Self- or Third-Party Publishing?

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Image courtesy of Jack Delano(LOC)

Third-party services for OER are typically websites that will allow you to host your video, audio or text free of charge. Some websites carry advertising to support hosting costs. Others are supported by grant money and there are also websites supported by international agencies and non-profit foundations committed to the OER movement and consequently do not carry advertising.

One of the issues of self vs. third-party publishing has to do with control. Typically when placing an OER on a third-party website you sacrifice some control. For example, as part of their terms of service YouTube[1] 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 affiliated with that project (although you can always rollback 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 established services like Flickr, though the possibility always remains. The advantage of third-party services is that they are easy to use. Often all that is required is an e-mail account and the resources you want to share. Additionally, OER distributed through a third-party service tend to reach a wider audience.

Self-publishing gives you complete control over the OER. However, self-publishing requires you to be entirely responsible for all aspects of the OER deployment. 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 an open license (see the License chapter 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 will eventually find and index your website and display it in search results. However, your material may remain unknown for some time, depending on how much attention your project gains. While publishing an OER on your own can take time and sometimes money, for some the rewards of control outweigh any disadvantages.

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