Syndicate materials through RSS

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Image courtesy of Leigh Blackall

As well as using complex, formalized packaging standards (like IMS), it is possible to make OER content portable using simpler RSS[1] or Atom[2] feeds. Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds are used by many OpenCourseWare projects to publish basic information about their courses. Atom is an alternative format that provides similar functionality, and most applications that work with feeds support both. A "feed" is a list of items or in this case OER. This list can be accessed, processed, and understood by software programs automatically, providing you and your users a range of capabilities, like telling you when new OER become available.

For example, members of the OpenCourseWare consortium (a group of OCW providers) are encouraged to create RSS feeds with a minimum set of course information. Because computers can process them, RSS feeds are an important way to gather information and create specialized search engines. Some OER repositories automatically publish RSS feeds with a basic set of fields (for example, the eduCommons software and OER Commons[3]). The Openlearn[4] project from the UK Open University has been pioneering the publication of its content using full course content RSS feeds, meaning that systems can automatically download full courses for offline use as soon as they become available.

There are two notable examples of how OpenLearn content reuse has been facilitated through its publication via RSS:

  1. Openlearnigg[5] - A customised version of a website called Corank[6] that imports Openlearn course unit details via RSS feeds, and then changes course unit URLs in order to publish all the OpenLearn content on the Openlearnigg site.
  2. Wordpress republication of OpenLearn content. Jim Groom, an instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington, has an example of a course about the artist Goya imported into Wordpress[7] (see Individual publishing section for more information about Wordpress). It works by importing OpenLearn content into Wordpress using an RSS feed that has entire course as part of the feed. The course is then published in the same format as a blog, but entirely customizable. Note that in order for Wordpress to accept the RSS you must have the Wp-o-Matic Wordpress[8] plugin (free, donation requested) installed.

For many educators creating and using RSS/Atom feeds is difficult, and simpler methods of publishing should be used. See Publish OER for more information.