Open Education Handbook/Publishing OER online

There are lots of options for publishing OER online, including:

  • Pictures - Flickr is widely used, free and has Creative Commons support
  • Video - Vimeo and YouTube have support for Creative Commons licenses
  • Sound - Soundcloud has support for Creative Commons licenses
  • Powerpoint - Slideshare has support for Creative Commons licenses
  • Your own blog - you can use the Creative Commons Licence Picker to get the HTML to attribute your resources
  • Jorum is the UK's largest OER repository
  • OER Commons is a worldwide learning network of shared teaching and learning materials made freely available online
  • Curriki is a nonprofit organization who provide open educational resources primarily in support of K-12education
  • Creative Commons has a wiki page featuring a few of the most popular communities where you can publish your media under CC licenses

However, it should be noted that no well-known definition of Open Educational Resources (OERs) states that the resource must be available online in order to be considered open.

In fact OERs do not even have to be digital. Public domain novels, poetry, photographs, and videos can be used as OERs. Modern creators can open license their artwork, film photographs and videos, and hand-written or manually-typed materials. These can be reproduced using photocopier techniques. Creative Commons give details on how to apply licenses offline. The original Open Bible, advocated through the work of William Hunter and others, can be seen as an early offline OER. Even some sculptures can be reproduced using moulds.

Materials that are digital need not be online; they can be used on paper or on devices not connected to the Internet. Two studies (PIRGS and PEARSON) show that students prefer bound textbooks 3 to 1 over digital (note that other surveys also show an increasing preference for digital books). If open textbooks are to compete with commercial textbooks, they must be available as bound paper books.

If we define online as "on the Internet" then we are overlooking other technologies to allow us to share resources, such as: radio, television, telephone, and text.

A early forerunner of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCS) were correspondence courses invented by, among others, Briton Isaac Pitman in 1840. American university level distance education began in 1874 at Illinois Wesleyan University where bachelor and graduate degrees could be obtained in absentia. Educational radio began in 1920 and educational television mid-century.

If a resource is not available online then some might argue that stops it from being available to a global audience. However these resources are already open so when the conditions are right and some has the time they can be digitised and uploaded and made available.

However when a version is available online there is need to encourage OER producers to offer an offline/portable version wherever feasible. The main reason for this is to enable those who do not have access to broadband, computers or internet-enabled devices to still be able to use open resources. This issue was discussed at the Making it Matter workshop held in London in May 2014:

"Poor infrastructure (energy, ICT, etc.) means that education can rarely be carried out solely online. We need to stop making technology and device assumptions and ensure adaptability of resources and data."

The Khan Academy is seen as exemplary in this regard. At least two different groupings of Wikipedia (in English) are available for schools offline and are highly valued in schools in relatively remote locations (for example, in the islands of Fiji or in Vanuatu).

It has been noted that there is a reluctance in the mainstream IT community (corporates as well as most academic researchers ) to work with anything offline because today’s big profits in IT are available in Internet technologies. However, there is no reason why a MOOC cannot be partly offline. In fact, processes like examinations-for-certificates are increasingly “offlined” if they were to have value to future or current employers (an example: Similar to the examination, part of an online course can be delivered offline.

Back in the 1990s a lot of emailing in India used to be part offline: people composed email in a stand-alone computer and bicycled to an Internet café from where it was emailed and mail was also received. As recently as 2007, a small campus of an international Ag research center in Niger enabled staff to compose email on the Local Area Network (LAN). Twice daily someone carried a CD to the only city nearby to up/download messages.

There is however a hidden assumption that unless one has the level of IT infrastructure fairly comparable with what one obtains in a mid-level OECD country, many of the online processes would not be viable. This is not valid. It is also important to note that, in emerging economies, Internet access from mobile devices is fast outstripping access from laptops and PC’s- a fact reported in the famous Meeker’s report (KPCB) on Internet Trends even in 2013.

Ideally a resource should be in an open format using an open standard (a standard that is publicly available and has various rights to use associated with it) to be open. However this will not always be the case. Some OERs are not available online and others may use proprietary formats.

Further resources