Custom ‘repository’ developments in the UKOER programme

One interesting development in the UKOER programme has been how many projects have chosen to build their own repository/database to manage their content in some form. Normally the phrase ‘we’ve built our own repository’ makes me worry in the same that ‘we’re developing our own standard’ or ‘our own controlled vocabulary’ does. However, these projects have had a wide variety of good reasons for doing so – all of which bear closer examination. Their approach is a reminder that there are circumstances under which ‘build your own’ is both necessary and a good idea. Some projects also make a case for lightweight and disposable approaches.

All the custom developments have used MySQL and all of those taking this option have been subject strand projects.

  • CORE Materials
    • they have built a database for the central management of resources prior to uploading to web 2.0 sites; their own solution was required to support interaction with the APIs of web 2.0 tools.
  • Medev OOER
    • they have built a database as a staging ground for preparing OERs – JorumOpen is their primary deposit. They are also considering a local repository in the longer term.
    • MySQL was chosen to be able to interact with Subject Centre website.
    • They are also looking at web2.0 api interoperability
  • Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science
    • built a lightweight disposable solution as management and publishing tool and staging ground for Jorum deposit
    • Jorum as the primary repository and copy of record/ preservation copy.
  • Phorus
    • primary cataloguing of OERs is into Intute which is then harvested via OAI-PMH into their local database
    • they then aim to harvest resources into JORUM
    • they may also move resources to host institution’s (Fedora) repository
  • Simulation OER
    • developed local repository both as continuation of earlier work and as available repository options did not meet the key requirement of being able to preview simulations.

Use of repository software in the UKOER programme

In the UKOER programme a number of projects have chosen to use repository software to manage their educational materials. Such software may be commercial, open source, or hosted (often using open source). Alongside research information systems, repositories occupy an increasingly well established position in institutional infrastructure for managing and sharing research materials (including theses, preprints, and metadata about articles). Consequently for many institutions they offer a natural choice to manage and share OERs.

When I’m aware of a repository holding research content as well as OERs I’ve noted this: educational materials only or mixed materials.


  • Phorus
    • may harvest their MySQL based solution into their host institution’s repository (outwith project- presumably mixed materials).
  • Skills for Scientists
    • will move all resources into host institutional repository for preservation/ long term access.
    • not all content suitable for Jorum e.g. Scottish ~CC licensed stuff. (mixed materials)


  • Unicycle
    • mixed materials


  • Berlin
    • educational materials only
    • OpenCourseWare branded
  • OCEP
    • mixed materials

Harvest Road Hive

  • OpenStaffs
    • unknown  from context probably educational materials only


  • ADM OER partner
    • unknown collection composition
  • HumBox
    • educational  materials only
  • ChemistryFM
    • will be using institutional ePrints as preservation store
    • mixed materials


  • Open Exeter
    • developed support for Content Packages and a LOM mapping
    • educational materials
  • C-Change
    • local DSpace repository was considered but rejected in favour of Jorum only approach (counter-use)

I’ll be blogging shortly about the other approaches taken for managing and sharing OERs, I’ll comment on the patterns at that point – but feel free to add any suggestions or comments about repositories here.

The use of Web 2.0 tools in the UKOER programme

In the UKOER programme, Web 2.0 tools have been used to manage, promote, and provide better access to open educational resources. This post outlines what tools have been used and briefly notes how they’ve been used. Details about the projects can be found at and futher technical information can be found .

More details about the technical and descriptive affordances of the various Web 2.0 platforms are available the descriptions of tools included below have been drawn from this work (these have been primarily created by my colleague Phil Barker with input from the community)



“Scribd allows the sharing of documents, including short reports, posters, presentation slides, magazines, sheet music or full-length books. Typical use is for static text-and-image documents but spreadsheets are also handled. …Documents are viewable on the Scribd website and embeddable in webpages elsewhere in the iPaper format (which requires a Flash reader). Files on Scribd can be distributed either freely and openly, for fee, or privately.” (

Scribd is being used by:

  • OERP (Engineering)
  • CORE Materials

Projects in which academics are uploading to Scribd

  • OERP (Engineering) – central team to begin with moving to individuals for sustainability

Projects using the Scribd API

  • CORE Materials



“SlideShare’s core service is as a host for presentations, e.g. PowerPoint slides. These can be simple slide stacks, or can be slidecasts or videocasts which include audio or video commentary to accompany the slides. Recently SlideShare has added support for more general text and graphics “documents”.” (”

Slideshare is being used by:

  • OLE Dutch History
  • OERP (Engineering)
  • CORE Materials
  • Skills for Scientists

Projects using Slideshare as well as another form of repository [not including JORUM]

  • CORE Materials (central database)

Projects using the Slideshare API

  • CORE Materials

Projects in which academics are uploading to Slideshare

  • OTTER – individuals uploading
  • OERP (Engineering) – central team uploading to begin with which is moving to individuals for sustainability
  • C-SAP OER – central team uploading

Projects exploring (but not yet committed to using) Slideshare

  • OLE Dutch History
  • Skills for Scientists



iTunes is a music and video distribution platform created and run by Apple. It offers a mediated marketplace for content and along with Apple’s hardware has been instrumental in the popularisation of digital delivery of audio and video including podcasts. iTunesU is a developed section of this service allowing institutions to showcase podcasts and video – typically lectures or other audio.

iTunesU being used by:

  • OCEP
  • Berlin
  • OpenSpires
  • mmtv

Projects for whom iTunes has actively determined their approach to the description and delivery (RSS support) of their content

  • OpenSpires

Projects negotiating with their institutions about how their OER content relates to the institutional channel

  • mmtv



“Most of the resources on Flickr are photographs and many of the features of the platform are tailored to this (e.g. the automatic extraction of EXIF metadata to show, for example, camera type, aperture setting and shutter speed), though it is also used for diagrams and other forms of still image. Flickr also supports short (<90s) videos and other types of moving image. Flickr has comprehensive capabilities for metadata tagging, aggregation, syndication through RSS/ATOM.” (

Projects using Flickr:

  • OLE Dutch History (considering using it)
  • OERP
  • CORE Materials
  • C-Change (embedding into ppts)

Using the api to upload materials

  • CORE Materials

Using Flickr as a primary store

  • OERP



“YouTube is the pre-eminent video sharing website. While many of the videos are entertainment (home-shot or otherwise) it is widely used for more serious material and has a YouTube EDU branding for degree-level material. Access to view video is unlimited and any registered user may upload and share videos; the collection of videos provided by a user is known as their channel which also includes user-profile information. Registered users may also create playlists (collections of videos from other users) and comment on videos.” (

Projects using Youtube

  • Berlin
  • OCEP
  • mmtv
  • OpenSpace
  • ChemistryFM
  • OLE Dutch History
  • True
  • OERP
  • C-Change (embedding into PPTs/ contextualising)
  • Humbox
  • Core Materials
  • Skills for Scientists (some partners exploring)

Project specifically using YouTubeEdu

  • Berlin

Projects cataloguing resources academics have put on YouTube


Using Youtube as a primary repository

  • mmtv
  • ChemistryFM

Using YouTube instead of local streaming

  • True (local copies hidden (for preservation) but youtube for access/ embedding)
  • OERP (local copies hidden but youtube for access/ embedding)
  • CORE Materials – considering this



“Vimeo is a social web site for video sharing, with a reputation for supporting higher (technical) quality, longer videos than YouTube. The emphasis is on sharing videos created by individual users rather than commercial videos. Socially, vimeo supports user profiles, commenting on video, individual contacts, and subscriptions to channels and membership of groups. ” (

Projects using vimeo

  • mmtv
  • OERP



Zoho is a suite of collaborative cloud based tools including tools for writing, presenting, using spreadsheets, and sharing resources.

Projects using Zoho.

  • OERP (considering using it to share spreadsheets if required)



Delicious is an online tool for managing and sharing bookmarks.

Projects using Delicious:

  • OOER
  • OERP
  • C-SAP OER – (using for project info management – this becomes a resource in itself also using Cite-u-Like in same way)

We’ve very little direct information about other uses of Delicious were mentioned.

OER Literacies?

In my earlier post (Libraries, Institutions, and Open Educational Resources: possible connections?) I mentioned one of the ways libraries might be involved in Open Education would be through extending some of what they already do in connection to information literacy to encompass supporting students in selecting and evaluating OERs. There is an assumption here that for teachers and learners there is a (not yet fully articulated) support skill which is a mixture of something from  pedagogy/course design and something from information literacy.

When we design courses or develop as self-regulated learners we select and use resources based not only on their subject and content but also on how they fit with or could be easily adapted to our environment, context, and learning style. I’m suggesting that there is a skillset here that’s part of the discovery and selection process which supports Open Education in the same way that information literacy supports research. Some of this is probably covered by traditional student support/ or course design courses through services offered by teaching and learning support services but I’m wondering if with OERs the scale of discovery, evaluation and selection begins to require a form of information literacy and be an area in which libraries collaborate with teaching and learning centres in supporting students.

What do I think OER literacy looks like? well as a start I think it looks at some of these questions.

Evaluating the resource

  • Where does the resource come from?
  • Is it coherent?
  • Who produced it?
  • Does it have use appropriate sources?
  • How current is it?
  • What cultural context does it assume?
  • What legal jurisdiction does it assume?
  • Is it specific to any given accreditation process?

What can I do with resource?

  • Are there any licence restrictions?
  • Is the resource format suitable for adaptation?

Resources assumed to use the resource

  • Does it want access to particular digital resources (course readings)?
  • Does it want access to particular software
  • Does it want access to particular tools/ infrastructure?

Type of interaction assumed by the resource

  • Does it assume any particular type of interaction (group work?)
  • Does it assume any form of online interaction/ community?

Some of this information is the sort of question heavyweight elearning metadata standards tried to capture and to universally abstract into metadata. This isn’t the place to comment on those efforts but it is to say that there is a need to ask that type of question of a resource when we go to use it. And perhaps some of that process needs to be part of how users of OERs may need to be supported.

Caveat: Beyond the research I looked into for my earlier post and some work on course design I’ve not yet had an opportunity to explore this idea much or for that matter or do any specific research to see if anyone else has begun to look at this area. If you know of any work – please feel free to comment :-)

It does strike me that some of this is the flip side Open Educational Practice that the OPAL project is looking at. OPAL project OEP cloudscape

Libraries, Institutions, and Open Educational Resources: possible connections?

Open Educational Resources

The growing success of the Open Access movement is transforming how institutions view, manage, publish, and access their research outputs – irrespective of any local commitment to Open Access. In a similar manner the Open Educational movement may transform how institutions create, manage, and share learning materials. Open Educational Resources (OERs) are a catalyst for institutional change.
The growth of freely available learning materials from institutions around the world is, like Open Access, both an opportunity and a challenge for an institution. They offer the institution an opportunity to showcase their courses to potential students, enhance the reputation and visibility of the university among its peers and the general public, be seen to providing value for any public funding they receive by making knowledge more accessible, and promote a more flexible pattern of learning for enrolled students. They also, however, present challenges as the process of providing OERs is not straightforward and it accelerates the shift from understanding a university as a place where one goes to receive knowledge to understanding a university as a context for a community of learning in which students construct knowledge and a context for a student experience in which good facilities, pedagogy, and accreditation combine. If a student can access resources from many universities to support their learning, the quality of what a single institution adds to that content is crucial.

Open Educational Resources and libraries

Despite occasional protestations that self-archiving should be the norm, it is clear that academic libraries play a vital role in the Open Access movement and often provide skills, training, and advocacy, as well as managing the required infrastructure. Libraries are beginning to play a role in the emerging world of Open Data and Open Science, but their involvement in the OER movement has thus far been limited, as has their involvement more generally in the management of learning materials. Libraries may hold syllabi and past exam papers and may offer materials supporting information literacy and research skills, but they often play a lesser role in the management of lecture notes, presentations, or formative assessment materials. Such materials, are often held only by the lecturer, tutor, or department providing the course. Furthermore learning materials, where they are available, may be poorly integrated into the user’s view of library resources (See Tony Hirst,, the blog ‘Open Educational Resources and the Library Website’ August 10th 2009 There are plenty of legitimate historical reasons for this but as the range of digitally available materials increases, and in particular as the range of OERs increase libraries have an opportunity to capitalise on their already important role in the student’s studies, the academic’s professional development, and institution’s public portfolio.
There are signs that librarians are beginning to engage with the Open Educational movement, most notably the recent ACRL Forum on the issue at the ALA Midwinter this year. In summarizing the panel’s views Belliston (C. Jeffrey Belliston Open Educational Resources: Creating the instruction commons C&RL News, May 2009 Vol. 70, No. 5 ) states:

Librarians can help by contributing their own OERs to the commons; screening for, indexing, and archiving quality OERs; using OERs in their own teaching; and participating in discussions leading toward responsible intellectual property policies and useful standards.

This summary highlights some of the key ways in which librarians can begin to be involved, but, I think, fails to consider how librarians can engage in the wider issues around the creation of OERs and their use. It interacts with Open Education in a way that parallels (to a degree) how librarians interact with Open Access. It does not yet consider the active role librarians can play in the initial description, management, and distribution of OERs. For example, In CETIS’s engagement with many of the institutional projects in Open Educational Resources programme I have noted that many are engaging with their university libraries, not only to seek advice about resource description and the application of metadata standards but also to consider the long term role institutional repositories might play in managing these assets and the possible role of the library in the OER production workflow.

What institutional role could libraries play in the Open Educational movement?

Although many academics in the OER movement have thus far had success making their learning materials available informally through tools like SlideShare, the process is more complex for an institution – especially if it is considering how it might maximise the return on its investment in openness (whether that return be in terms of publicity, goodwill, efficiency, or an improved student experience). It is also not without cost: for example, both MIT and Oxford have developed production workflows around a centralised unit which is responsible for branding and checking rights.

The general failure of a Learning Object economy points to the need to develop less complex, more scalable and sustainable approaches to sharing OERs (Stephen Downes (2002) The Learning Object Economy Such processes need to be informed by knowledge of resource description and metadata standards as they apply to the specific tools intended to disseminate the resources – whether that be a proprietary application (iTunesU), a generic search engine, a repository, or some combination of the above.

As the ACRL panel also outlines OERs become additional resources that subject librarians can reference in supporting students; they are also, however, a new form of resource which students need appropriate information literacy skills to assess (skills such as assessing the quality of the material, its origin, currency, and fit with the student’s learning style) and they introduce (or will introduce) a new set of discovery tools for students and staff to be familiar with (such as Jorum, or aggregator services like OERCommons ).

In summary I think that libraries can offer advice and engage with Open Education in the following areas:

  • Metadata and resource description
  • Information management and resource dissemination
  • Information literacy (finding and evaluating OERs)
  • Subject guides
  • Managing and clearing Intellectual Property Rights

However, such advice, involvement and any subsequent guidelines for best practice emerge from a thorough understanding of current practice, which at this stage is not clear. To this end there are numbers of research questions around this topic that could be usefully explored. These include:

  • What opportunities and issues emerge for librarians and libraries from the OER movement?
  • What role do libraries currently have in OER initiatives or the wider the management of materials relating to teaching and learning produced by institutions?
  • Are library skills perceived as relevant to the management of teaching and learning materials (within libraries, within institutions, or by the OER movement)?
  • What can the library offer the institution in this area?

The use of IMS CP in the UKOER programme

IMS Content Packaging “describes data structures that can be used to exchange data between systems that wish to import, export, aggregate, and disaggregate packages of content.” .
There are a number of projects in the programme which have identified themselves as using IMS Content Packaging, they are:

Some of the projects use Content Packaging in so far as the software they are using to manage OERs uses it or offers it as an export option. These projects are:

  • Unicycle
  • OpenStaffs
  • OLE Dutch History
  • Simulation-OER

Some projects using IMS_CP as a mechanism to deposit content into Jorum

  • Unicycle
  • OpenExeter [tbc conversation about CP use occured early in project]

Some projects are mediating but not creating resources which are Content Packages

  • OERP
  • OOER


Although some projects have chosen to use CP, it should be observed that many projects are either submitting single resources or simply using zip to aggregate or bundle resources. There are a number of reasons CP may not have featured as much as usual, which include:

  • different tools in use
    • In comparison to many e-learning development projects few projects in the UKEOR programme are using elearning specific technology (more on this in a future post) and as a result out-of-the-box support for CP is not prevalent in the programme. There is also only limited use of VLEs in the programme.
  • detailed structuring seen as superfluous?
    • Another possible reason for the relative underuse of CP may be that the functionality and features it offers to support or store structured content was not considered necessary by projects.
  • “Not using content packaging for repository- end users unlikely to use Reload so using  a more straightforward Zip based approach” Humbox project

The use of IMS QTI in the UKOER programme

IMS Question & Test Interoperability Specification is a standard used to support the interoperability and exchange of digital assessment items (questions, answers, and data). Based on the technical conversations we’ve been having with projects, here’s a brief overview of the use of IMS QTI in the UKOER programme based on the data we have.
Eight projects identified themselves as using QTI in some form.

The use of QTI in these projects does not however follow a single pattern, there are three rough groups of the occurrence of QTI in the Open Educational Resources being released in the programme.
Some projects have acquired OERs which already use QTI and they are managing and passing them on as they are. These projects are:

  • Skills for Scientists
  • CORE-Materials
  • Evolution

Some projects are using tools which support the export of QTI, and they could export items they have in that manner. These projects are:

  • TRUE
  • Open Educational Repository in Support of Computer Science
  • OLE Dutch History

Some projects are explicitly creating or releasing OERs which are QTI assessment items. These projects are:

  • FETLAR (particular focus on Math related items and using some Math-specific tools )
  • brome OERP (are taking items they have been given in in QuestionMark and exporting as QTI to make more open before sharing)

FETLAR’s work builds on cutting edge development on how to use QTI with Math items.