 2012; Fu & Nederhof, 2021; Läubli et al., 2020). Hence, for the purposes of this open research, which employs free and accessible tools to manage and analyze policy documents, computer translations of German to English from the DeepL website were used on the German sources of dedicated OER policy documents with inspection and editing by the human German translator (S. Swettenham, personal communication, March 8, 2022).

The possibility of policy guidelines mixed with procedural statements to facilitate OER may bring into question the homogeneity of a dedicated OER policy corpus for text analysis. The homogeneity is in the scope of official publicly available post-secondary institutional documents on the Internet distinguished as dedicated OER policies by clearly identifiable OER policy titles and content exclusively concerned with OER. Although institutional OER policy templates exist on the Internet, literature searches did not produce a global post-secondary institutional dedicated OER policy standard to compare against published institutional OER policy documents.

Additional limiting factors, such as the availability of Internet access to public dedicated OER policy documents and time for research, challenged the interpretation of dedicated OER policy. Furthermore, the software, hardware, and online communication connections were critical to the research process, including but not limited to the literature review in accessing databases, websites, and language translations. FOSS applications, for the literature searches, citation management, content management, text analysis, and office documents, were intentionally chosen for their active community support, stability, non-proprietary, free, open source, and ease of access qualities. This study adopted an open research posture to provide the least barriers for researchers who want to use the same applications and digital documents with no cost or licensing restrictions, and have transparency of the code base (Bromhead, 2017).

An assumption was that the found institutional dedicated OER policy documents were the latest existing public documents prior to 2022. Furthermore, the documents were distinguishable as dedicated OER policies, rather than other forms in the OER policy environment, such as framework policies (Allen & Shockey, 2014). Thus, a world-wide collection of dedicated OER policy documents published online from public post-secondary education institutions constituted the research corpus.

The hermeneutic framework and exploratory design aligned with the researcher’s context in accessing public online dedicated OER policy documents and external situation to post-secondary institutions. Preliminary email inquiries about OER initiatives with student associations, education organizations, and post-secondary institutions across Canada received varied responses, from no comment to very little interest in OER. Based on the low dialog and interest in OER initiatives, examination of artifacts was considered more conducive to advancing the research than interviews. Thus, a hermeneutic approach to post-secondary institutional dedicated OER policy documents published on the Internet was the most feasible pathway for the researcher toward understanding OER in dedicated OER policy, and implications for OER policy in post-secondary education.

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