Chapter 2: Literature Review

My literature review adapted the hermeneutic framework by Boell and Cecez-Kecmanovic (2014, fig. 1), by employing the cyclic processes of search, retrieval, analysis, and interpretation towards dedicated OER policy. The initial cycle of search and acquisition was interconnected by a larger circular analysis and interpretation of relevant literature for the guiding research question of understanding OER in dedicated OER policy (Boell & Cecez-Kecmanovic, 2014, fig. 1). Review of Internet-based literature in English covered a broad range of academic and grey literature, such as articles, reports, books, conference papers, slide presentations, webpages, audio and video podcasts, documents, dissertations, and theses.


The literature discourse on OER policy tended to emphasise frameworks, strategic planning, templates, and initiatives (Commonwealth of Learning, 2021a; Kelt, 2017; Mays, 2012; Miao et al., 2019; Tarkowski, 2012; Wiley, 2016). The literature search results aligned with the reports by McGreal (2017), and McGreal et al. (2015) stating that “OER development and open initiatives in Canada have tended to focus on the level of individual institutions and concentrate on access and availability issues as opposed to the development of practise and policy and/or initiatives to encourage openness” (p. 162). Additionally, there have been many UNESCO declarations and recommendations on policy for OER to promote openness (UNESCO, 2012a, 2017, 2019b). Although few articles have surveyed OER policy in education, such as Butcher and Baijnath (2023), Chikuni et al. (2019), Hoosen (2012), and Skidmore (2019), these reports excluded mention of a dedicated OER policy. However, Chikuni et al. (2019) identified an OER policy type as “OER specific policies covering only teaching material” (p. 167), which could describe a dedicated OER policy. Further relevant material for my research approach was a journal article by Chikuni et al. (2019) that included text analysis as part of a critical discourse analysis on four institutional OER policies in South Africa, which revealed dominant discourses on access, public good, and inequality. Key OER policy characteristics have been identified as forum, scope, and actor (Allen & Shockey, 2014, p. 2). In the context of open and distance learning policy, Mays et al. (2021, p. 3) considered that a policy needed to address:

  • acts of commission and omission
  • identification of relevant field of activity
  • actions and positions regarding providers
  • a normative perspective on intents and actions to influence practice
  • deliverables in areas in which authority can be exercised
  • accessible text in an evolving process of review and discourse
  • ongoing modifications in the process of implementation and changing contexts
  • archiving with related policies
  • the influence of external perspectives

The terms OER and policy have yet to coalesce into an agreement on a universal OER policy definition and corresponding qualities (J. Neumann et al., 2022, p. 127). Thus, dedicated OER policy is posited as a specific kind of policy text focused on the promotion, creation, adoption, and sustainability of OER for teaching and learning to “improve student success through increased access and affordability and support for faculty in providing a transformative educational experience” (Washington State University, 2018, p. 43). Furthermore, OER is protected under an open copyright licence. Thus, literature searches for dedicated OER policy within the broader OER policy arena involved a range of relevant websites, from general academic to OER databases.

Key Search Sites

Key sites for online searches in English included, but not limited to, Commonwealth of Learning Oasis (, Google Scholar (, Internet Archive Open Library (, OECD iLibrary (, OER Africa (, OER Knowledge Cloud (, OER World Map (, Proquest (, Semantic Scholar (, SPARC World and State OER Policy Tracker (, and UNESCO ( Furthermore, institutional thesis libraries were used, such as Athabasca University ( and the Government of Canada ( The Carrot2 search engine platform ( provided a broad array of useful search and visualization options for generating topics and references (Ham, 2021).

The OER World Map database, formerly the OER policy registry (J. L. Neumann, 2018), produced 35 items using the “dedicated OE/OER policy” web form search parameter. However, the OER World Map site provided no further details on the meaning of the “dedicated OE/OER policy” field. According to the OE Policy Hub (n.d.), a project of the OER World Map site, “in most cases we can observe dedicated OE/OER Policies, which focus exclusively on OE/OER.” Hence, the “dedicated OE/OER policy” search parameter was interpreted as policy items exclusive to OE/OER.

A search of the OER Africa database yielded the same 21 OER policy items in the OER World Map database. However, only a few relevant institutional OER policy documents titled as “OER policy” were found in the OER World Map database search results, that included strategic OER policy and open education policy documents, when using the “dedicated OE/OER policy” default category search filter.

Criteria for relevant sources were based on the topic terms of OER policy, including both the full form and acronym. Carrot2 ( provided useful results via an interactive webpage view of topic lists, treemap, and pie-chart that hyperlinked to literature sources on the Internet. Many of the Carrot2 results for dedicated OER policy documents were the same sources found in the OER database websites, thereby confirming the utility of this application to retrieve relevant sources. Additionally, Carrot2 generated topics that provided context and terms for use with broader search engines such as Google, Google Scholar, and Semantic Scholar. Carrot2 produced topics, such as Develop OER Policy and Institutional OER Policy, that provided context to the search results (Figure 1). The Carrot2 and Zotero, free and open source applications, were instrumental in the literature research and citation management. Furthermore, these FOSS applications could be useful for future OER research techniques.

Carrot2 Search

This section briefly discusses the Carrot2 open source application for Internet literature searches. Carrot2 search engine generated clusters of data in an exportable list, pie-chart, and treemap views that provided sense-making to the OER policy subject and enhanced the cyclic search and retrieval process of relevant sources to compare with key search site results. Figure 1 illustrates a web browser window view of the search results for the exact match of “OER policy” in a pie chart as a visual data organiser of multi-level weighted topics and sources with default parameters on February 18, 2022 (Carrot2 clustering engine version 4.4.2 build 2022-01-10). Future Carrot2 clusters may vary, and therefore results presented in Figure 1 are considered a snapshot in time. Carrot2 export results are available for download from the research website (

Figure 1
Screen Capture of Carrot2 Search Results for “OER Policy” (Weiss & Osiński, 2022)

Figure 1: Carrot2 piechart of exact match for OER policy

Figure 1 shows a hierarchical interactive overview of Carrot2 results in the form of an organisational visualisation for the exact match of OER policy (Saskatoon Public Schools, 2004). The pie-chart displays the major OER policy topics at the centre, with subtopics in the outer circle, hyperlinked to a list of sources with related topics. The Figure 1 pie-chart was a visual aide in revealing patterns and relationships (Saskatoon Public Schools, 2004), towards an enriched picture of the OER policy literature. Searching for exact matches of the phrase dedicated OER policy did not produce relevant documents, whereas using the broader terms OER policy produced documents for a dedicated OER policy corpus. Different results were obtained using quotations, such that using the OER policy query produced 120 items, whereas the “OER policy” exact match query produced 82 items as per Figure 1. However, the same sources can occur in multiple topics such as the Open Educational Resources Policy – The University of Edinburgh document under the topics of: University has an OER Policy, PDF Open Educational Resources OER Policy, and Sept 2021. Different queries generated different topics, such as, the University OER topic with 16 sources from the OER policy query, and the Institutional OER policy topic with 12 sources from the “OER policy” exact match query. Multiple queries produced an array of topics that provided different literature sources on OER policy. Although search engines such as Google scholar and Semantic Scholar produced extensive lists of academic publications, Carrot2 was a useful online search tool to generate relevant topics and reveal a rich picture of sources that contributed to the refinement of found literature on the terms OER policy. The retrieved post-secondary institutional OER policy documents were considered relevant for inclusion into a dedicated OER policy corpus as per the proposed definition (see Glossary and Chapter 1).

Zotero Bibliographic Collection

The relevant sources on OER policy were collected and organised in a stand-alone bibliographic management system connected to a word-processor to generate in-text citations and a reference list. The Zotero citation manager software (Corporation for Digital Scholarship, n.d.; Zotero Contributors, 2011/2022) was selected for this open research as a multi-platform, stable, supported, free, and open source bibliographic application with many active plugins such as web browser add-ins and the LibreOffice plugin (Stillman, 2022) for connectivity with the LibreOffice Writer word processor. Notably Zotero has no similar connectivity plugin for other LibreOffice tools such as Impress (Coelacanth, 2018). Figure 2 is a Zotero library window of the institutional policy corpus folder, in the library hierarchy of the research collection, to illustrate the organisational layout and tools such as notes, tags, and related citations.

Figure 2
Screen Capture of Zotero Research Library Default View of Institutional Dedicated OER Policy Items

Zotero Bibliographic Management System Library

Although Zotero is a bibliographic citations tool, it was a useful research organizer that functioned as a stand-alone digital assets management system to collect relevant files and extend file metadata with notes. Each line item or record could include sub-attachments of any file format. Furthermore, fields in the “info” tab could be modified when the web browser citation download was incomplete, such as missing copyright and/or the URL reference. The Zotero citation manager also included a built-in PDF reader/annotator, which could be useful in the future for close reading. The PDF reader/annotator of Zotero (version 6.0.13) imported annotations, but not export annotations, which limited the shareability of the annotation data for other software. Hence, a function to export annotations could make the Zotero PDF reader a complimentary research tool for close reading within a bibliographic content management system and remove the necessity to use an external PDF reader application such as Skim PDF reader (Skim, n.d.) that is discussed further in the evaluation section of Chapter 3.

The process of cycles of search, retrieval, reviewing, collecting, organizing, and reflection involved using such terms as OER policy in search engines, online databases, and Carrot2, followed by reviewing relevant sources manually and adjusting searches with boolean operations. Additionally, the dedicated OER policy category was used to delineate specific from general policy sources within the OER World Map database. Overlap was found in search results between the terms OER policy and open policy, that required manually examining the results for relevant dedicated OER policy. Although the OER World Map, was an important contribution to the literature collection and research of dedicated OER policy documents, the database website has since ceased operation (Community, 2022; Pohl, 2022). Hence, there is an opportunity to develop an online OER policy database or reprise the OER World Map from previous open source code (Open Educational Resources (OER) World Map, 2014/2023).

OER Policy

The emergence of OER policy discourse was found in the Paris forum on open courseware, where the phrase “open educational resources” was first recommended on July 3, 2002 (UNESCO, 2002, p. 24). A later forum report on OER briefly considered policy by stating that “meeting increasing and increasingly varied demand for quality higher education is an important consideration in the policy debate and institutional development in many countries” (Albright, 2005, p. 1). Stacey and Rominger (2006, p. 2) advanced the OER discourse with an OER model that included policy having attributes of funding, collaboration, efficacy, and student focus. An important aspect of Stacey and Rominger’s conference presentation was the association of both OER and social authoring models that could apply to dedicated OER policies, with implications for OER initiatives (Pata, 2014; Tarkowski et al., 2019). Consideration for social authoring in OER policy adds a different perspective on the forms and ways of creating OER in a digital environment and an emerging metaverse context. Although Stacey and Rominger’s conference presentation may have implied student engagement, they did not articulate the position of students as producers in their OER model; rather, the emphasis for students was on access to OER.

The OECD (2007) expanded the discourse on OER policy with attention to the implications of policy for OER. The OECD examined policy issues related to OER and assigned them to different jurisdiction levels (OECD, 2007, Chapter 8). According to the OECD policy matrix (2007, p. 139), the following OER policy issues applied to the institutional level: awareness, faculty support, adaption, intellectual property, quality assurance, technology, guidelines, and financial sustainability. In 2012, the Paris declaration (UNESCO, 2012a) called upon institutions at all levels to develop OER strategies and policies on OER, and specifically develop policies for the production and use of OER. The white paper by Pawlowski and Hoel (2012) used the Paris OER Declaration as the basis for advocating OER policy. The Ljubljana OER Action Plan (UNESCO, 2017, p. 7) extended the 2012 Paris declaration on policy by recommending the implementation of OER policy at governmental and institutional levels to facilitate awareness, funding, research, and practises to support the use and efficacy of OER.

A ProQuest search of dissertations and theses, specifically on the phrase OER policy, produced few results that included a discussion on OER policy (Kelly, 2015). Kelly (2015) devoted a section on OER policy, noting that such a policy was more prevalent in English-speaking regions (p. 36). Kelly (2015) concluded that “opening up the avenues to access quality OER through policy combined with the growth of large and small repositories with a broad selection of content has brought the open education movement to a certain threshold, the next great hurdle is providing similar support for reuse” (p. 40). Although Kelly’s overview captured a sense of the emerging OER policy situation in 2015, further literature by UNESCO reported on national OER policy initiatives and guidelines for OER policy development and implementation (Miao et al., 2016, 2019; Swan & UNESCO, 2012).

Several works have discussed OER policy in conjunction with open etextbooks (Miao et al., 2016; Tarkowski et al., 2016). Tarkowski (2016) considered open etextbooks as an open educational resources policy model, that needed to include licencing, technical formats, and accessibility standards (pp. 165-166). However, OER policies have been more broadly defined in the literature, such as Allen and Shockey’s (2014) assertion that “OER policies are laws, rules and courses of action that facilitate the creation, use or improvement of OER” (p. 2). A similar description of OER policy is found in McGreal et al. (2016) focused on supporting “assembly, use and reuse of OER in an institution or within a jurisdiction” (p. 3). These definitions align with global OER policy statements and action plans to promote the use of OER (UNESCO, 2012a, 2017, 2019b). Allen and Shockey (2014, p. 2) reduced the OER policy components to forum, scope, and actor. This study adopts the notion that “OER policies are laws, rules and courses of action that facilitate the creation, use or improvement of openly licensed content” (Coolidge & Nicole Allen, 2017, p. 4). Furthermore, a dedicated OER policy is posited as the intersection of OER and policy, identified as an exclusively allocated “subset of OER policies that are formally adopted public policies that directly relate to OER” (Allen & Shockey, 2014, p. 2) (see Glossary and Chapter 1).

Sparse Canadian institutional OER policy literature provided an overview and a model for OER policy in education (McGreal, 2020; Quirk et al., 2012; Skidmore, 2019). Although there are many Canadian institutions engaged with OER initiatives such as OOETP, only SAIT was found to have a dedicated OER policy relevant to this study (Skidmore, 2019). Skidmore (2019, p. 24) developed a diagnostic OER policy scan model for institutional OER and practices related to available support. The institutional OER and practise policy scan model emphasised an institutionally centred perspective with faculty and staff, to the exclusion of student engagement as both producers and consumers. Chikuni et al. (2019) and Dos Santos (2008), maintained that OER discourse needed to include collaboration in OER initiatives whereby learners were users and authors. Student authoring was an essential part of OOETP in the AU open etextbook pilot project (Huezo, 2018). However, the AU OOETP project did not have the advantage of a dedicated OER policy that could have leveraged sustainability for this OER initiative, rather than succumb to a short-lived operation as a free and open epublishing platform of OER for the academic community. Consequently, this study and its implications for post-secondary institutions, broadens the scope of discourse for OER policy in the Canadian OER landscape through an interpretation of world-wide dedicated OER policy documents.

Implications of dedicated OER policy in the literature include but are not limited to, consistency, commitment, and comprehensiveness (CCC) with current and future OER policies. A standardised dedicated OER policy document, freely accessible in an open file format, could improve the CCC in present and future OER policies. Past surveys of OER policy were broad, encompassing strategies, frameworks, and policy at government, organisation, and institutional levels (Africa Nazarene University, 2015; Chikuni et al., 2019). Literature and contemporary research on post-secondary institutional dedicated OER policy is sparse. Furthermore, the lack of Canadian institutional dedicated OER policies in contrast with the expansion of OOETP across provinces and territories is a potential gap between OER and policy that can benefit from research on dedicated OER policy texts. Mays (2012, p. 21) asserted that OER policy has implications for augmenting development, funding, sharing, and quality of OER in promoting quality learning opportunities. Isaacs’ (2020) discussion of “OER Policy-as-Practice” (p. 39) indicated consideration for policy to support OER activities at the institutional level. Thus, examination of dedicated OER policy furthers the discourse and understanding of OER in policy for institutions engaged in or considering OER initiatives, with broad implications as per Mays’ (2012) toolkit and insights on the integration of OER policy in post-secondary institutions.

Dedicated OER Policy

Although there was literature on OER policy in general, a gap was found in literature focused on post-secondary institutional dedicated OER policy. There was little academic discourse and research found on the subject and conceptualisation of dedicated OER policy. A white paper by Pawlowski and Hoel (2012a, p. 5) had two instances of the phrase dedicated OER policy as a recommendation for governments and alignment with the Paris OER declaration. An Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) report echoed Pawlowski and Hoel’s (2012a) notion that “there should be either a dedicated OER policy or inclusion in existing” educational policies (p. 5).

Isaacs (2020) stated that “Rwanda’s dedicated OER policy framework identifies skills and capacity that institutions need in order to produce and use OER, and it provides an outline of advocacy campaigns in support of OER and MOOCs” (p. 39). Although Rwanda’s national dedicated OER policy framework document was outside the scope of a post-secondary dedicated OER policy corpus, the phrase dedicated OER policy acknowledged a specific kind of OER policy that institutions needed to promote, produce, and use OER (Isaacs, 2020).

The working paper by Jordan et al. (2021), stated that “a dedicated OER policy has also been developed by the Open University of Tanzania (OUT)” (p. 41), which OUT published online and consequently was included in the dedicated OER policy corpus (Table 11). The article by Ebner et al. (2022) stated that “TU Graz is not the first Austrian university with a dedicated OER policy; the University of Graz (Universität Graz, 2020) published an OER policy in March 2020” (p. 297). Thus, the Austrian institutional dedicated OER policy documents were also appropriate to the study and included in the corpus (Table 11).

Online searching for dedicated OER policy produced OER policy literature from various jurisdictional levels such as, a student association (University Students’ Council, 2016), post-secondary institutions, state-level institutions (Use of Open Educational Resources in Higher Education, 2021; Public Postsecondary Education: California Open Education Resources Council, 2012), national level institutions (Agbu & Mishra, 2017; Fiji Higher Education Commission, 2016), and an intergovernmental organisation (Commonwealth of Learning, 2011). However, a dedicated OER policy definition was not found in the literature, nor was there a differentiation of the term dedicated as an adjective or a “noun as adjective” for OER policy (Noun as Adjective, n.d.; Nouns That Act like Adjectives, n.d.). Neumann et al. (2022) described an institutional OER policy as providing “concrete rules of conduct concerning the development and use of OER within an institution and which are usually explicitly designated policies” (p. 130). Furthermore, Neumann et al. (2022) distinguished OER policy from the University of Graz and TU Gras as “clearly dedicated to OER” (p. 139).

Thus, my study identified official published online dedicated OER policy documents from post-secondary institutions for text analysis and interpretation. Although the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), an intergovernmental organisation in Canada, published an Institutional OER Policy (Commonwealth of Learning, 2011), this source was outside the post-secondary institutional dedicated OER policy corpus. The COL is hosted by the Government of Canada, and therefore is not a post-secondary education institution in a province or territory of Canada (Commonwealth of Learning, 2021b). However, the COL Institutional OER Policy provided a benchmark policy document focused on OER. Additionally, specific policy on a unique kind of OER, such as An Act Concerning the Use of Digital Open-Source Textbooks in Higher Education (2015), is a related kind of OER policy but was considered outside the corpus scope of this study for dedicated OER policy documents at the post-secondary institutional level. Thus, my study focused exclusively on the operational level of post-secondary education institutions from around the world that had published OER policies on the Internet.

Study Corpus

A corpus of 28 official published dedicated OER policy documents from post-secondary institutions was found world-wide from online databases and education institution websites (Table 11). The dedicated OER policy corpus represents the collected files dated between 2010 and 2021. Further research could examine future dedicated OER policy documents published after 2021 and any undiscovered documents that were not part of this research corpus. In example, Appendix D is an addendum to my study that briefly examined a recent dedicated OER policy PDF with document properties dated 2023-02-23, congruent with the dedicated OER policy corpus. The study corpus is composed of the following 28 documents in descending citation order:

  1. Policy on OER integration into ODeL and Campus-based Provision (Africa Nazarene University, 2015)
  2. The African Virtual University’s Open Education Resources (OER) Policy (African Virtual University, 2011)
  3. Open Educational Resources Policy (Central Virginia Community College, 2019)
  4. TU Delft Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy (Delft University of Technology, 2021)
  5. GCU Open Educational Resources Policy (Glasgow Caledonian University, 2020)
  6. Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy of Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, 2021)
  7. Policy for Development and Use of Open Educational Resource (OER) (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), 2010)
  8. Open Educational Resource (OER) Policy (Netaji Subhas Open University, 2017/2018)
  9. Open Educational Resources Policy Number 212 (Northern Virginia Community College, 2018)
  10. Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy for Odisha State Open University (Odisha State Open University, 2016)
  11. Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy, the Open University of Sri Lanka (Open University of Sri Lanka, 2020)
  12. OUT Policy on Open Educational Resources (OER) (Open University of Tanzania, 2016)
  13. C/7.2 Open Educational Resources (Queensland University of Technology, 2021)
  14. OER Policy of Reutlingen University (Reutlingen University, 2019)
  15. AC.2.21.1 Open Educational Resources (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, 2018b)
  16. Policy on Use of Open Educational Resources (OER) (SRI Ramachandra Institute of higher education and research, 2019)
  17. Institutional OER Policy for Tamil Nadu Open University 2020 (Tamil Nadu Open University, 2020)
  18. Open Educational Resources Policy at the Technical University of Graz (University of Graz, 2020)
  19. Open Educational Resources Policy (University of Edinburgh, 2016)
  20. Open Educational Resources Policy of Graz University (University of Graz, 2020)
  21. The Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy (University of Kelaniya, 2020)
  22. University of Leeds Open Educational Resources (University of Leeds, 2017)
  23. Open Educational Resources Policy (University of Passau, 2020)
  24. Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy (University of the South Pacific, 2017)
  25. Institutional OER policy for Uttarakhand Open University (Uttarakhand Open University, 2016)
  26. Open Educational Resource (OER) Policy (Washington State University, 2018)
  27. Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy (Wawasan Open University, 2012)
  28. ZHAW Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy (ZHAW University, 2020)

Dedicated OER policy documents retrieved from institutional websites varied in location, from institutional policy collections such as SAIT and Queensland University of Technology, to stand-alone documents such as the Africa Nazarene University and Delft University of Technology. The Washington State University OER policy was in a section of the 2021 Educational Policy and Procedure Manual PDF (Washington State University, 2018).

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