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Forum Neue Medien in der
Lehre Austria, AT
Open educational resources;
training; capacity building;
TO CITE THIS ARTICLE:
Schön, S., Ebner, M.,
Berger, E., Brandhofer, G.,
Gröblinger, O., Jadin, T.,
Kopp, M., Steinbacher, H.-P.,
& Zwiauer, C. (2021). OER
Certiﬁcation of Individuals
and Organisations in Higher
Worldwide. Open Praxis,
13(3), pp. 264–278. DOI:
of Individuals and
Organisations in Higher
*Author afﬁliations can be found in the back matter of this article
The initiative “Open Education Austria Advanced’’ develops infrastructures for open
educational resources (OER) in higher education. One part is the development of
certiﬁcation procedures to point out OER competencies of teachers in higher education
and OER activities at Austrian universities. We present the results of our research on
existing OER certiﬁcation procedures from the German and English-speaking world. We
started by searching in the OER World Map and there listed OER policies of universities
worldwide and then tried to ﬁnd examples for existing OER certiﬁcation for people
and organisations. There are several examples for certiﬁcations of persons such as
in MOOCs on OER, university training on OER or the Creative Commons certiﬁcation
itself. We found only a few references of (partly) OER certiﬁcates for organisations.
The publication then describes ambitions towards openness of the OER movement
regarding possible certiﬁcation procedures, namely open development, open content,
open assessment and open certiﬁcates.
265Schön et al.
Open Educational Resources (in short OER) are open licensed educational materials, content
and formats (Schaffert & Geser, 2008; Ebner & Schön, 2011). International organisations
such UNESCO and OECD as well national initiatives and strategy papers recommend their
development: They are seen as a base for a more inclusive, open, sustainable education and
world (UNESCO, 2019; Orr et al., 2015). Universities share such ambitions and add some more
pragmatic aspects such as that OER is a solution for copyright issues in teaching, that OER gives
new teaching opportunities, or that OER simply supports lifelong learning – and public relation
To support the development of OER in Austria’s higher education, the project consortium “Open
Education Austria Advanced” develops and implements processes to give OER activities of
universities and OER competences of university teachers more visibility: an OER certiﬁcation for
universities and their staff, so lecturers or as well administration e. g. instructional designers.
Within our project and this publication, we understand “certiﬁcation” as the process on how
know-how and competencies of people or activities of organisations are made transparent
through a certiﬁcate, typically at the end of an episode of learning, development or assessment.
The legal framework regulates in the respective higher education area the admission to study
programs, examination law and the attainment of academic degrees, as well as quality
assurance procedures at the level of the institutions. In addition, higher education institutions
also use the instrument of certiﬁcation to highlight areas of focus, e. g. to show that they are
pursuing sustainability goals.
The term “certiﬁcation” is associated with the expectation that there will be a formal
examination procedure, usually by external parties, to check whether certain characteristics
are present, or activities are veriﬁable.
Different expectations are placed on the introduction of certiﬁcates in the ﬁeld of HEI. We have
compiled the following from various publications from the ﬁeld. Certiﬁcation of individuals and
HEI aims or might contribute to
• support a certain topic and its integration in HEI (cf. Hamid et al., 2021; Disterheft et al.,
• let HEI show certain values and ambitions (Disterheft et al., 2012),
• incentivize competence development or activities within a ﬁeld because of the availability
of an external certiﬁcation (see e. g. Roorda & Martens, 2008),
• clear descriptions of relevant competencies or activities in a ﬁeld (tool for policy
development (cf. Roorda & Martens, 2008),
• let HEI demonstrate competences, activities and experience in a ﬁeld, e. g. for project
tenders for third-party funding, cooperation with others, or future students (cf. Nguyen &
LeBlanc, 2001; Ali et al. 2016),
• set a standard of competencies or activities, practically such standards should be high to
reach quality concerning current economic theory (cf. von Wangenheim, 2019),
• an opportunity to HEIs to learn from other HEIs (see Roorda & Martens, 2008),
• a sense of competition with other HEIs that might support activities (Roorda & Martens,
• trust – “In differentiated societies, trust requires delegation to functional authorities and
institutions, particularly in the area of knowledge” (Osterwalder, 2001, p. 38),
• and, of course, to support topic-related developments in HEI, for example quality
assurance (Shutler & Crawford, 1998; Hamid et al., 2021).
In economics in particular, attempts are being made to investigate the effects of certiﬁcation,
and there are also more extensive descriptions of the theory of certiﬁcation in the consumer
goods industry (Bartley, 2010). For the HEI sector, such theory development and studies are
not as common. We can assume that at least some of the associated expectations should
also be fulﬁlled; even if such procedures could also include the possibility of non-identiﬁed
consequences (cf. Tambi et al., 2008)
The objective of this contribution is to gain a comprehensive picture of current activities and
to list exemplary OER certiﬁcation procedures and their business models in order to be able to
266Schön et al.
make the best possible decisions for the development of the OER certiﬁcation process and body
for universities as organizations as well their teachers in Austria. So far, we could not ﬁnd an
existing description of the current state of OER certiﬁcation in higher education.
RESEARCH QUESTION AND STRUCTURE
We want to use existing knowledge and experience as well as potential network effects for
the Austrian OER certiﬁcation. Therefore, we want to answer and investigate the following two
• What is the background and idea behind the planned OER certiﬁcation for individuals and
organizations in higher education in Austria?
• What are the existing procedures for the recognition of competences and activities in the
ﬁeld of OER for individuals and organizations?
The paper starts with a description of our research methodology and background information
of the current situation at Austrian’s higher education landscape concerning OER. We then
present our results concerning (a) a description of the Austrian OER certiﬁcation in HEI, (b) the
results concerning OER certiﬁcation using the OER of an analysis using the OER Policy Registry,
(c) our ﬁndings of OER certiﬁcations for individuals worldwide and (d) results of our search
for OER certiﬁcations for HEI. We shortly discuss our ﬁndings (and ask for additions from our
reader, if known). As an outlook, we present our consideration concerning the characteristic of
an OER certiﬁcation.
DESCRIBING THE AUSTRIAN OER CERTIFICATION
In order to describe the development and status of OER certiﬁcation in Austria, the authors
make use of background materials and existing publications and use them to describe the
current status. These include, for example, the project proposal of “Open Education Austria
Advanced” and the white paper on OER certiﬁcation (Ebner et al., 2016).
THE SEARCH FOR INTERNATIONAL EXAMPLES OF EXISTING OER
These presentations of examples are the result of intense desktop research. Since we assumed
that there are only a few similar developments and that they do not necessarily publish
scientiﬁcally on this, we combined a traditional scientiﬁc search in databases with searches for
projects in September 2021.
We therefore analysed the ERIC database and Google Scholar in September and October
concerning ﬁndings for “certiﬁcation” AND “open educational resources”.
• Additionally, we used the collection of the OER policy registry and had a closer look on the
OER policies of higher education institutions worldwide that were tagged with “capacity
• We as well looked for “certiﬁcation” within the OERworldmap.
• To ﬁnd other OER certiﬁcation approaches outside of HEI we as well used a search engine
and analysed all relevant ﬁndings for “certiﬁcation” AND “open educational resources”
• Additionally, we used our network and social media (Twitter) to ﬁnd all existing
approaches worldwide (see acknowledgment).
Concerning the certiﬁcation of individuals, we have then selected such examples
• where the certiﬁcation is based on a longer training, i.e., longer than one day,
• or on the validation of dedicated OER competences.
In the case of references to projects for the certiﬁcation of OER competences, the corresponding
accessible materials were speciﬁcally searched for (e.g. project websites, publications) and
information on them was collected. In most cases, no further contact was made. In each case,
we searched for information from the descriptions,
267Schön et al.
• which institution gives an OER certiﬁcate to which target group and what the
requirements for the certiﬁcate are, whether participation in further training is necessary
and whether work samples (e.g. OER) must also be submitted.
Concerning the certiﬁcation of individuals, we did not really ﬁnd an example. So, the presented
certiﬁcation example might serve as inspirations as they come from connected ﬁelds such as
technology-enhanced learning. The selection is not systematic.
Before presenting international examples, we would like to present the current situation of
OER certiﬁcation and preparatory work as well as background information on OER in higher
education in Austria.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT OER IN AUSTRIA
Several contributions describe the OER development in Austria in general (see Schön et al.,
2017; Schön & Ebner, 2020), which counted among the countries where OER production or
use is part of government policy (Orr et al., 2015, p. 129). So, the term “OER” is mentioned
for the ﬁrst time in a strategy paper of the Austrian government in the “Digital Roadmap” in
2016 (Bundeskanzleramt & Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Wirtschaft,
2016). As a measure, it announces: “Step-by-step anchoring of digital and interactive
textbooks; making digital educational media and open and free educational content (Open
Educational Resources, OERs for short) accessible; expanding offers for (self-organized)
continuing education.” Since fall 2016, the (then called) Federal Ministry of Education has been
working intensively on the topic of open educational resources. On January 23, 2017, concrete
projects were presented to the public (Federal Ministry of Education, 2017a). The press release
on the Federal Ministry of Education’s digitization strategy also presented a summary of the
digitization activities. Speciﬁcally, in “pillar 4: Digital Learning Tools” the press release mentions
OER as follows: “To be able to teach digital content, educators need easy and free access to
teaching and learning materials. Through OER (Open Educational Resources), content is made
available, and the active use of digital media is stimulated” (Federal Ministry of Education,
2017b, own translation). With a change of government, the declaration has become obsolete,
but numerous OER initiatives are still being continued and supported without interruption.
In the context of higher education, reference should also be made to the European and national
strategies in the ﬁeld of Open Access and Open Science. The Federal Ministry of Education,
Science and Research (2020b) thus emphasises on a website on Open Science: “In times of global
digital change, [Open Science] is an important prerequisite for guaranteeing the constitutionally
guaranteed freedom of science. Austria plays an important pioneering role in this respect”. In
the following list of what is counted as Open Science, OERs are also explicitly mentioned: “Open
Education (including the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in the context of the digitization
of studies and teaching). This means making teaching and learning materials accessible under
free licenses” (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, 2020b, own translation).
The landscape of Austrian universities is characterised by public, inexpensively accessible
higher education institutions of various types: In Austria, most students are at universities
which are publicly funded and can be attended for comparatively low tuition fees – especially
when compared internationally – if one has the formal admission requirements. In addition
to 22 public universities, Austria counts 16 private universities. There are also 21 universities
of applied sciences and 14 University Colleges of Teacher Education in Austria, which are
responsible for the training of a signiﬁcant number of teachers (Federal Ministry of Education,
Science and Research, 2021).
So, as well Austrian policy papers currently emphasized OER in higher education, they are explicitly
mentioned in the National Strategy for the Social Dimension in Higher Education (Federal Ministry
for Science, Research and Economy, 2017) and in the National Austrian University Development
Plan 2022–2027 (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, 2020a).
The corresponding developments are coordinated and discussed, and recommendations are
developed in the “Open Science Network Austria” network, among others (OANA & uniko,
2016). Open Access and Open Science is supported in numerous projects.
Overall, it can be said that these national initiatives correlate with the developments in the
European Higher Education and Research Area (concerning Open Education, Open Science,
268Schön et al.
Open Data) with its steering instruments (i. e. Erasmus+ Programme Guide with its Open Access
Requirements for beneﬁciaries or The EU’s open science policy with its eight ambitions incl.
skills and support for researchers to apply open science research routines and practices).
Despite being mentioned in strategy papers, implementation and attention to OERs is largely
not an important issue from a university perspective. In this section, we would like to show how
OER is becoming an issue at Austrian universities, but rather “indirectly”, and what activities
have been done so far regarding to OER in Austrian universities.
Although OERs have been mentioned in national strategy papers in recent years, only a part
universities mention OERs in their strategy papers. Currently, two universities have speciﬁc OER
policies (University of Graz, 2020; Graz University of Technology, 2020). Another OER policy is in
progress at the University of Innsbruck. In meetings of our project and of the Austria-wide special
interest group for OER we have tried to describe and iteratively developed the perspectives on OER
from universities in Austria. Based on discussions with university representatives, the impression
arises, that some Austrian universities deal with OER “indirectly” because they see it as an aid in
digital teaching, open education and open science (see
). Nevertheless, the universities
proﬁt and promote OER as well from general effects on for example democratization of learning,
sustainability or reputation. The ﬁgure shows that not OER stands in the focus and wished result,
but it is seen as a valuable measure to address, and reach wished effects and possibilities. A similar
presentation of OER strategies in universities with a focus on their envisaged organisational changes
was published by Schaffert (2010), which did not include requirements of open science then.
Many of the universities implemented OER as part of their internal training for lecturers,
but there are different ways of activities – and not all are mentioned in the performance
agreements anyway. We give some examples for activities: The University of Graz, for example,
is the ﬁrst Austrian university demonstrating an OER policy, by a decision of the Rectorate in
March 2020. Graz University of Technology has already implemented a systematic technical
support for the OER publication process: A special feature of Graz University of Technology is
that (exclusively) with the acquisition of an OER certiﬁcate, which is comparable to the fnma
whitepaper, lecturers also receive the authorization to publish their materials as OER in the
OER-repository (Ladurner et al., 2020). At the University of Innsbruck, the development of an
OER repository is accompanied by training for lecturers. An Austrian referatory for OER from
higher education is hosted and developed by the University of Vienna (OERhub.at), building upon
the experiences of their repository Phaidra (Marksteiner, 2008).
Besides these activities from public universities, OER plays as well as a role for University
Colleges of Teacher Education, as several OER projects addressing schoolteachers are existing.
For example, University Colleges of Teacher Education are creating OER materials for computer
science education. These include the OER textbook on Microbit or task cards on coding and
Figure 1 Perspective of
Austrian universities on
Open Educational Resources.
Developed with the OEAA
project team and special
interest group OER of fnma.
Source: Schön et al. (2021),
269Schön et al.
robotics. (Bachinger & Teuﬂ, 2018; Pädagogische Hochschule Niederösterreich, 2019).
Nevertheless, OER plays not an important part of curricula or strategies so far.
The third form of universities, so-called “Universities of Applied Science”, are not bound to
national policies, and follow very diverse approaches concerning OER. Some have already
OER activities nevertheless: The University of Applied Science Carinthia has already started
an intense training for 20 of their lecturers in 2019, interrupted by the closure of universities
facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic (see Ebner et al., 2020).
DESCRIPTION OF THE OER CERTIFICATION DEVELOPMENT WITHIN THE
“OPEN EDUCATION AUSTRIA ADVANCED” PROJECT
Within the framework of the project “Open Education Austria Advanced” under the project
management of the University of Vienna, various existing initiatives of the participating
institutions in the ﬁeld of OER, for example the establishment of an Austria-wide OER department
and university repositories, will be continued and intensiﬁed (see Ladurner et al., 2020). A sub-
project of the initiative “Open Education Austria Advanced” is entitled “Establishment of the
national OER certiﬁcation body”. With the support of the project partners, the “Forum Neue
Medien in der Lehre Austria” (fnma) will establish the national OER certiﬁcation body and
processes. The necessary procedures and processes will be set up and put into practice in close
cooperation with all Austrian stakeholders: All Austrian universities should be able to carry out
the certiﬁcation of both their lecturers and the university itself within the project period.
The whitepaper on OER certiﬁcation by “Forum neue Medien in der Lehre Austria” (fnma) is the
non-binding basis for the design of the certiﬁcation body: In 2017, the special interest group
“Open Educational Resources” of fnma published the “Concept OER Certiﬁcation at Austrian
Universities” (Ebner et al., 2017; Ebner, 2018). The concept is based on the “Recommendations
for the Integration of Open Educational Resources at Universities in Austria” (Ebner et al., 2016a,
Ebner et al., 2016b) published in 2016 by the same special interest group. The concept for OER
certiﬁcation sketches the certiﬁcation of both teachers and universities. It also recommended
the creation of a national certiﬁcation body.
So, the criteria for the OER certiﬁcates for universities and their staff (teachers and other staff at
universities) have been developed in a national special interest group and are (still) the basis for
the ongoing development (Ebner et al., 2017). For individuals (working title: “OER Expert – Proof
of competence in open educational resources for experts”) the following criteria are deﬁned:
• Participation in an OER training measure in the scope of one ETCS (25 hours, alternative
validation procedures are under development)
• Publication of three OER
The special interest group also deﬁned the following criteria for universities (working title: “OER
• The university has a corresponding OER qualiﬁcation offer and is publicly/strategically
committed to free educational resources (“OER Policy”).
• The university has a deﬁned number of OER-certiﬁed lecturers.
• The university offers its own OER repository (or a suitable network solution in cooperation
with other universities) in which OERs can be deposited.
The planned OER certiﬁcation thus corresponds to the recommendations and request for actions
in the UNESCO OER declaration (2019). So, the OER certiﬁcation for individuals and the therefore
needed further education in HEI contributes to the recommend action of “providing systematic
and continuous capacity building (in-service and pre-service) on how to create, access, make
available, re-use, adapt, and redistribute OER as an integral part of training programmes at all
levels of education, including assistance in initial training programmes for educators.” (III, i, b).
The planned OER certiﬁcation for higher education institutions in Austria and the criteria of
an offer of further education for staff members and a certain number of staff with an OER
certiﬁcations addresses the same demand. Additionally, the criteria for OER certiﬁcation of HEI
as well addresses further actions suggested by the OER recommendation of UNESCO (2019)
270Schön et al.
• support the development or use of OER repositories, so that “OER can be easily found,
accessed, re-used, adapted and redistributed in a safe, secure and privacy-protected
mode” (see III, i, d) and it
• encourage HEI to develop “policy frameworks to stimulate the creation, access, re-use,
re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution of quality OER” (see III, ii, b)
The aim of the OER certiﬁcation work package is now to develop a convincing, transparent and
recognized procedure with which it is possible to sustainably promote and make OER activities
and OER competencies at Austria’s universities visible. We would like to avoid an unnecessarily
complex and expensive procedure with extensive documentation work and at the same time
develop a business model that enables the long-term operation of a certiﬁcation body beyond
the end of the project (after 03/2024). While the criteria for certiﬁcation have already been
described, we are currently working on sketches of the processes, designing an appropriate
digital environment and discussing the implementation of the actual certiﬁcate.
In order to increase the effect and incentives for the certiﬁcate, it is planned in the development
to meet as many standards as possible and thus to create compatibility with national and
international initiatives and certiﬁcates, among other things by considering the quality
standards of the German Association for University Didactics.
An initial implementation concept was drawn in 2021 with the involvement of stakeholders,
interested persons and universities, and details are currently under development and will be
tested in detail by spring 2023. The ﬁrst ofﬁcial certiﬁcates will be issued in 2022.
Learning objectives and activities for can be derived from the existing frameworks for OER
competences. Nascimbeni & Burgos (2016) provide an introduction and considerations into
a competency framework. A French-speaking consortium published an OER competence
framework in 2016, which UNESCO translated into English (Organisation international de la
francophonie, 2016a), and a trainer’s guide was also presented (Organisation international
de la francophonie, 2016a). A current contribution by Ehlers & Bonaudo (2020), who have
described the requirements in the form of a competence proﬁle for “Open Educators”, may also
be helpful here. Here one of two components is “OER competence”. This in turn is described as
(p. 73ff): Use open licenses, search for OER create, revise and rearrange OER, share OER.
Bearning in mind those frameworks a qualiﬁcation description was drafted for the Austrian
OER certiﬁcation in the ﬁrst year of the project and discussed and adapted in several rounds
with stakeholders: “The certiﬁcate holder can ﬁnd, create, revise, remix and publish openly
licensed educational resources (OER) independently and on his/her own responsibility, taking
into account his/her professional disciplinary and didactic expertise.”
We aim those individuals who will receive the OER certiﬁcate should have achieved the following
1. I can name and use different open licenses and their requirements and differences.
2. I can ﬁnd openly licensed educational resources (OER).
3. I can create, revise and remix OER.
4. I can publish OER and make them available to other teachers.
In the last few years, the universities in the project consortium have already carried out further
training in line with the criteria, so that there are about 20 to 50 people who can receive the OER
certiﬁcate from fnma. Further training is also being carried out and planned now; the project is
also supporting here, for example, with the new production of a MOOC for OER in HE.
EXISTING OER CERTIFICATION IN HEI ACCORDING TO THE OER POLICY
REGISTRY (SEPTEMBER 2020)
We tried to ﬁnd existing OER training and potential certiﬁcations for university lecturers as well
in the worldwide collection of OER activities: The organization Creative Commons has started
to collect OER policies. Since 2018 the “OER Policy Registry” is part of the project “OER World
Map” (Wikipedia, 2020).
gives an overview of the 141 OER policies of the higher education sector collected in the
OER Worldmap (as of December 2020).
According to our analysis (September 2020), we found four OER policies from outside Austria
of single universities which were tagged with “capacity building” which we saw as a sign for
activities in the ﬁeld of further education of lecturers.
The University of the South Paciﬁc (2017) speciﬁcally mentions further training as a measure
for “capacity building” (p. 2): Capacity building and professional development of staff in the
integration of OER in teaching and learning will be organized and coordinated […] Staff engaged
in the creation and adoption of OER shall be duly recognized as part of the Quality of Research
and Quality of Teaching criteria and policies at the University“. The OER policy for the Open
University of Tanzania (2016) mentions training for teachers (but no special certiﬁcation as
well). The other two ﬁndings of OER policies in higher education on an institutional level were
less disappointing concerning our aim: We could not ﬁnd the expected reference concerning
training activities (Hochschule Reutlingen, 2019) nor a current URL of the OER policy at all
(University of South Africa).
So, the following examples for OER training and certiﬁcation were primarily detected with
research in literature databases, the Web as well throughout networks and are only partly
related to the ﬁeld of higher education.
OER CERTIFICATION OF INDIVIDUALS WORLDWIDE
In our research, we found several shorter workshops at HEI where attendance can be veriﬁed
with a certiﬁcate of attendance. One example is the workshop “Using Open Educational
Resources for Teaching” at the FU Berlin (2020), which is offered as part of a university didactic
program. OER certiﬁcates based on longer trainings (more than one day) that focus on OER are
much less common (see
) and will be described in the following paragraphs.
TITLE (DESCRIPTION) PROVIDER (COUNTRY) PARTICIPATION
a) “COER13 hOERer”
and “COER13 wOERker”
b) Certiﬁcates of COER15, COER16,
COER17, COER18, COER19
c) “Certiﬁed OER Expert BDVT”
Association (Germany) ■ ■
d) “Certiﬁcate as a Mural”
University of Guadalajara,
e) Opening up Education in
(course and peer-based
UNIMED – Mediterranean
Universities Union and
■ ■ ■
f) Master in Leadership
in Open Education
University of Nova Gorica
(Slovenia) ■ ■ ■
g) Creative Commons
(USA) ■ ■ ■
Table 1 Overview of selected
identiﬁed OER certiﬁcates for
individuals and basis of their
Figure 2 Overview of the
141 OER policies of the
higher education sector in
the OER Worldmap (as of
December 2020). Source:
score &language=en &ﬁlter.
272Schön et al.
Some certiﬁcates base on massive open online courses (in short MOOC, McAuley et al., 2010),
which are conducted on the topic of the OER and end with a certiﬁcate.
a) COER13 is the abbreviation for the ﬁrst German-language open online course (C) on OER
that was conducted in 2013 (Arnold et al., 2015). While the course communication and inputs
from the organizers were collected centrally on a homepage (not within a course platform),
a software was used to collect comments on the web, which were marked with the hashtag
#coer13. The unit included live events, which were afterwards available as recordings, ready-
made videos and action-oriented tasks. Those who wanted a ﬁnal certiﬁcate for pure “listeners”
of the course, which is a rather passive participation, could contact the organizer and received a
certiﬁcate for COER13 titled “hOERer” (a pun from “to hear” and OER in German). Anyone who
could provide evidence of corresponding self-made OER projects could have this checked by
the organizers and apply for the certiﬁcate “COER wOERker” (a German-English pun from “to
work” and OER). COER13 was offered and carried out based on free cooperation without further
funding by several partners in the German-speaking world, that means through own resources
or voluntary work. COER13 was later awarded a trophy at the German OER Festival in 2016 as
an outstanding project on “OER about OER” by the German UNESCO (e-Teaching.org, 2020).
b) For the ﬁrst time in 2015, a new version of COER was offered on the xMOOC platform iMooX.at,
and was repeated in a similar, partly modiﬁed way, also by the MOOC platform of the FH-Lübeck.
In 2017 the same online course was offered simultaneously on both platforms (Ebner et al.,
2016c). A variant of the course, which is now mainly aimed at teachers in universities, was run
on iMooX in 2019 as part of the “Open Education Austria” project. On both platforms, quizzes
must be successfully completed for each unit. On iMooX.at this is possible up to ﬁve times, then
75 percent of the points must be reached to download the certiﬁcate (as pdf). In addition,
participants will be awarded with an Open Badge (Mozilla Foundation) for each successful unit
and the whole MOOC. At COER19 alone, 918 people have registered for the course.
Then, we found several offers for further education for lecturers and adult educators. As
described, we selected those trainings, which are longer offers, so longer than one day and
focussing on open education as well open educational resources.
c) In Germany one of the professional associations in the ﬁeld of training, consultation and
coaching offer a qualiﬁcation measure as “examined OER specialized expert BDVT” (OER-
Fachexperten.de, 2020). The development and ﬁrst implementation of the blended learning
event with face-to-face sessions and online phases was carried out within the framework of
the OER project funding of the German ministry from 2016 to 2018, participation was free of
charge at that time. A renewed implementation is planned for 2020 within the framework of
a follow-up project with further co-ﬁnancing by the ministry, however, a fee is now planned
for parts of the training. The continuing education and the degree “certiﬁed OER expert” were
examined and approved by the association. The structure of the program and processes has
been adapted somewhat for the renewed implementation in 2020.
d) A further training for the university’s own lecturers in the form of a faculty development
program, the “Certiﬁcate as a Mural” was offered at the University of Guadalajara (Mexico)
in 2019, in which everything revolves around OER. A remarkable aspect of this course is that
participants are encouraged to create several social media accounts in advance for the four-
day workshop (Mural ODG, 2020).
e) The OpenMedProject.eu project offered and implemented further training for teachers at
universities in the so-called South Mediterranean countries. The course was developed and
implemented within the project and is now available for subsequent use (as OER, in three
languages). The learning assessment of the course is both formative and summative: formally,
the facilitators evaluate the activities during the modules and give feedback to the learners
(some activities include online quizzes). Finally, the project work is assessed based on a
common section and with the help of a feedback form. In addition, the ﬁnal assessment should
be peer based (OpenMed Project, 2020).
f) For the Creative Commons certiﬁcation, one must successfully participate in a 10-week online
course. The syllabus and course contents are available under a CC BY license (Creative Commons,
2020a). In addition, a comprehensive textbook is offered (157 pages, Creative Commons, 2020b).
Concerning assessment, the following is stated (Creative Commons, 2020a, own translation): “To
273Schön et al.
receive the certiﬁcate, you must achieve at least (...) 90 of the 100 possible points” (p. 7). It should
be added that the quizzes in the course are not evaluated but must be passed in order to pass the
course. The quizzes can be repeated as often as desired. The course communication takes place
on the one hand in the learning management system (Canvas) and on the other hand via Slack.
As an alternative to the online course, you can book a workshop on site, the “1-week Bootcamp”.
Up to 15 learners will be trained. They must read the online course content and do some tasks
before or after the course. The certiﬁcate is available in the form of a digital document (PDF), all
successful participants will be mentioned by name on the corresponding Creative Commons pages
(Creative Commons, 2020c). The online course is offered with a focus on libraries or education.
The course currently costs $ 500 US$. Scholarships are offered that cover $400 to $450 US$.
Recipients register for the CC certiﬁcate and then pay the remaining ticket price. The names of the
scholarship holders are publicly listed on the CC website. Preference will be given to scholarship
recipients who are members of the CC Global Network, in which participation is free of charge.
Anyone who has successfully completed the “CC Certiﬁcate Course” can further qualify as a
“CC Certiﬁcation Facilitator” in an eleven-week training course (online course). Since the online
courses are accompanied for the CC certiﬁcation, CC does not charge any fees for the facilitator
training. As a CC-Certiﬁcation-Facilitator you will receive 3,000 USD per course, which can be
held online or as a so-called “boot camp”.
g) A study program has also been identiﬁed that deals intensively with OER and Open Education.
This is a master’s program in open education. From the description: “Masters of Open Education
will be able to design, manage and carry out activities that provide knowledge for all through
improved accessibility, ﬂexibility, quality and sustainability of learning processes. Their work
will enable many people to develop their potential and acquire knowledge necessary for active
social inclusion” (University of Nova Gorica, 2020). The prerequisite for participation is a ﬁrst
degree (for example a suitable BA). Participation in blended learning studies is offered on a
part-time basis. There is no explicit reference to the preparation of a master thesis in the course
description. Participation costs 5,000 Euros per semester, that means 10,000 Euros in total.
As we suspected at the beginning, we could not ﬁnd many, but interesting examples of OER
OER CERTIFICATIONS OF ORGANIZATIONS WORLDWIDE
We were unable to ﬁnd an OER certiﬁcate in the narrower sense, that means a distinction as
an institution that is particularly concerned with OER and demonstrates activities according to
deﬁned criteria. However, we did ﬁnd a few procedures that seem to be stimulating.
For example, there is a contribution describing a framework for a competence proﬁle or
activities of universities regarding “Opening-Up Education” (Inamorato dos Santos et al., 2016).
This could serve as a basis or reference for criteria for OER-active universities.
Universities that see themselves as “OER universities” are particularly targeted by the OERu
network: Here you can participate for a participation fee. The network is primarily concerned
with supporting and disseminating MOOCs that provide OERs. It is therefore not a certiﬁcation
process in the strict sense (OERu, 2020).
Then, there is a certiﬁcation procedure of schools in Austria, in which OER plays a bigger role:
Offered by the Competence Center eEducation Austria (Federal Ministry of Education, Science
and Research), Austrian schools create a proﬁle and document evidence of deﬁned activities
regarding eEducation at school (controlled by 80 representatives). The ﬁrst step of participation
in the network is the online registration of the school in the system and then the development
of an eEducation school concept. Schools can then receive appropriate online badges that
qualify them for participation in support programs. At least two of the criteria directly related
to OER production as a topic, several other criteria and activities of the schools could also be
implemented with the help of OER, as there are numerous OER projects in Austria and their use
is relatively widespread. After the strategy has been developed (together with the provincial
coordinators or expert schools), the participating schools document in detail their activities in
the ﬁeld of eEducation, e. g. the production of OER (known as “eTapas”) or the participation
in further training or the implementation of an offer for pupils or parents. Deﬁned scores and
activities lead to the activation of corresponding badges and ﬁnally the certiﬁcate “eEducation
Expert School” is achieved. However, this has to be renewed again and again or the activities
274Schön et al.
have to be veriﬁed regularly: The certiﬁcate is only valid for the following year of certiﬁcation.
The certiﬁcate is now very widespread, with around half of the schools participating. About
3,000 of currently 6,000 schools in Austria participate in the “eEducation Network”, currently
more and more attend as participation is a prerequisite for the laptop initiative in the COVID 19
pandemic (December 2020). As an incentive, the certiﬁcate serves as a prerequisite for speciﬁc
funding (about 500,000 Euros for continuing education) or, currently, the funding for laptops
that is linked to the certiﬁcate.
To sum up, we did not really ﬁnd an OER certiﬁcation of higher education institutions. Nevertheless,
we identiﬁed the process to support digitalisation in Austrian schools with the education system
as a very inspiring and helpful approach, as it is also using several OER related criteria and could
be used as well, at least theoretically, by Austrian University Colleges of Teacher Education.
We were able to discover and describe some OER certiﬁcates for individuals. Except for the Creative
Commons approach and the M.A. studies in Slovenia, none of the OER certiﬁcates has been
implemented in the long term and describes a corresponding business model, besides one-time
funding. We could not ﬁnd a dedicated OER certiﬁcation for higher education institution. So far, the
Austrian approach for an OER certiﬁcation for all higher education institutions seems to be unique.
The focus on OER certiﬁcates that are based on a longer period of further education and on such
certiﬁcates that refer speciﬁcally to OER does not mean that there are not exciting alternatives
to this form of certiﬁcation: An alternative way of evaluating OER activities is the German HFDnet
(2020) network for university teachers of the Higher Education Forum on Digitization (Djabarian
et al., 2019a; Djabarian et al., 2019b): Here participants can have their participation, activities
and competencies conﬁrmed by their peers. The HFDnet gives experts in the ﬁeld of digital
university didactics the opportunity to network and exchange information in different groups
and offers the possibility of having participation conﬁrmed by peers. The number of ePoints
provides a measure of the extent of the activities described, documented and conﬁrmed. These
do not refer to OER-related activities. So, members can get for example a “semester champion”
and show evidence and also corresponding special badges in their proﬁles.
In our research, we also saw an example of how OER activities are directly incentivized without
there being a “certiﬁcate” for it: An interesting different approach to award OER activities was
found at the BCcampus (British Columbia, Canada, 2020): The “OpenEd Challenge” organizes
an open educational competition series for teachers who want to learn more about open
educational practices (OEP). According to the self-description, we will publish 2 so-called
“Challenges” per week over a period of 5 weeks. A Challenge is a micro-activity that you can
complete in 10 minutes or less and that covers a small aspect of open education. The number
of participants is limited, and participants will receive a prize if they succeed. The Challenge is a
“bite-sized learning for busy educators” and by offering a prize instead of a certiﬁcate, it takes
a different approach than others. From the communication with Tannis Morgan there is no
uniform program or certiﬁcate for teachers in Canada.
Beside our ambition, we could practically only reach projects and information which are
documented in English or German (cf. Organisation international de la francophonie, 2016a,
2016b). As we might not have been able to discover all major programs and initiatives due to
language restrictions, we would be very pleased if this publication would give us the opportunity
to contact you.
OUTLOOK: CONSIDERATIONS CONCERNING THE OPENNESS
ASPECTS OF AN OER CERTIFICATE
Our research has provided us with good insights of the current offer and procedures for further
education and certiﬁcation of persons and organizations with close ties to open educational
resources. For the development of the processes of certiﬁcation of OER competences of Austrian
lecturers at universities or the activities of universities we can deduce several lessons learned
from this. Based on the hypothesis that an “open” educational resources certiﬁcation should
take special “openness” aspects into account, we have collected these from the examples
275Schön et al.
and added own considerations.
therefore presents the potential “openness” features
concerning the development, content, assessment and the certiﬁcate itself for us as a potential
We are currently holding meetings with various Austrian stakeholders – different types of higher
education institutions are the target group for certiﬁcation – and are trying to ﬁnd synergies with
their strategies, possibilities and interests. The described openness components, e. g. regarding
the criteria and their examination, have so far been well received. It has also been explicitly
noted that the criteria have been chosen so clearly that there is comparatively little room for
interpretation. This is also linked to the expectation that the procedure is not only transparent
but also efﬁcient as there should be no need for visits of external experts at the universities.
Parts of our presented development and research was done in the project “Open Education
Austria Advanced” (2020–2024), co-funded by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and
Our sincere thanks go to all the people who supported us in the preparation of this report
by providing references to literature and projects or other relevant information, especially the
project partners, namely Alexander Schmölz and Judith Proinger for the OER competence
proﬁle development and Claudia Hackl for her feedback to this article, and several other
experts for their helpful hints, namely Javiera Atenas (University College London), Wayne
Macintosh (Wikieducator), Tannis Morgan (BC Campus), Cristina Stefanelli (UNIMED – Unione
delle Università del Mediterraneo), Jan L. Neumann (OER World Map) and Angelika Ribisel (FH
Carinthia). Many thanks also go to the anonymous reviewers who were able to give us further
advice and supported us in improving our contribution.
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
Sandra Schön orcid.org/0000-0003-0267-5215
Forum Neue Medien in der Lehre Austria, AT
Martin Ebner orcid.org/0000-0001-5789-5296
Graz University of Technology, AT
University College for Agrarian and Environmental Pedagogy, AT
Pädagogische Hochschule Niederösterreich, AT
University of Innsbruck, AT
Figure 3 Components of
Openness in OER certiﬁcation
as summary of a selection of
276Schön et al.
University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, AT
Michael Kopp orcid.org/0000-0002-6907-7300
University of Graz, AT
Hans-Peter Steinbacher orcid.org/0000-0003-3144-2453
FH Kufstein Tirol, University of Applied Sciences, AT
University of Vienna, AT
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TO CITE THIS ARTICLE:
Schön, S., Ebner, M., Berger,
E., Brandhofer, G., Gröblinger,
O., Jadin, T., Kopp, M.,
Steinbacher, H-P., & Zwiauer,
C. (2021). OER Certiﬁcation of
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in Higher Education:
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Submitted: 16 March 2021
Accepted: 11 October 2021
Published: 31 December 2021
© 2021 The Author(s). This is an
open-access article distributed
under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (CC-BY
4.0), which permits unrestricted
use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium,
provided the original author
and source are credited. See
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