OER Handbook/Publish OER

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search

Note: The page is outdated, please see http://www.wikieducator.org/OER_Handbook/educator instead.

Publishing your own content

There are many different ways in which you can publish your OER. Each method has advantages and disadvantages that will affect how often the OER is received.

Individual or third-party publishing

One important question to ask before deciding on a particular method is do you want to do it individually or using a third-party service. Third-party services for OER are typically websites that will allow you to put up your video, audio or text free of charge. Some websites, such as YouTube, place ads around it to earn revenue. Other websites have grant money to support them and consequently do not use ads. the large issue of individual vs. third-party software has to do with control. Typically when placing an OER on a third-party website you typically sacrifice some control. For example, as part of their terms of service YouTube can place whatever ads they'd like around a video. Others, like WikiEducator, allow for anyone with an account to edit a page, even if they are not directly affliated with that project (although you can always revert a page to a previous state). Another disadvantage of third-party services is that they can disappear, sometimes abruptly. This disadvantage is less likely for well-known services like Flickr. The advantage to third-party services is that they are easy to use. Often all that is required to use a third-party service is an e-mail account and the file(s) you want to upload. OERs distributed through a third-party service tend to reach a wider audience.

Individual publishing gives you complete control over the OER. However, individual publishing requires you to be entirely responsible for the OER. Hypothetically, assume you are a teacher who has collection of lessons that use OER exclusively and set up your own website. It is important to note that a resource does not become an OER until it is licensed with a copyleft license (see the License OER section for more details). Once the OER is on the website, you would make sure the website stays maintained and available. Google and other search engines would automatically scan the website and display it in search results, but otherwise the OER will remain unknown. While publishing an OER individually can take time and sometimes money, some find the rewards of control to outweigh any disadvantages.

Which method of distribution is right for you depends on what you value and how you see the resource being used. The decision also depends on your technical skills and abilities. Those with fewer technical skills, or just newer to the OER community, may be more comfortable publishing with a third-party service.

YouTube: arguably the most popular video-sharing service on the Internet. There is no cost for viewing and uploading videos. YouTube's interface is easy to use and it accepts many of the common video formats (see http://www.google.com/support/youtube/bin/topic.py?topic=10524 for more information). Some might argue that YouTube isn't completely free, because there is no way to download and redistribute videos without special software and it is against YouTube's Terms of Use to redistribute the video. YouTube is an excellent way to give an OER project high visibility, but does poorly in providing opportunities for localizing and remixing.
TeacherTube: very similar to YouTube, but specifically focused educational materials. The website encourages members to report inappropriate content, making it safer for classroom settings. TeacherTube has the same restrictions as YouTube, and not as widely known. TeacherTube is a good method of distributing a video if you are trying to reach other educators and wish to access it in settings with filtered internet connections(e.g. classroom).
Kaltura: a video-sharing website that allows visitors to localize and remix. When a visitor uploads a video they have three options: 1)allow anyone to add a new segment to that video 2) allow only visitors with a password to edit that video, or 3) retain complete control of the video. This feature gives Kaltura better localizing and remixing options, although like YouTube and TeacherTube, Kaltura does not allow you to download the video itself.

Flickr: owned by Yahoo, Flickr is a massive collection of photos from all over the world. Visitors can sign up for a Flickr account for free and post a certain number of photos (premium accounts allow for more photos). As mentioned in the Get OER section, not all photos are licensed with a Creative Commons license, but there are still a significant number that are (see the Get OER section for information about how to search for Creative Commons photos). Flickr is very helpful for OER, as it provides a highly visible way to both get and distribute OER.


The Internet Archive: A collection of audio, video and text in the public domain. Typically the Internet Archive resources are over thirty years old; however, they do accept submissions from anyone. Despite the internet archive's wide selection, it is not as popular as other video websites like YouTube. The Internet Archive is an excellent choice for situations in which you want the resource available for a long time.
OCW: stands for Open CourseWare. Open CourseWare is a collection of courses made up of OER's. Several institutions, including MIT and Notre Dame. You can start your own OCW using eduCommons software. Visitors to an OCW are allowed to download and use any materials as long as they abide by the users license. However, starting an OCW can be time-intensive and technically complex. Therefore, you should not attempt to start an OCW with significant support.
Moodle: an open-source learning management system, meant to be an alternative to Blackboard, WebCT and Angel. With Moodle, users can create courses including interactive quizzes and web pages. Moodle does require some technical knowledge to create, but is not as complicated as starting an OCW. Moodle also features a large collection of modules to create new functions.
Mediawiki: popular wiki software that used by many organizations, including Wikipedia. Mediawiki is open source and available for anyone available to use. Like Moodle, Mediawiki has several extensible modules to add new functions and capabilities. Although you can put a password on your own Mediawiki, many people use Mediawiki to allow anyone to make changes and improve the OER. It may not be the best method for distribution if you want the OER to stay "as-is."
Wordpress: Wordpress is popular for creating blogs. Once installed, Wordpress has most, if not all, of the features needed to start a blog and you can add pictures, text and video to your site. Wordpress blogs can be hosted at wordpress.com or an your own personal website.

Different publishing strategies at an institution

University staff and students are chronically overworked and often reluctant to try out new things that might add to their workload. An OER project should identify how it could complement the existing ways of dealing with educational resources, in ways that will create more resources to be free and open.

A lecturer-focused strategy makes it easy for lecturers to get involved. Provide support services for moving their content online, and implement workflows that include a quality control step for the lecturer.

A lecturer focused strategy tries to make it as easy as possible for lecturers to publish their materials. Typically lecturers will need support to address licensing issues, and require help designing their materials and turning them into web-based resources (HTML pages, etc.). Adding support and services to move content online is the MIT OpenCourseWare strategy, and has been widely copied and replicated in other institutions; although usually on a much smaller scale.

Especially in the context of developing country universities, there are some challenges to the lecture-focused approach:

  • Lecturers are busy, expecting them to do more work is often not feasible. And even those that are enthusiastic and want to help, often find it difficult to balance their many other responsibilities.
  • Since we can't expect the lecturers to take on much of the work themselves, we need to provide support services, both for developing digital course materials, and navigating copyright restrictions that might apply. Good and experienced staff in both of these areas is in high demand and scarce, which means salaries are high.
  • Providing the needed support services usually requires a long-term source of funding and support from the institution.

Student focused strategies. Another strategy that some universities are experimenting with is to involve students more directly in the production of OERs. The University of Michigan's dScribe project provides incentives for students to record lecture notes, and collect presentation materials and upload them onto their repository. The lecturer only provides the materials she prepared to teach the class, and reviews the final result. Most of the work is done by students. Students at the University of Michigan stated that the main benefit of working on the project was to get more time and opportunities to interact with their Professors. At developing countries, other incentives might need to be provided – such as prizes or payment as part of student-work arrangements.

Finally, there are some cases, where students started collecting and publishing OERs without incentives, or even involvement of the institution. However, we lack understanding how such grass-roots projects could be encouraged in other universities; their bottom-up approach almost defies by definition any attempt by the university itself to be involved.

[Add info on Hungary case-study and link to video]

Deciding which content to publish

Especially smaller institutions that lack financial and human resources, should think carefully about the costs and benefits of publishing OERs. Such an analysis will invariably pose the question, what resources (if any) should be published under free and open licenses.

Factors that can help you answer this question include:


If your institution has unique knowledge and expertise in a particular field, it is likely that your OERs will attract a lot more attention than (yet) another Introductory Economics course you might publish.


What are the areas where your institution would like to be seen as a thought-leader and expert in the field? OERs provide an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and you should think about which areas are most important for the reputation of the university. If your work helps create a positive public image you are likely to find support from the administration, and possibly easier access to internal funding.


There will be some academics that are already publishing materials openly, but who would be benefit from a little bit of extra help or support. They might need legal advise, or would like help improving the design of their html pages. Working with lecturers who are genuinely on board with the idea of open education will make your work easier, increase the amount of OER you can publish for your budget, and is likely to draw in others by setting a positive example.


Which of the areas in which your institution has special expertise are most important in the community that you are trying to serve with OERs? For example, a university in Southern Africa might have knowledge on land management that is highly relevant to other universities in the same region. On the other hand, this university might also offer a course on a particular aspect of colonial history that is widely studied in other parts of the world. Defining where sharing your knowledge would have the most beneficial impact for your university and your community will help you define which materials to publish. And ideally this does not need to be a question of either or, but rather which course comes first.

“The British Columbia Ccampus OER initiative targets development at credit based, fully online learning courses in areas of high student demand and labour market need.” Paul Stacey, BCCampus case-study (2007)

Intellectual Property

Unfortunately there might be some courses that are both unique and relevant, but where the copyrights to a lot of the original materials used in the class-room are owned by other people. Clearing those copyrights might be too much effort (depending on your budget) and publishing the course without providing access to these materials might not make sense depending on who you are targeting as your intended audience. For example self-learners are not likely to have access to academic journals or libraries to access the missing content. However, if your main goal is to enable lecturers in other universities to include the materials in their courses (and their students would have access to the copyrighted materials) then it might still be worth publishing the course.

Re-usability vs. context: courses, courseware, or learning objects?

There is a substantive body of literature on learning objects, and the value that creating small, re-useable objects that can be re-combined in many different ways might have. However, creating and organising such objects in a way that makes it easy for others to re-use them is a challenging task. And self-learners are likely to benefit from more context and structure to orientate themselves. Publishing whole courses is an easier strategy for new projects interested in experimenting with open education, but there are efforts to create modularised OERs that could serve as examples.

“To be re-useable in as many other educational settings as possible, these resources needed to be developed into the smallest possible 'granules'. In this way, future users may choose to pick only the materials they need to develop their own courses. However, if we develop the context and the activities within the context in too much detail, we may end up with a very exciting and authentic story as the backbone for our course, but future users may get stuck with an 'all-or-nothing'. It's the old debate around learning objects: how much meaning (context) do you need to add to make it a learning object? When re-usability goes up, contextualisation goes down (Stephen Downes).” Richard Wyles, New Zealand OER Project case-study (2007)


In some areas high-quality OERs might already exist and rather than duplicating efforts, new projects should focus on content and materials that are not yet widely available (in similar form and quality) as open educational resources. A thorough search (see below on how to find OERs) for existing materials should inform the decision which resources to publish.

Distance learning pedagogy

Many OER project focus on publishing existing content and materials that they use in their on-site of on-line teaching activities. MIT publishes the materials their lecturers us to teach in the class-room. The Open University UK makes available some of its resources, which were designed for on-line and distance use in the form “self-contained study units”. Smaller projects in institutions that do not have a history of distance education often lack the resources of re-working their materials specifically for individual distance learners. Little is known about the formation of self-learner communities to assess what benefit (and for whom) carefully designed distance learning materials might have over more loosely-structured content.

In addition, some projects include further information around the content, including ways to gauge one's progress, and the learning outcomes that can be expected from working through a set of materials.

Licensing guidelines

[Should this document make a stronger recommendation regarding what type of license to use?]

(Comment.gif: Rather than being directive on license choice -- I would recommend pointing folk to initiatives like the free cultural works definition which distinguish between free and non-free content licenses. Projects like WE and WMF projects subscribe to this definition. For us its about taking an informed decision about licenses -- which is not necessarily the case when clicking through the CC options. I think we need to be open and clear that licensing is both complex and highly contested <smile>.)

(Comment.gif: I think pointing people to initiatives and informing readers that licensing is "complex and highly contested" issue is a good idea. However, we do want to avoid overwhelming newcomers with complex moral and philosophical debate. That's why I feel providing a basic introduction to these ideas will best prepare them for their first OER. They can, and should, formulate their opinions as their experience with OER's grow. --Sgurell 00:56, 14 February 2008 (CET) )

Del.icios.us tags: oer-toolkit licensing

The legal aspects of an OER project can be daunting. Excellent resources exist online, and you will find communities of practice that are willing to help with your questions, but the best solution is a local expert who you can rely on. This is another area, where it makes sense to identify and leverage existing expertise within your institution. If there is a legal department that has expertise in copyright law, try to get them on board for advice.

Copyright law varies from country to country, but it generally provides legal protection - over a limited period of time - for original works. It does not matter if these works are published or not, both are protected.

Copyright reserves certain rights to copyright holder, and others need to ask permission to do any of the following:

  • Create derivative works from the original work
  • Distribute originals or copies of the work
  • Publicly display or perform the work.

Once the copyright period is over, these limitations fall away.

In most countries, certain exemptions to copyright protection are set out in laws or regulation, referred to as fair use in some countries, or fair dealings in others. Typically education institutions will be allowed some flexibility in reproducing copyrighted materials for the purpose of education. However, the law is often unclear on the exact amount of flexibility, and republication on the Internet is certainly not allowed under fair use or fair dealings provisions.

Copyright alternatives – Creative Commons and other licenses

OER projects make use of free and open content licenses, which are based on the legal protection that copyright affords, but specify clearly which rights the author shares with users of the content. The most popular set of licenses are the creative commons licenses, but many other exist. Most creative commons licenses allow users to freely use and redistribute the licensed works, but they have to attribute the original author. Some licenses are more restrictive, and don't allow modification (creation of derivative works), or commercial use. Another option (Share Alike) is referred to as copyleft, because it requires all users to license any derivative works under a similar free and open license. The GNU Free Documentation license has special significance, because it is used by the Wikipedia project.

The long list of license options can be confusing. In addition, some licenses are incompatible with each other. License incompatibility means that content that is licensed under a particular type of license cannot be combined with content that is licensed under certain other licenses. A table that highlights which licenses are compatible with each other is provided in a later section of this document. License incompatibility has resulted in distinct knowledge silos of open educational resources. This is an unfortunate situation since most of the authors are trying to make their materials widely accessible and encourage others to modify and adapt them to local needs.

The following image demonstrates how license incompatibilities currently break the OER space into separate clusters of content. It uses four popular OER project (MIT OpenCourseware, Wikipedia, WikiEducator, and Connexions) and their license choices, which do not allow mixing of the content.

Illustration: OER Galaxies diagram by David Wiley (http://opencontent.org/blog)

The discussion over which license is the most free and open, and which of the creative commons options to use and which to avoid has raged on for many months. The ccLearn project, an initiative by creative commons and the Hewlett Foundation is trying to address this issue by educating on the use of particular licenses, and by creating a transition strategy that will increase compatibility between different sets of resource in the future. See their recommendations below.

To guide OER project struggling to find the right type of license, the ccLearn project (a division of creative commons that focuses on education) has defined three levels of freedom of OERs, and provides some guidelines on choosing the appropriate level of freedom (ccLearn, 2007). [NEED A LINK]

Some projects have designed their own custom licenses, for example the BCCampus license developed by the Bccampus project in Canada, which limits the Openness to use in the province of British Columbia.

The BC Commons license is similar to the Creative Commons license but limits sharing to the local context of BC’s public post-secondary system. Resources licensed via BC Commons are available to BC public post-secondary faculty and staff only. This option provides developers with an opportunity to experience sustainable development benefits through sharing on a local level, among peers, before considering the larger global context. Over 90% of OPDF developers have chosen the BC Commons license. Paul Stacey, Bccampus case-study (2007)

Clearing copyrights

One of the most burdensome aspects of publishing OERs is to verify and ensure that none of the materials you intend to license under such a free and open license, fall under someone else's copyright. In other words, you can't publish content that you do not own as OER without explicit permission from the copyright holder.

Launching an OER initiative in 2003 was not met with open arm enthusiasm by all. Having to deal with Intellectual Property and copyright issues up front caused our developers a lot of angst as these are contentious issues handled in different ways at each public post secondary institution. While a considered and legally counselled approach was built in to our OER initiative IP and copyright are emotional issues that tend to get people riled up requiring rational and continuous explanation to sooth. Paul Stacey, BCCampus case-study (2007)

The first step is usually to review the general guidelines with regard to ownership of resources developed by employees of your institution. Some institutions require all employees to cede ownership to the institution, others allow more flexibility. Further, universities might have clear licensing guidelines for resources developed by its employees. In this case the employee still holds the copyright, but can be required to license the materials under a specific license.

Fair use exemption usually do not apply to content published on the Internet, and the legal details are difficult to navigate even for an educated layman. It is best to clarify ownership, and publish only resources that you are legally entitled to.

A key BCcampus educator service is using contractual agreements and licenses to sort out Intellectual Property (IP) rights and copyright of resources in advance, as part of the development process. Agreements and licenses state: - who owns what - for what uses the property is offered - what conditions of acknowledgement and/or payment apply to each use. Paul Stacey, BCcampus case-study (2007)

Get legal advice from the experts

It is extremely useful to develop a good working relationship with one of your universities lawyers, or at least a copyright expert based at the university (good places to start looking are the Law Faculty or the library).

Together with this person, review the existing law and regulations, and develop a licensing strategy that fits within the university policies and allows the level of freedom most appropriate to your situation.

Applying licenses to different types of content. Creative commons licenses are applied in different ways to different types of media:

  • Text: Insert license into text documents (for example, add a footer with the license terms)
  • Audio: In the case of MP3 files, the license can be inserted into the file, in the form of so-called ID3 tags.
  • Video: Insert a short sequence that displays license icons at the beginning and end of the video and print the license details on the medium (CD/DVD) and cover.
  • E-learning system: Many software applications now allow automatic integration of licenses, which will then be appended to all pages.

License icons and template text are available for download from the http://www.creativecommons.org site, and a set of common questions and answers is provided for those wanting to learn more: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/FAQ.

Training and support

Design a training plan that covers how lecturers and students can be prepared for participation in your project. Some of the qualifications needed are outlined in the Project Team section, and they might include some legal background on licensing, html editing skills, subject knowledge, etc.

In addition to training, ongoing support must be available for lecturers and students in OER projects. If the institution has an existing training program that already includes some of relevant skills (for example, basic ICT training, or e-learning focused training), it might be possible to add some specific OER modules into these sessions.

Also, consider how such training could fit into human resource policies. For example, in South Africa universities can apply to the State to obtain a training subsidy for certain types of training. Such opportunities can be used to offset some of the costs of training.

For example, in the case of UWC, one of the training team members is paid by the human resources department, because the University is recovering sufficient funds from the Government.

The project team

The staffing needs of an OER project greatly vary and depend on the amount of OER you intend to publish, if you want to include a research aspect in the project, the budget that is available, and the amount of support you can get from other university employees.

After staffing needs have been identified, the human resources department can usually help determine the best strategy for finding suitable staff. Hiring new staff or allocating time of existing staff are two options. Usually, working with existing staff who are familiar with the university reduces the need for training.

A general outline for a mid-sized OER project

Project Director

  • Strategic recruitment of faculty
  • Training and supervision of course production assistants
  • Management / Resolution of intellectual property issues
  • Technical oversight of project
  • Outreach, assessment and development efforts
  • Coordination with larger campus community
  • Communication with international networks and broad OER community

Course Production Assistant

  • This is a good position for graduate students
  • Some HTML skills desirable, but not necessary if HTML experts can be called upon
  • Focus on familiarity with the discipline, so as to best adapt/develop the strengths of the course to suit the online environment
  • Basic intellectual property management

Undergraduate Student Workers

  • Different students can fill different roles, including:
  • Routine clerical work (e.g., metadata entry)
  • Photography if necessary
  • Some coding and/or design work (e.g. flash module)
  • Intellectual property management (in collaboration with Course Production Assistant or other IP expert)

Other Campus Professionals

  • Intellectual Property Consultation with General Counsel’s Office
  • University librarians


Technology is not the most important aspect of an OER project, but choosing the right solution can make your work a lot easier and more efficient. The best solution is the one that does not get in your way and provides the levels of reliability and the features you need. No technology is perfect and there will always be some problems or features you find missing – the process of managing the technology and making sure it enables you to achieve your goals is as important as the particular type of software or hardware you are using.

The technology infrastructure needed to support an OER project includes not only hard- and software, but also IT services such as backup, administration, troubleshooting, installation, support.

The system we use is the eduCommons system of the Utah State University. A lot of valuable support was given by people of the USU, including a full install from distance and several visits to the Netherlands to educate and support the system developers. Robert Schuwer, Open University NL case-study (2007)

The first step of designing your technology solution is a technical analysis to describe the institution's current hardware and software and network environments and the infrastructure that is necessary for meeting the project goals.

For example, many universities have some form of learning management system (LMS) or content management system (CMS) in place, where lecturers store and archive their electronic materials. An OER project should take into account the existing infrastructure and how it could be expanded / complemented by specific OER technologies.

The technical analysis can be a detailed and complex process, and it is beyond the scope of this document to cover every possible technical requirement and configuration. An expert in this field should be involved to facilitate the process – ideally, a software engineer experienced in planning and implementing institution-wide software applications.

However, there are enough standard software applications developed for OER projects so that non-technical users can choose a solution that serves their needs.

Some considerations to keep in mind when designing your technology set-up are:

  • What features are crucial to my project?
  • What is the publishing process and how does it connect to existing systems and applications?
  • Are these features provided by any of the standard packages or will I need to custom-build a solution?
  • What expertise and skills exist in the institution?
  • What types of support are available?
  • Who are we targeting with the resources (how will they access them)

If you do not have a technology background, it pays off to get competent help with the technology and look around at what others are using in terms of software platforms and content standards before deciding on your solution.

Illustration : Free Courseware Project Technology infrastructure at UWC

The following sections list some example applications. Please note that this list will not be up-to-date for very long and that the set of bookmarks on http://del.icio.us (tagged with both oer-toolkit and technology) will provide a more complete list of resources.

Del.icios.us tags: oer-toolkit technology

Publishing platforms / Repositories

  • Utah State University has developed the Zope/Plone based courseware publishing and repository application educommons, which is widely used by open courseware projects. It is designed specifically for publishing materials, not for collaboration or learning activities. Educommons is designed to be locally installed, but USU is working on a hosted solutions where smaller institutions could store their materials on a server that is based at USU. http://cosl.usu.edu/projects/educommons
  • Some projects have extended the Moodle learning management system to include features required for publishing OERs or using them. However, these projects (at least so far) are not making their code available widely or publishing documentation on how to install the modifications on a standard Moodle system.
  • The Open University UK has created a hosted system based on Moodle at http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/ [While there is a note that some software was released under the GPL, it is not obvious where to download that software and how to install it]
  • Utah Valley State College runs on a moddle system, but again, it is not obvious how to find the extensions and modifications that were made to the original Moodl system and how to download and install them. http://open.uvsc.edu/
  • Rice University's Connexions project has developed a software platform that contains a number of special features for collaborative content development. The objective was to enable lecturers to share their materials, and extend and modify them online within the system. Connexions can also be implemented as a repository, but most users register and access the server hosted at Rice University.
  • http://cnx.org/aboutus/technology/architecture
  • Most learning management system have ways of publishing content publicly. They might not support adding free and open content licenses to the site, or integrate workflows designed for clearing copyright and multiple quality control levels, but if your institution has expertise with a particular learning management system it would make sense to investigate if it could be used for open courseware as well.
  • Example open source LMS are http://www.sakai.org, http://www.moodle.org, and http://kewl.uwc.ac.za.

Web traffic analysis

Google Analytics is a web-based tool for analysis of web server traffic. It tracks how many users access your site, where they come from and provides some information on how they navigate through your pages. http://www.google.com/analytics/

Standards and interoperability

Technical standard affect the ability to exchange information and content. It is important for OER projects to understand the relevant standards. Publishing course materials with free and open licenses in formats that require the user to purchase a certain software application limits how free and open the resources really are.

Standards are relevant for OER projects in a number of areas:

  • Content packaging and exchange formats – This is an issue most relevant for projects publishing whole courses, who want to enable users to download the courses into their local learning management systems; or exchange open courseware between projects. IMS Content Packaging CP is the standard for course materials that was informally agreed by the Open Courseware Consortium. Unfortunately, different software applications implement the IMS CP standard in slightly different ways – this means that specific import/export filters must be created for packages coming form different providers. Some example providers include: the proprietary WebCT/Blackboard learning management system; the MIT OpenCourseWare repository; the educommons courseware platform. In addition, there are conversations about the benefits of the new IMS Common Cartridge standard, and it is expected that many open courseware projects will eventually move towards IMS CC. SCORM is another content packaging standard. Due to the complexity of the standard it finds relatively little support among open source software project or open courseware initiatives.

“Materials are being developed in XHTML that enables them to be transformed into different formats, and learning design and technical specifications include adherence to accessibility standards.” Richard Wyles, New Zealand OER Project case-study (2007)

  • Meta-data – Meta-data is information that describes something, in this case a course or other educational resource. A number of meta-data schemas exist for use with educational content. The Open Courseware Consortium members agreed on the Dublin Core specifications. With regards to educational taxonomies there is no agreed standard for OERs, and as social tagging and bookmarking services become more prevalent, and specialised search engines are being developed, the might be less need for agreed taxonomies in the future.
  • RSS / Atom feeds – Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds are used by many open courseware projects to publish basic information about their courses. Atom is an alternative format that provide the same functionality, and most applications that work with feeds support both. For example, members of the open courseware consortium are encouraged to create RSS feeds with a minimum set of course information. RSS feeds are an important input for aggregation and specialised search engines. Some OER repository solutions automatically publish RSS feeds with a basic set of fields (for example, the educommons software).
  • RDF – Resource Description Framework (RDR) defines a way of storing descriptive information of a resource in a way that a computer can understand. In the OER context, RDF is usually mentioned with respect to storing meta-data about a course (for example, using the Dublin Core set of definitions for meta-data), or embedding creative commons licensing information in a resource. Usually end-users do not have to worry about dealing with RDF. Applications that can be used to create or host content should provide functions to add meta-data and automatically make it available within the HTML pages of the content.
  • File formats – Using open standard formats for all your files, ensures that users who might not have access to proprietary software applications can still use (view and edit) your resources. An example is using the Open Document Format (ODF) for text document instead of the proprietary Microsoft Word (.doc) format.

One of the courses first published was a course on Java programming. For this, a programming environment (size 62 Mb) had to be downloaded and installed locally. (...) The most complaints came from visitors not using a Windows platform (6% of the visitors), because they were not able to install the Java environment. Robert Schuwer, Open University NL case-study (2007)

Course and content production tools

(Comment.gif: Parts of this section are explained in the "create OER section. --Sgurell 22:14, 15 February 2008 (CET))

OER projects often repurpose existing electronic documents that lecturers might have created for teaching their courses. In some cases these materials exist within learning management systems (as HTML pages), other times lecturers are using presentation slides or text documents.

Quality free and open source software tools exist in all areas needed by OER projects:

A number of online portals provide lists of further free and open source software including for education. See for example:

Social learning, Social networking tools

There is a growing understanding that both social activity, and construction of artefacts, enable and aid learning. Researchers are experimenting how social software tools that support the networking, interaction, and collaboration of users can be more closely integrated into the teaching and learning. Some refer to rip-mix-learn practices of education.

This is not a key priority for most OER projects, but it is useful to keep track of the developments of social software tools and how they complement the resources that your project publishes.

A list of social networking tools that are designed with learning in mind can be found here: [Insert link for social network software comparison from UWC project].

Examples include:

Case-studies and examples

A small but growing collection of case-studies can be found on the UNESCO IIEP wiki at http://oerwiki.iiep-unesco.org/index.php?title=OER_stories.

MIT Open Courseware

The MIT OpenCourseWare project (http://ocw.mit.edu) was the first large scale open courseware endeavour, has produced over 1700 courses so far, and widely promoted the ideas of open courseware. MIT publishes the materials that lecturers use to teach their classes – these are not necessarily designed for online use, and many courses require access to additional (non-open) reading materials. MIT uses a lecturer based production model, in which it provides significant support to the lecturers in order to publish their materials. The project has a significant budget and provides legal and technical assistance to MIT's lecturer. MIT has also reached out to potential users of their materials and worked with universities in developing countries interested in hosting local mirror sites (see below) of their content. MIT OCW has also been one of the founders of the Open Courseware Consortium, an effort to connect the work of individual institutions and create a network of open courseware publishers who can collaborate and support each other.

Open University UK

The Open University UK is taking a different approach to open courseware, and publishes materials specifically designed for online learning, but only offers some modules of its full courses freely (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk). For Open UK, this is a way to showcase some of the learning materials for prospective students. In addition, the project has a strong research component, which is interested in collaborative development of materials, and use by self-learners. Openlearn has designed a number of software applications that support users interested in finding other users, and allows upload of modified versions of the materials.

University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa

The Free Courseware Project promotes the publication and use of free and open educational resources at the University of the Western Cape, a previously disadvantaged South African university. Besides publishing materials that are relevant in its socio-economic environment, the project aims to integrate OERs more directly in teaching and learning. It has added a research component that studies "rip-mix-learn" practices in a higher education environment in which barriers between institutions and disciplines shrink, and learners become the creators of content and learning. The UWC project has a very small budget and staff, and relies on collaborating with many partners within the university and beyond. It engages with the international OER community to benefit from other projects' experience and share the lessons that were learned.