Releasing OERs requires that processes and systems are in place to manage the lifecycle of the resources. While resource management could cover the whole life cycle from creation of the resource through to its release and beyond, the nature of the Programme meant a focus on the latter stages, as the primary aim was to release resources that already existed. "Resource management" here refers to managing learning resources, especially the dissemination of those resources (whether open or otherwise). The systems used for resource management may include conventional repository systems such as DSpace and ePrints, repository systems that have been created or adapted for managing learning resources, such as EdShare or IntraLibrary, learning environments such as moodle adapted for open access, and Web2.0 services such as YouTube, SlideShare and flickr.
If OER practices are to be sustainable, they need to include good practice in the management of the OERs themselves. There is no single approach to resource management, it depends on the platforms, the institutional system architectures, personal workflows, policy frameworks and so on. There are scaling issues to consider: just "sticking it online" might work for one person but individual approaches rarely scale up to work for teams or organisations. It also depends very much on the skills of the people with responsibility for the content, whether librarians, learning technologists, web officers or academics. By thinking through the way in which resources will be stored and accessed, those producing and releasing OERs can work more effectively.
All three UK OER phases focused primarily on the release of existing educational content under open licence and the aggregation of open educational resources into static or dynamic collections. Creating new resources was out of scope for the majority of projects therefore the Programme tended not to surface technical issues relating to content creation and authoring platforms, or issues relating to the interface between content creation and management tools and systems.
The Programme Calls explicitly stated that resources should be shared using existing open web services, including:
In addition, the Programme's technical guidelines reiterated that projects should deposit their content in Jorum, and in at least one other openly accessible system or application with the ability to produce RSS and/or Atom feeds; for example an open institutional repository, an international or subject area open repository, an institutional website or blog, or a Web 2.0 service.
Throughout all three phases CETIS undertook technical review calls to record the technical and descriptive choices adopted by projects. This information is recorded in the CETIS PROD database1 which is a rich data source of evolving technical practice and issues. UK OER PROD entries comprise: descriptive information about each project (programme, partners, websites, feeds, and related projects); information about the technical approaches used (standards, specifications, Web2.0 applications, tools, transport protocols, audio and video formats); and free text comments used to record further details about the standards and technologies used, and other relevant details. At the end of each phase of the Programme, these PROD records were synthesised and analysed to reveal emerging technical trends and issues.
By and large, the projects adhered to the programme guidelines, choosing appropriate platforms for release.
As a result of the technical approaches recommended by the Programme, a number of interesting findings emerged.
From very early on in the Programme it became clear from the PROD calls that projects gravitated towards systems and technologies they were familiar with and already had in place. They were not "making decisions about standards", the standards came as a property of the technologies they chose, with the primary factor in technology selection being availability and familiarity.
While it could be argued that does not represent particularly innovative use of technology, it may also be regarded as a positive indication of the normalisation of OER release, in that it highlights the fact that institutions do not need to invest significant time or money in new technologies in order to make open educational resources available.
That said, projects still used a wide diversity of resource management and dissemination platforms. In the Phase One Pilot Programme, twenty different systems and platforms were used:
Phase 1 Pilot Programme Platforms Used
The number of different platforms used during the course of the Phase 2 Programme increased further to about thirty:
Phase 2 Programme Platforms Used
It is important to note that in both graphs the usage figures are not mutually exclusive, many projects used multiple platforms. Indeed it was a noticeable trend that projects used multiple platforms to support different functions such as preservation, dissemination, streaming, SEO and advocacy2.
The technical outputs of OER Phase Three have yet to be synthesised and analysed so it will be interesting to see if the number of platforms used has continued to increase.
Across all three programmes projects made extensive use of "Web 2.0" platforms and large scale format-specific hosting services. SlideShare, flickr and YouTube have been used extensively. The use of iTunes decreased noticeably between the Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the programmes, though the reason for this is not clear. Therese Bird has undertaken a detailed analysis of the use of iTunesU for OER3, and Oxford have written about their institutional use of iTunesU in "Listening for Impact"4. Web based hosting services were seen as being advantageous to facilitating OER release as they have much wider reach than institutional repositories. For example, UK Web Focus has been tracking trends in the use of SlideShare5, and it is evident that it does get larger audiences than institutional repositories. Another advantage of these web based platforms is that they also tend to offer additional features to users such as such as embed functionality.
Use of WordPress as a content management and delivery platform has steadily increased across all three Programmes. WordPress was used particularly extensively by the OER Phase Two "collections" projects as a lightweight platform to collect and aggregate OER. The Triton6 project used WordPress to aggregate blog posts into PoliticsInSpires7. Interestingly this was the only project to treat blog posts as a form of OER. In addition, three projects explored the development of WordPress plugins to support better metadata and licensing and one project adopted WordPress in order to promote search engine optimisation.
WordPress was also the focus for a group of developers at the CETIS/DevCSI OER Hackday8. Their work included:
The group also discussed ways in which WordPress could potentially integrate with the Learning Registry, including pulling information in through RSS and using the Salmon Protocol8 to flow comments back to the source.
There was relatively little use of VLEs / Learning Management Systems for releasing OERs. Moodle spaces can be easily "opened up" for public use and a previous JISC Rapid Innovation grant had funded MrCute10, repository functionality for Moodle. In October 2011, Blackboard announced support for OER11 though it was too late for any projects to engage with this development. It is possible that changes to Blackboard might make it more attractive to use as an OER resource management platform.
Although several different content management systems were used, their use across the programmes was not widespread. However two OER Phase Two Projects, ALTO and TIGER, added a CMS layer on top of a repository to improve the repository interface. There was no use of enterprise level solutions such as Sharepoint, which is rather surprising given the widespread use of such systems by educational institutions. Drupal was used only by projects based at Oxford. However the OERbit12 platform at the University of Michigan is built on Drupal, and a developer participated in the CETIS / DevCSI OER Hack Day.
As described in the Introduction, the JISC funded Repository Programmes made significant progress in building institutional infrastructure and repository capacity between 2005 and 2009. A strand of start-up and enhancement projects (2007-2009)13 had developed repositories, some of which were built on by UK OER projects. In this area, Humbox14, LORO15 and edshare16 had branched off from the EPrints17 family to support learning materials. Many of these services had established user bases and made a natural fit with the UK OER Programme.
The UK OER Programmes cannot be described without reference to Jorum, the national repository funded by JISC from 2002 to support the sharing of learning and teaching materials among UK Further and Higher Education institutions. In Spring 2008 Jorum announced their intention to support the sharing of openly licensed resources18. This was referred to as JorumOpen as a way of distinguishing it from the more traditional closed sharing service it had previously provided. By spring 2009 the UK OER projects were under way and Jorum provided a holding bay for them to deposit their content, ready for the launch of Jorum's open sharing service. By requiring projects to deposit in Jorum, as well as another service, the Programme aimed to create an aggregation of project outputs.
The OER Data Analysis and Visualisation Project undertaken by Martin Hawksey visualised projects' deposits into JorumOpen during Phase One and Two, and provides a striking illustration of the nature of the aggregation19.
Snowflake visualisation of Jorum Deposits20
Jorum learnt a lot from the Programme, sometimes the hard way. Being a service supporting an innovation programme was always going to be a challenge, in addition, during this period Jorum also migrated platforms from IntraLibrary to DSpace. The Jorum team had to adapt methods for bulk upload to support the projects and a fair number of methods were tried, some with less success than others. Many of the lessons learnt contributed to shaping Jorum's plan going forward. Over the decade, Jorum has responded to significant technical challenges, changed considerably and continues to develop.
Other repositories such as Merlot, Rice Connexions, OER Commons were not used by the projects, though there has been some technical dialogue with those developers.
It is fair to say that the anticipated progress expected by the JISC Repositories Programmes of a network of repositories for learning and teaching resources has not been realised. Repositories were one of many methods used for OER release by the UK OER projects but there was not a strong appetite to formalise the relationships between them.
Although the UK Open University provided access to LabSpace,21 which enables academics from other institutions to use the OpenLearn platform, no use was made of this platform by the UK OER projects.
Some projects made use of tool such as Netvibes, Pageflakes or Google Reader to aid their work and management, however none used these aggregation applications to release and disseminate their OERs.
Although creating new tools for content management and dissemination was generally considered to be out of scope for the UK OER Programmes some innovative tools for open education resources were developed in parallel with the Programme, including Xpert22 at the University of Nottingham, which was funded by a JISC Rapid Innovation grant. By ingesting OER RSS feeds Xpert has created a large scale aggreation of searchable metadata with links to hundreds of thousands of open educational resources. Xpert also incorporates a media search option that allows users to search for CC licensed image, sound or video resources. Users are able to submit their own RSS feeds to the aggregator, which currently contains metadata for almost 300,000 resources from 8000 providers.
It was in the nature of the Programme that projects focussed on the act of releasing open educational resources. This was, of course, the necessary starting point, however just "getting the resources out there" does not represent a sufficiently broad resource management strategy to support a sustainable ecosystem that will fulfil many of the promises of OER. In order to do this, resource management strategies should be able to support, where appropriate, all stages of the resources' life cycle. There are various initiatives underway that show how this might happen in the future.
In essence there is nothing about an OER that requires a specific resource management approach to their creation, indeed it could be argued that one of the dimensions of openness is that resource creators should be free to use whatever tools are best suited to the type of resource that they wish to produce. Furthermore, the technology of resource management should not be a constraint on the pedagogy of the resources produced. Therefore it is unlikely that the tightly integrated content editors and distribution platforms found in some content management systems will be suitable for OERs. It is also inappropriate for an OER to be so tightly bound into a CMS that it cannot be copied and run elsewhere. Even where such systems allow externally produced files to be distributed as "attachments" they often do not make good platforms for OERs as these attachments may not be handled well by the interface and do not benefit from the resource management capabilities of the platform. As an aside, it is worth noting that the versatility of HTML5 may ameliorate some of these constraints in the future.
While tight integration of resource authoring and management is not desirable for OERs, there are some OER management requirements that it would be useful for authoring tools to support. For example, as OERs will be released publicly, it would be helpful if the tools used to create them could be linked to the systems through which they will be released. One example of this in practice is the Xerte online toolkit which facilitates the creation and release of OERs through the Xpert repository via standard RSS feeds23. Another approach is to integrate support for the Simple Web-service Offering Repository Deposit protocol (SWORD)24 into authoring tools or resource creation platforms. SWORD is supported by many repository systems used for OER dissemination and has been implemented by Connexions25 for their OER ecosystem, so providing authors with access to SWORD should allow them to deposit resources into dissemination platforms seamlessly.
One of the visions of what may be achieved through OERs is that the quality of resources may be improved through an open source model of shared contribution to their development. This may be more of an aspiration than an actual achievement in many cases, however it seems well accepted that the possibility that an education resource can be modified to fix perceived shortcomings or to match the needs of the user is helpful in promoting the reuse of resources. This is why the commonly used licences for OERs do not include the No Derivatives restriction. However many platforms used for managing OERs do not offer much by way of support for handling these derivatives or adaptations. One that does is HumBox which allows users to make copies of resources. The copies may then be edited, and HumBox maintains a record of the relationship between resources and their modified copies.
Some of the interventions mentioned in connection with supporting resource creation are also relevant to resource modification. The Xpert repository allows users of the Xerte toolkit access to the source code so that they can adapt the resources they find. Connexions are actively developing an editor that integrates with their platform to allow users of the repository to modify resources that are hosted there.
The final aspect of resource management that is not well supported yet is the ability to create aggregations of OERs by bringing together resources from several dissemination platforms. Some tools do exist, for example the Xpert RSS aggregator22, OCWSearch26, OCWC Course Search27 and DiscoverEd28. In addition one strand of Phase 2 of the UK OER Programme29 concerned the automatic and manual creation of collections of OERs released elsewhere, and Jorum are experimenting with OAI-PMH harvesting. However despite these developments, it is still difficult to produce an attractive view, whether selective or comprehensive, of the resources released through the UK OER Programme.
Bird, T., (2011), SPIDER: Shared Practice with iTunes U Digital Educational Resources, http://www8.open.ac.uk/score/spider-shared-practice-itunes-u-digital-educational-resources-0
There has been error in communication with booki server. Not sure right now where is the problem.
You should refresh this page.