Local Hosting of Materials

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To do: Move and merge with Publish section.

Rather than accessing OERs online, there are some reasons, especially in developing countries, why you might prefer to create local repositories. In essence this means copying the materials onto a computer that is in your local network, so that your users do not need an Internet connection to access them.

The obvious reasons are scarcity and cost of bandwidth in some parts of the world. For example, in 2004 “Denmark – a country roughly the size of Costa Rica - ha[d] more than twice the international Internet bandwidth than the whole of Latin American and the Caribbean combined” (ITU 2004). And a recent visitor to Tansania noted that he had roughly equal bandwidth connecting his house in the US than the whole country shared. Comment by Philip Greenspun during workshop at University of the Western Cape, August 2007.

Local hosting saves cost, and greatly increases the speed at which users can access the resources.

Finally, having a local copy of the materials enables new ways of modification and collaboration. For example, exporting a course from MIT into a local wiki (a website that can be edited by its users) enables a professor to include updating and modifying the course materials as part of the assignments.

There are a number of ways how local copies of materials can be provided:

  • Web-site mirror: A mirror is an (exact) copy of a website. Some popular web-sites are hosted on mirrors across the world to reduce the access times for users from different regions. Static mirrors are one-time snapshots of an existing web-site. Dynamic mirrors are usually “seeded” with a substantive amount of content copied from the original server, and then updated dynamically based on user requests. For example, if a user in the local network requests a web-page that has not been copied to the local mirror, then it has to be downloaded from the international site. At the same time it is added to the local mirror, so that the next user accessing the page, will get the (now available) local copy, saving additional trips to the international server.
  • Web proxy/ cache: A proxy server acts as a “middleman” between a user and a resource. A proxy server can be used to filter access to unwanted resources (block users on a university campus from accessing music download sites for example), but it can also be used to direct users to local copies of web resources. This can be done in a way that is invisible to the user, who is not aware if she is accessing the original resource or seeing a local copy of it. She types in the URL for the web site she is interested in, and the proxy server decides if the content is sent back from the local copy or has to be downloaded from the international server first.
  • Copying content: A labour intensive process of copying materials from websites into a local repository. This is the least attractive option for users interested only in accessing the materials, since it requires a great deal of customisation to ensure that hyperlinks continue to work, and is unlikely to reproduce a user experience similar to accessing the original materials. However, if you want to modify and adapt materials, some form of copying into a different local system will be required. Using some of the existing standards (described above) can make the process easier. For example, some courses from the MIT OpenCourseWare project can be exported as IMS Content Packaging archives, which can then be imported into a local learning management system – and modified there. A number of tools allow automatic downloading of web-content for local hosting and can also make the process significantly faster (see for example: wget http://www.gnu.org/software/wget/).
  • Mirror sites run by others: Finally, there is a possibility that the resources you are looking for already exist as mirror sites on a network in your country or region, which can usually improve access speeds (and depending on the way your Internet Service Provider charges for access, reduce cost). For example, in South Africa the Tertiary Education Network (TENET) hosts a mirror of MIT's open courseware repository. Access speeds to this local mirror are much faster form university networks in South Africa than to the original MIT site.

Illustration : http://creativecommons.org.tw/licwiz/english.html


Schmidt, Phillipp. "7.2 Local hosting of materials." UNESCO OER Toolkit draft. Retrieved 21 Mar. 2008 from http://www.wikieducator.org/UNESCO_OER_Toolkit_Draft#Local_hosting_of_materials.