Tutorial 2:PRODUCE OPEN CONTENT: author and modify learning material

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How to use this tutorial

This tutorial invites teacher to produce and modify open educational content. For that, learners should have a general knowledge about creating learning materials (e.g. instructional designs, generating content). The tutorial will take about 60 minutes. For that, internet access is needed.

Structure of Tutorial


Nothing is perfect. Teacher Tom tries to find learning materials about Hypatia of Alexandria for his students but nothing of his - nevertheless interesting - findings are fitting well. He thinks of create a tutorial for his students and wants to give this learning materials an "open content" status. Tom needs assistance to plan and fulfill his activities, to choose the software and tools. Could you help him?


Then two others need some assistence: Lecturer Susan wants to publish her lecturer notes for her students and the scientific assistant Peter creates open content with a learning management system.

Objectives of this tutorial

This tutorial provides information and practical tasks in

  • creating and modifying open content in open process
  • formats that can be published as open content and tools, that support this process
  • standards and metadata

Formats, process and tools for creating open content

Tom wants to create a tutorial about Hypatia of Alexandria, a very exiting women - she lectured on mathematics and philosophy in about 400 AD.

Tom is well informed. He considers to create open content, because he know: You have to use open standards to ensure that everybody can access and use the data. But he is not up to date about open standards.

He is also curious about the way, open content is often - not always or necessarily - produced: together with others. One important idea of open content is that it should be shared with others, learners and other content creaters (teachers). Especially for complex learning materials, which could be interesting a lot of learners and/or teachers, a collaboration can be worthful and enhancing the project.

Perhaps he find others, which are interested in the creation of a tutorial about the popular Hellenized Egyptian philosopher? He thinks about his old own teacher of astronomy, perhaps he likes to collaborate? And than there was this interesting mailing list about famous women - perhaps somebody of the readers would join the collaborative creation of the tutorial? What should be considered? Are there any tools?

Try to help him. Step by step :-)

Using Formats that can be published as ODEC

First, Tom should get information about the open standard, he can use to create open content. In a tutorial, he needs text, illustrated with pictures, some hyperlinks...

Here some examples of open standards (Wikipedia, Open Format, 2006-10-12):

  • for images: PNG, SVG, OpenEXR
  • for audios: FLAC, Ogg Vorbis
  • for videos: Ogg Theora, XVID
  • for texts and documents: PDF (for documents), OpenDocument Format for Office Applications (for office documents and suites), LaTeX (a document markup language), TXT (an unformatted text format), HTML/XHTML (a markup language), XML (markup language)
  • and others: DVI (a page description language), SQL (Structured Query Language), 7z (data compression format)


  • Find Formats with open standards in respect to the media object Tom could need to create a tutorial.
  • If you could not find a format in that list, please look at the article about Open Format in Wikipedia to be sure, that it is not an open standard format. You can also look for the suffix (eg. ".txt") in Wikpedia, you can find nearly all formats in Wikipedia.

Open process

While planning his tutorial, Tom find a nice website from a egypt teacher living in Alexandria. He has already collect learning materials about Theos, Hypathias father, and is very interested in a collaboration.

Tom considers about the challenges of a collaboration. There are a lot of theories about the origins of the mob violence that ended Hypatia's life, and some of them speculate about collaborations :-)


After reading about this projects, Tom is fascinated by the results of such collaborations and in the same time a little bit confused about the problems can emerge.

Are their any principles, which allow a effective work? Dereck Keats reads a lot of reports about the principles of successful open software development, which could be important for collaborative development of open content, too. These are:

  • "effective communication is crucial
  • Version control is necessary
  • Form Collaborative virtual teams with a variety of skills and skill levels
  • Trust is a key element of success
  • Gatekeeper plays a vital role in quality management
  • Peer review is a powerful means of quality assurance
  • User feedback is essential
  • Development is a cyclical process" (Derick Keats, Collaborative development of open content)

At this stage, Tom seems to have enough information about social aspects of a collaboration. He wants to have some more information about technical aspects of creating open contents in collaboration.

Tools, that support this process

It would be a terrifying long checklist which application and technology use open standards! There are no rules, but you are on the "right side" if you are using open source software.

Applications and technologies that support the requirements of open standards are

  • Learning (Content) Management Systems
  • Social Software applications such as Wikis
  • HTML and SVG Editors
  • Authoring tools for graphics, video and audio
  • Sequencing and packaging standards like IMS content packaging and SCORM 1.3 for communication with LMS.
  • (online) office type processing and presentation tools (Examples are: Mircosoft LiveOffice, Google Docs and Google Calendar, Open Office online, )
  • Authoring systems, that allow content aggregation (e.g. learning objects to courses, modules to courses)

First, Tom gets nervous, and than he detects, that he has and use most of this software and applications. For example: He can use his text processing tool to create .html format.


Try it out: Using a Wiki

Here we like you to invite, to use Wikis. This is one state of the art feature for creating open content. It is one of our favourits, because it is very easy to handle.

In this section, we introduce you to start and edit a own wiki "tutorial about Hypathia". If you are already familiar with the wiki-technology, you can overjump this section.

Write and modify an article

All Informations are organized in articles. (This tutorial is an article). First we show you, how you can write or edit or modify an article.

  • please open the Using a Wiki Testpage
  • click on the "edit" button
  • edit the article and
  • push the "save" button


So modifying content is very easy. Just click on the "edit" button, edit the article and save the new version. In public wikis, everybody is allowed to view and - sometimes after a short registration - to edit articles. But there are also protected wikis, where everyone can view pages, but only space members can edit them. (The possibility of a private Wiki is not open content).

Linking and new articles

Linking to other pages is very easy, you just insert the URL (external links) or the titles of other articles, if they are written as CamelCase. A CamelCase is a word that uses capitalized words without spaces. Creating new pages is also easy.


Try out to generate links and own articles.

  • please open the Using a Wiki Testpage
  • click on the "edit" button
  • edit the article and insert a WikiWord you like
  • push the "save" button
  • now click on your WikiWord - now it is a link to a new article
  • You find more information about linking in the article Quick start for the WikiEducator

More interesting features

You see, it is very easy to write in wikis. If you are using a browser like Mozilla, you can use the menu to chance the formats. Writing an text in simple, plain text format makes it easier to collaborate and to update single pieces than highly constructed flash animations or demonstration systems.

You can also include videos or images. It is possible to take a look on the history of every article, so everybody can follow the development and changes that are made. Beside the articles, you find a discussion page for each article. Some more reasons, that Wikis are very easy to use for collaboration.

Before starting an own project

If you were not familiar with using a wiki before that tutorial, we recommend to take part on the Wikipedia-project (or an other project) before starting a own. Using wikis is not just a technical affair ;-)


  • Please open Wikipedia
  • Choose an article (word), for which you are an expert
  • Read it carefully, and modify the text, if necessarely


There are many ways, you can use a wiki in education. Wikis are very popular as a collaborations tool for learners, too. Many classroom projects are based on a wiki. Beside WikiEducator, some more repositories, like Opencourse, are using wikis.

With the help of the following links, describe what Tom should consider, using a wiki for the creation of open content:

Start your own wiki

Now Tom is convinced, that he can manage such a project for creating open content. He is only wondering, where and how to start a wiki about his antique favourit.

If you like to install a wiki, you have to deal with complex programs like Ruby, PHP, MySQL, Apache. For non-geeks it's not very obvious how to set up or back up your wiki software. But if you like to start a own wiki, you may like the project 100,000 Wikis in the Classroom. Here you can start an own project if you are a K12-teacher (kindergarten through secondary school). You just have to fill out a formula with 8 fields and can begin. The wikis can be public, protected or just personal.


There are other organisations that host Wikis for free. You find some more hosts, that offers free hosting of wikis in the article of the wikibook "Wiki Science" "How to start a Wiki"


Beware! Don't count on the backups of these service and make own copies. Some of the hosts make it easy to download and move the wiki somewhere else, others not.

Try it out: Other ways to create open content

There are many ways to create open content and choosing a wiki is a very easy an clever way, but Wikis are not the best choice for every project. So we decided to show you two more examples for creating open content:

  • Lecturer Susan wants to publish her lecturer notes for her students
  • The scientific assistant Peter creates open content with a learning management system.

Using an editor

Lecturer Susan holds her lectures with about 80 students. Now, she wanted to publish her lecture notes, so that every student can download it, print it and, if it is wanted, modify the content.

  • For that, Susan open her lecture notes in her text processing software (e.g. Microsoft Word)
  • and save it as a html-Dokument.
  • After that, she changes some of the *Absatzformate* until the document looks o.k.
  • Then she send the document to the IT-admistrator of her department with the wish to publish it.
  • Some hours laters she gets an URL, where her students can download her lecture notes.

There are other ways to publish a document, for examples free hosting service (but be carefully and do not forget to make a copy/backup) or a repository-systems of the university. The technical knowhow which is needed for that vary dramatically. Please inform you about the systems and ways, your institute prefers and offers.

Susan can modify her lecture notes very easy - she has to upload a new version in the same way as the first and to replace the old version. Nobody may do this using the same URL. If Susans choose a license, which allows modifying, her students can publish own - perhaps commented or illustrated - versions.

Using a LMS

The department of Peter is using a learning management system. This makes it very easy for Peter to create open content without a specific IT-Knowhow. For a short e-learning unit he decides to provide some webpages with informations and links, a discussion forum for communication between his students and a Wiki where his students should organize their final presentation.

Without the permission of the learning management owner, nobody is allowed to modify the whole content. Transfering contents to other projects is not possible in any way.

Remembering: Licensing, Standards and Metadata

Regrettably, it is not enough for Tom, Susan an Peter (and for you, too) to take the right (open) format when creating open content.

Standards & Metadata

Last, but not least, you should consider about the open standards for describing educational content

Besides the open Standards for the Software itself, specification organization creates open standards, e.g. for describing educational content. Using these standards provides a basis for the creation of reuseable contents.

Following, you find two metadata application profiles to describe Learning Objects: For example the SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a collection of specification and standards for webbased E-Learning Contents. The LOM (Learning Object Metadata) of the IEEE LTSC has the goal to describe learning resources (digital and nondigital), which can be used in computerbased learning. There are attempts to intensivate the usage of open standards for the E-Learning Content.

Until now, these standards are included in many of the learning or content management processes and some content repositories, but are not included in most of the wikisoftware.


Nevertheless, practitioner are not very happy with these standard: The focus lays on technical and content aspects, whereas no or less thoughts had been given to the didactical or instructional concepts (Häfele, Hartmut, E-Learning Standards, betrachtet aus der didaktischen Perspektive.

Useful Material

and all the other informations and tutorial about Open Educational Content


After this tutorial, you should have tried it out, how you can use a wiki to create open content and know other ways for that. You also have an idea, which formats and standards have to be choosen or considered. And perhaps, you like to create your next learning materials together with others.

Additional Information

It could be, that the contents and links in this tutorial change, e.g. for technological changes. Please feel free to correct or modify the contents.