Structured content editor for OERs

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Concept proposal prepared by Allyn J Radford, Learnilities (Pty) Ltd., email

Project overview

This page provides and overview of the OER Editor and Aggregator Project. The project is concerned with the development of an openly licensed content authoring and aggregation tool that is easy to use and that natively produces content that is reusable and adaptable at granular and/or aggregated levels.

In recent years there has been growing investment into Open Educational Resources (OERs) as an approach to reduce the cost of education through availability of high quality educational content that can be freely reused and adapted in accordance with an appropriate open license (eg Creative Commons). Open Education Resource initiatives are one of a number of government and/or foundation funded research and implementation projects contributing to pieces of a broader vision for education. These projects amount to many hundreds of millions of dollars in total and include initiatives concerned with content development, repositories, discovery, federation and various approaches to interoperability and service orientated approaches to infrastructure. In many of these types of initiatives there is a direct relationship with OER and with others the value is indirect or shared with other education sector objectives. Nonetheless, there are large investments being made globally by foundations and governments in support of the promised benefits of OERs.

While the amount of OER content is increasing, the ability to reuse that content in flexible ways is not. Internationally, the most widely recognised initiatives include MIT's Open Courseware (OCW) initiative, California State University's Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT), Rice University's Connexions initiative, Open University UK's OpenLearn and a range of open textbook offerings. Both OCW and Connexions have now formed consortia as one pathway to sustainability. These and other initiatives will be covered in more detail later in this proposal. OCW and MERLOT are comprised of content that varies considerably in terms of format and structure and this impacts and often constrains the ways in which materials can be reused. While Connexions and OpenLearn both have structured content approaches that are more suited to content being adapted and reused, neither of these initiatives have a simple authoring/editing/aggregation tool that can be readily used by faculty members (academic staff), teachers in the compulsory education sector or the students in any of these sectors.

This project is focused on the development of an authoring and aggregation tool that is easy to use and inherently produces content that is easily reusable and adaptable for different learning contexts. It is important to note that no single tool or application within an infrastructure to support learning, education and training will have sole and independent responsibility to fulfill the objectives of this project. There is an important interrelationship and interdependence between the authoring and aggregation tool and the infrastructure within which it is used.

NOTE: Letters of Support for this project or its objectives are progressively being added to the Interested Parties page.

High level objectives

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The goals of this project exist in two parts. Firstly, to develop an open source, structured content authoring and aggregation tool that has the high-level characteristics outlined below, and secondly, to provide practical guidelines and best practice advice for creating and reusing content consistent with the objectives of OER.

The open source authoring and aggregation tool will be:

  1. simple and suitable for use by non-technical members of various educational communities and sectors;
  2. customizable (by software developers), so that its functionality can be adapted to the needs of particular educational communities;
  3. adaptable so that it can support different structured content formats via a 'plugin' approach;
  4. connectable so that it can be used offline or directly connected to a content repository, federated search or recommender service;
  5. accessible so that it can be used by persons with disabilities and the tool itself will also support development of accessible content;
  6. re-skinnable so that the interface can be changed in simple ways by non-technical users and in advanced ways by more technical users
  7. metadata-aware so that both descriptive and functional metadata can be added by non-technical users in very simple ways;
  8. cross-platform so that content developers are not excluded on the basis of computer or operating system; and
  9. licensed openly so that the largest possible audience can adopt it and produce reusable content.

  1. These objectives and functionalities are described in more detail in later sections. It is expected the project will evolve in stages with a simple tool being available for use within a relatively short period of time (subject to funding) thereby increasing the value of this project, confidence in its progress and reducing risk.
  2. During development, the project team will also develop an active developer community to enhance the functionality of the tool and shift to a community-source approach that focuses on release management and strategically seeding the community for the development and sharing of new functionality.
Road Works.svg Work in progress, expect frequent changes. Help and feedback is welcome. See discussion page. Road Works.svg