OER Synthesis and Evaluation / Evidence DiscoveryReUseAccessibility
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Evidence DiscoveryReUseAccessibility

Page history last edited by Lou McGill 8 years ago

Back to main report

Back to Evidence - main page

see also

Evidence -OER release publishing models

Evidence - Collections and subject disciplines

Evidence - Technical/hosting issues

Evidence - OER being adopted and used


Releasing and using OERs

Discovery, Re-use and accessibility

 different OER publishing models, the role of collaborations


Themes strand

CORE-SET (CORE-SET final report) | ReACTOR (ReACTOR Final report) |  Opening up a future in business (Future in business Final Report)COMC (COMC Final report) | PARIS (PARIS Final Project Report)  HALS OER (HALS OER Final Project Report)PublishOER (PublishOER final report) | Great Writers (Great Writers Final Report)|  ALTO UK (ALTO UK Final Report)  | ORBIT (ORBIT Final Report) | DEFT (DEFT Final Report)    | FAVOR (FAVOR Final Report) | SESAME (SESAME Final Report) |


OMAC strand

BLOCKeD (BLOCKeD Final Report) |   Digital Literacy and Creativity (Digital Literacy and Creativity Final Report | Academic Practice in Context (Academic Practice in Context Final report) | Teeside Open Learning Units (Teeside Open Learning Units Final Report)



In what ways (appropriate to your stakeholders) have you organised your OER and guided users through them?

  • Four routes into the content were agreed: through a searchable Library of all resources; through Themes which were mostly related to historical periods in literature reflecting the way the subject is taught at university; through individual Writer pages which would possibly appeal more to schools and the general public; and through a searchable list of eBooks. (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)
  • As a result of feedback received at the Engage workshop the project team found a need to identify what purpose some parts of the website might be useful for, a need to offer different paths through the resources.
    “Signalling possible connections between the podcasts in terms of topics might be useful. One way of doing it is just to describe how and why the podcast/lecture might be useful.” A level teacher

To address this, a new theme was added, Approaches to Literature, in which a number of genres are explored with specific examples of how materials from Great Writers Inspire can be used by teachers and students. In addition, one of the Student Ambassadors generated some ‘tours’ to help people explore the site in different ways. (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)

  • Great Writers Inspire adds value to pre-existing OER by placing them in the writer and theme context. The essays in particular help with this by providing an ‘academic wrapper’ which links the episodes. Users are also presented with ‘related collections’ which offer extra context of broader collections to explore. The novelty of this project was not simply providing the materials online but gathering the materials in contextual collections, making them more accessible and discoverable.  (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)


What measures have you taken to ensure that your OER are accessible to your intended user groups both pedagogically and technically?

  • The quality and appropriateness of resources selected for inclusion in ORBIT have been assessed using a number of instruments, namely through dialogue with teachers who have advised what content is appropriate and useful to them as well as the types, styles and formats of materials that are accessible to them. In addition issues around quality have been considered by the project team when selecting resources, with reference to other OER projects' guidelines such as OpenLearn and the Commonwealth of Learning. (ORBIT Interim Report)
  • Enhance deposit and use of OERs in art and design by creating a prototype shared dynamic collaborative social media based platform based on the experience of Process.Arts at the UAL  which:
    (a) Is linked to Jorum.
    (b) Has clear policies of use for the project partners and potentially the wider HE sector.
    (c) Is integrated into the wider OER ecosystem (ALTO Final Report)
  • The tutors were involved in the process of reflecting critically on their involvement in the project and responded at regular intervals to reflexive prompts. They also assisted the project team in organising focus groups with their student cohorts, aimed at eliciting student views on issues of relevance to digital literacy and OERs, with the focus groups taking place in January and June 2012.  The tutors also facilitated student-led presentation sessions in June during which PGCE students explored issues of digital literacy in the context of professional development. (DEFT Final Report)
  • Finding themes which would suit all universities and schools would have been impossible and no attempt has been made to follow a specific curriculum or course plan. Literature is often loosely period based but there are many other approaches which could have been adopted. By following the steer of the academic leads, inspirational collections are provided which are useful in a variety of contexts. The academics preferred the theme approach and were very conscious of steering away from the more classical definition of the literary cannon. The choice of writers and themes was also influenced by the availability of open content and the academics able to contribute within the project timeframe. (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)
  • At an early stage we decided to use JACS subject codes, which we hoped would make data about our OER more transferable; however this has been a frustrating experience on a practical level for end users, with subjects we needed not on the list15. As a result we are not sure we would use this list again. (SESAME Final Report)
  •  Another aspect to the production work of ORBIT resources is that of collaboration and feedback, not only from the main project stakeholders but also from colleagues in other HEIs. Successful contacts were made with other HEIs including, for example, with teacher educators in the Open University; Leicester and Sheffield Hallam University; the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Nottingham, as well as with colleagues at Kings College, London. (ORBIT Final report).
  • Materials include text, images, audio, video and animations, as well as signposts to other OER and a selection of non-OER websites relevant to teachers and teacher educators, such as OpenLearn, MIT OCW, Times Educational Supplement (TES), etc. It was essential that the ORBIT wiki was able to present this variety of materials in an accessible way to teachers and teacher educators. (ORBIT Final report)
  • A growing body of evidence, gained from dialogue with the stakeholders, suggested that teachers regarded PDF files, for example, as less accessible than, e.g., a PowerPoint or interactive whiteboard (IWB) file for the re-purposing or remixing of contents for their lesson developments. Equally, teachers were absolutely clear that they were unlikely to use materials pertinent to a lesson idea unless they were presented as files with a succinct description. This manifested in a number of redesigns of the ORBIT interface and subsequent presentation of the interactive teaching materials. (ORBIT Final report)
  •  Thus the ORBIT wiki is a structured site that includes specific wiki pages signposting the main categories according to which resources are organised (ORBIT Final report)
  • In line with the identified target user-case of teacher education, the teaching approach is central to the ORBIT wiki. The core six approaches (which are presented in the coursebook, and can be viewed alongside other approaches http://orbit.educ.cam.ac.uk/wiki/Teaching_Approaches), are introduced with text compiled from our own writing, and OGL or CC licence resources; many of which are only downloadable from the National Archives, or other repositories such as DERA.  Their addition to the Wiki facilitates their being viewed as “live” documents, to be edited, updated, and adapted as policy, new evidence, and multiple purposes are updated or identified.  (ORBIT Final report)
  • These relationships provide different means to navigate between resources – by type, or by category.  In addition, resources from the same set have been associated by using a 'Page Group' menu which allows users, for example,to navigate through all of the VITAL resources on the ORBIT wiki without leaving the Resource view page. (ORBIT Final report)
  •  One of the fundamental aspects of the ORBIT project was to enable stakeholders, teachers and teacher educators to access interactive teaching materials grouped by pedagogy. In order to meet this aim, in addition to presenting materials on the wiki, the creation of a bespoke open coursebook was also pursued. (ORBIT Final report)
  •  A collection of materials drawn from the resource bank was collated into a self-contained open digital coursebook. It was to be presented in a range of formats, including print, to suit students.
  • Additionally, it was thought that there may also be scope for an exploration with publishers, in respect of an open publication model to publish in a paper format or as an eBook. With this in mind, a number of successful meetings took place with Cambridge University Press, for instance discussing how the book could be published, and what help and advice they might be able to give in this process. (ORBIT Final report)
  • Interviewees preferred to access OER through websites that they saw as being trustworthy and of high quality. The size of a resource bank was considered less important than its integrity, usability and accessibility. It was suggested that subject associations and subject specialist organisations offered some of the best material. (ORBIT Final report)
  •  we have initiated a list with a growing number of criteria – the importance of which have been reinforced to us through consultation with teachers – that enable us to select resources for inclusion in the ORBIT database. These include, for instance, an interactive and explicit pedagogic approach, targetting to a certain age range, alignment with the UK curriculum, having been tried and tested in class and found to be engaging to learners, specifying clear learning objectives.  (ORBIT Final report)
  •  , publishing resources in hard-to-edit-or-adapt formats (such as PDF). While it is possible in principle to convert PDF to other formats, it is a somewhat specialist task. Publishing open resources as PDF only (and not in editable formats) thus violates the second OER freedom. While most OER use Creative Commons licenses, it is important to make the license clear, and to use the most permissive Creative Common license possible. The final example which fits between technical freedom and a more educational freedom is commenting of source code. If source code is poorly commented, then an open license (allowing adaptation) is difficult to act upon. (ORBIT Final report)
  • We strongly believe that aiming for true “openness” of learning resources is a way of raising educational standards in terms of the quality of materials produced and achieving accessible resources that are usable by all learners. Our aim was to produce an open and accessible website, technically flexible and accessible resources and high-quality designed educational resources. HALS was fortunate to engage a student volunteer with dyslexia and he was a valuable consultant on the team in providing feedback on the website and individual resources. He helped highlight what worked and not worked. (HALS OER Final Project Report) 
  • An important consideration for any website or repository containing OER is to ensure it is accessible. The WordPress Direct as a web platform promotes accessibility by virtue of many features that are also important for SEO strategies.

•    Consistent webpage layout format
•    Use of ALT tags for images and embedded videos
•    Simple navigation including search box, tag clouds
•    The use of headings on blog articles (HALS OER Final Project Report) 

  • Accessibility was further achieved by publishing OER in multiple formats wherever possible. This did not require an extra investment of time, as most software e.g. Microsoft Word can easily save as a PDF document, and for animations, Flash can easily publish as an AVI video as it can as an animation or SWF file. Animations and video were all distributed via YouTube, again, a quick and simple means of making OER accessible without having to worry about codec and formats. Flash animations (.FLA) files were published both as animation and videos. They were slightly modified and stripped of buttons and interactive elements, timings changed, to publish as video. (HALS OER Final Project Report) 
  • All videos and animations that were narrated had the voice-overs transcribed (PDF, DOC, TXT files), again ensuring our content is appropriate for all types of learners, but also in terms of interoperability, ensuring content is not wasted and can be accessed on PCs, MACs, computers, tablets and mobile phones. The text files enable resources to be read by screen readers, and discussions with NIACE in terms of understanding the requirements of some adult learners raised our attention to the fact that not all learners might have access to the internet, for example those in prison. (HALS OER Final Project Report) 
  • As part of HALS we worked with a student consultant with dyslexia who gave us great insight into the educational design of OER, and how resources should be released in multiple formats to suit a range of user needs and learning styles. For example a video that is just a stream of information needs to contain titles, credits, learning outcomes and other text-based information to assist comprehension and allow the user to take a pause.  (HALS OER Final Project Report)
  • In fact, by aspiring to the goals of producing accessible OER, this facilitates interoperability and flexibility for the user. By releasing OER in multiple formats and making them more technically “open” this should also encourage reuse and repurposing.

•    All videos and narrations were transcribed into documents (available in PDF, Word and text file)
•    Flash animations were published as video
•    Multiple choice and assessment questions were available in multiple formats (PDF, Word, text)
(HALS OER Final Project Report)

  • It was quite notable that many OER produced as part of earlier UKOER projects were not accessible and were constrained behind technical barriers. For example, resources using Articulate Presenter and other propriety software can only be repurposed in the institution has the license to use the software, and only if all the project files and folders are available. Multiple choice questions published using QuestionMark Perception released as a SCORM package for uploading into Blackboard do not make accessible the actual questions, and these could be simply included into a document. (HALS OER Final Project Report)
  • Not all OER are open and accessible, and there is work to be done to ensure that technical solutions are appropriate to the target audiences to achieve the whole OER mission – to share and stop reinventing the wheel. If OER are technically bound, the goals will not be achieved. We need to achieve accessible learning resources that aren’t constrained by operating systems and devices. (HALS OER Final Project Report)
  • Having spent considerable time in editing it is interesting to reflect how the material is malleable and could be put together differently to meet the needs of another audience.  The students working on this project in their final or postgraduate years of study found inspiration in the material and clearly feel informed and better able to consider entrepreneurial activity themselves.  From the first edit version of the material one could create a new edit to fit the needs of say a course for new entrepreneurs, or, for women returning to work or considering working by themselves in a consultancy role etc(Future in business Final Report)


In what ways have you tried to ensure that your OER are adaptable for re-use and re-purposing, and how effective were they?

  •  The content of the open textbook is divided broadly into five “chapters”, these are further broken down into sections, then topics and finally individual paragraphs. Users are able to work at each of these four levels, and to annotate and comment on “chunks” of content which then can be added these to their own personal “thinking space”. Any content in thinking space can be exported and/or shared with others. (DEFT Final Report)
  • reuse has been maximised by offering multiple download options with clear attribution and licence. Tracking reuse has been enabled by extensive event tracking in Google Analytics. (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)
  • Each episode of content included on the site is presented with reuse options and the licence is added to the reuse information to encourage correct attribution. By default each item catalogued by Great Writers Inspire comes with the reuse option of a block of cut and paste-able HTML which contains RDFa for the author and the licence.  (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)
  • Google Analytics events have been enabled to track a variety of actions on the site, including the reuse options. As well as the reuse options, there is also code to track when any text is copied from the site and whenever the ‘cite’ text is copied. It is possible to track how much of a media file is played, when a media file which has been embedded has been played, and when an embedded sub-theme or writer page has been accessed. (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)
  • Adaptability of OER materials was seen as essential. All interviewees said they preferred to tailor materials to suit their own purposes and match the needs of their students. A key recommendation for ORBIT was that resources should be provided in formats that permit easy adaptation:

“They need to be good resources and ‘good’ doesn’t just mean, you know, looks pretty. . . but good in terms of is useful to me, hopefully, because they’re open and, you know, the graphics are vectored so I can take things out rather than embedded bitmaps, and the file size is reasonable and it’s not saved in Adobe Illustrator format that I don’t have, . .using free and open source software as much as possible.”  (secondary teacher) (ORBIT Final report)

  • It is important to ensure that we archive much of this first edit original material so that it is available in the future to be re-edited to create material for a new audience.  We could consider creating a selection of material that could be used in different contexts and add it to the external part of the Solent repository, Vimeo or other alternate video repositories, directing users to it through links in the tutor guide. However we would need to carefully consider how resource intensive this increase in granularity would be.  (Future in business Final Report)
  • This issue of archiving for reuse also links back to the need for a well organised film repository in the University with a mechanism for quality control and advice on creation of metadata to staff. (Future in business Final Report)
  • Legacy / the visitor experience: there are profound issues, which we are just coming to terms with about the radically different experiences afforded to the users of our Open Classes when they are fully live Vs. when they are dormant. We had been acutely aware of these differences but the challenges of the latter are profound. (COMC Final Report)
  • The Digital formations class was initially not set up to be an Actively Open Class – more an Open archive/open resource, this again raises the question of the relationships between content, format and signposting for external visitors. There has obviously been considerable effort invested in the project site and the student sites (to varying degrees) but the question has to be asked – how visitors outside the F2F class know of the site? Where is it signposted and how are others going to find it? One answer is that the tutor’s website (http://europeandreamscapes.wordpress.com/) contains links to the student sites and to the module site, as well as details of other projects on this theme with which he is involved. The network associate with this project and site could have been more effectively used to direct attention/commentary and contribution back to the class site.   (COMC Final Report)

What means (including publishing models) have you used to make OER discoverable, and how effective were they?

  • SEO makes OER (and UKOER) discoverable. Using opportunities such as the Queen’s visit to DMU boosted site visits. One blog article with well chosen keywords can boost traffic. Having a Facebook page is an essential element, and campaigns to reach out to students and local colleges (to “like” the page) is important. (HALS OER Interim Report)
  • The site ranks highly in Google for its chosen keyword (biology courses) and the online marketing and social networking strategies make the OER discoverable through a search engine search. (HALS OER Final Project Report) 
  •  SEO is a moveable feast and strategies continually have to change to comply with Google algorithm, which dictates how websites are ranked on the internet. Two notable changes recently have included Penguin and Panda. In short, more emphasis is placed on good quality content and natural sites (not ones artificially stuffed with chosen keywords). We believe we work to these high standards anyway. (HALS OER Final Project Report) 
  • Another notable difference to our previous project SCOOTER was the increased rankings of news, social networking and personal profiles. We therefore modified our approach as well as employed new social sharing platforms such as Pinterest (Pinterest.com) for sharing images and photographs. A more detailed SEO and marketing report is to follow with recommendations to the community. (HALS OER Final Project Report)
  • Visitor activity was tracked using Google Analytics and other actions and behaviours determined by monitoring activities such as discussions (via, site Forum, email, Blog comments and social network), and dissemination (visitors who clicked on Technorati tags to “share” content via Facebook and Twitter). From this data we can make assumptions about the degree of impact, and further evaluations carried out by on-line surveys and by evaluating the comments provided via the social networks could give insight into the level of impact. (HALS OER Final Project Report) 
  • Facebook is an increasingly used means of web-marketing, and with an initial cohort of students “liking” the page (n=86), the potential reach to their friends is in excess of 23,000 people. YouTube is effective for video distribution with the Biology Courses channel receiving 3,600 views in a matter of months. In table X it is clear how many users then go onto visit the HALS website from Facebook and YouTube, so these are good sources of referral traffic. In short, HALS has performed well compared to SCOOTER in a comparable 8 month period after launch. Table 3 compiled from Google Analytics shows visitor numbers and geographic locations of users. One interesting difference to HALS traffic (January to October 2012) compared to SCOOTER traffic (January to October 2011) is the increase in visitors viewing the site on a mobile device. (HALS OER Final Project Report) 
  • So to conclude, this approach to sharing OER on the internet succeeds in its goal to make resources discoverable by wide global audiences. Additional social networking activity can be used to target resources to communities of interest. Research confirms that the majority of users find OER via Google searches, and the research question that emerges is how do open sites such as these compare to repositories for discovery and accessibility? The use of institution-based repositories is something of concern.

“But the problem is then that could have the effect of silo-ing each institution to prevent them from talking with each other about the development and acutance of more networked and community based setting”. (Senior Executive 2012). (HALS OER Final Project Report) 

  • Drupal has built-in support for displaying any item with all of its associated metadata. However, when displaying this metadata it doesn’t have support for embedding LRMI or Schema.org metadata. A custom page was created so that the attributes are machine-readable to services such as Google. This is discussed in the following blog post http://blogs.oucs.ox.ac.uk/openspires/2012/01/17/aces-hearts-clubs-and-spades-the-cms-as-the-dealer/. (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)
  • Page optimisation for microdata and RDFa - In the process of customising the content display, microdata (via Schema.org) and RDFa (using the Creative Commons educational standards) have been directly added to catalogue each page. In doing so the site can gain from the benefits of better indexing by Google and other search engines, as well as allowing people using RDFa software to extract this metadata from the resources (services such as openattribute use this data). In addition a theme was carried over from Podcasts.ox.ac.uk which had already been optimised for search engine discovery. (Great Writers Inspire Final Report)
  •  a series of procedures were put in place in order to identify, adapt, analyse, tag and examine every interactive teaching resource before it is put on the ORBIT wiki. However, this means, in practice, that there were many more resources in progress than were presented on the wiki. There are a number of reasons for this, also described in the preceding work package sections. (ORBIT Final report)
  • The ability to ‘transclude’ text - i.e. to include text written in one article or page, in the body of another article or page, therefore, permitting users to remix & represent content in various places
    The ability to use 'templates' to present individual resources in a standard format, which can be changed globally allowing for user feedback
    The ability to use 'templates' to link resources together. For example, where texts were adapted and reused across the wiki (often from original OGL licence materials), these were associated with an ‘’adaptedfrom’’ template, giving a full attribution to the original text.
    Using Semantic MediaWiki to associate resources with properties, which can be queried and used to produce customised listings. For example, showcasing those resources related to “assessment”, or primary maths, etc. (
    ORBIT Final report)
  •  Regarding the engagement with Cambridge International Examinations, a number of meetings were held impacting, for instance, on their framework for teachers as professional practitioners, as well as their own thinking about Creative Commons licensing. Cambridge International Examinations is primarily selling their examinations and other assessment and certification services (including for professional development), rather than associated resources and had already started reflecting on Creative Commons licences, which made our engagement timely. (ORBIT Final report)
  • With the exception of Pearson’s APIs (http://developer.pearson.com/apis, 2012) there was limited provision for external search of published content. In fact the potential value of this was scarcely considered. The firewalls and bespoke formats meant limited discoverability and flexibility of resources from third party sources that could be used in teaching, royalties paid or not. A ‘critical mass’ of content was required in easy-to-search formats (across publication types, across publishers), in order to promote content to busy teaching staff. In our view it was better to have the problem of needing to filter too much information than not enough. If just the metadata for books and book content was outside the firewall we felt that it would greatly increase discoverability and potential for re-use in OER. Additionally publishers could provide their own text-mined sources – where indexes (word frequencies and very short phrases) were taken of books and shared for the purpose of discoverability. (PublishOER Final Report)
  • The ‘digital noise wall’: making large amounts of content freely available online and within a open-access frameworks (which can be largely ‘passive’), can in itself be intimidating to those outside the OER world. We see this, in part, as a symptom of our own transition from a ‘broadcast’ culture, to a collaborative (actively Open) one  (COMC Final Report) 
  •  Legacy / the visitor experience: there are profound issues, which we are just coming to terms with - the radically different experiences afforded to the users of our Open Classes when they are fully live Vs. when they are dormant. (COMC Final Report)



External factors around discovery


  • Externally to the project there will be many developments as organisations and start-ups seek to provide solutions to the problems faced by teachers and students in finding and using openly licenced resources. Companies such as SIPX (2013), supporting Coursera (Figure 44), have realised the need to lower the transaction costs of supporting learning and teaching especially for MOOCs. They have invited content owners to register metadata about content including pricing, similar to proposals for the Copyright Hub in the UK. Use of the system could support content discoverability and usage statistics, however inherent risks to success include access to information about content. (PublishOER Final Report)
  • The Learning Registry (Learning Registry 2013) has taken a distributed view of the location of content and seeks to share metadata information behind the scenes, in order to make learning content more discoverable. This approach is also likely to thrive as metadata sources become joined up. The need to de-duplicate records as an aid to discoverability is a serious issue, leading to ongoing debate about unique identifiers. (PublishOER Final Report)








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