“The road to hell is paved with good intentions….”

Samuel Johnson

This quotation was used to open the report Good intentions: improving the evidence base in support of sharing learning materials submitted to JISC in late December 2008 by myelf, Sarah Currier, Charles Duncan and Peter Douglas. The report offers an historical view of sharing learning materials in the UK, a description of existing business models to support sharing and a discussion around two focus areas in particular – open sharing and subject-based sharing. The accompanying business case tables could be ustilised/developed into a practical tool to help institutions consider existing sharing (and the benefits this brings) as well as providing an opportunity to consider the benefits they hope to achieve and which sharing approaches may be most appropriate for their institution.

The opening quotation aims to reflect the fact that there is a long history of significant work to encourage sharing. The vision has been around for some time – we always had good intentions – even though we didn’t always get it right. Many of the early models to support sharing of learning resources are currently being revised due to lessons learned and a significantly changing landscape. The report concludes that some of these emerging models can support the kinds of benefits that we have always hoped sharing would bring. The potentials offered by open educational resources and social software for Communities of Practice to share practice and materials is significant but there is still a place for more formal managed repositories too.

Of course there are still significant issues around whether academics want to share learning resources – although there seems to be no disinclination to share practice. What is clear is that funders and institutions continue to desire such sharing, not least to reduce duplication, and encourage use of publicly funded resources. Incentives and reward emerge as significant issues, as does an understanding of the likely benefits to learners, teachers, institutions and the wider community.

The timing of the report’s release was less than ideal as Christmas holidays quickly followed, but it has been referred to in the recent JISC call around open content. I would be interested if you have any feedback on the report and possible potential of the business case tables.

The image to accompany this post is actually called ‘heaven’ and is a triple exposure hogla shot on 120 film. It offers a positive future vision for sharing.