Open Teaching in a Digital Age

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 29 Sep, 2009


We are having our second round of seminars on using and creating open educational resources (OER) at the University of Cape Town.  Looking back on our first seminar is an interesting way to gauge how far we have come and how much has changed in terms of our own understanding of the OER movement and how we share it with our colleagues.  

The digital age has rung in profound changes for the higher education endeavour – not least of which has been a revolution in the way teaching materials are generated, shared and re-appropriated by means of alternative licensing on the internet.

The OER movement is a worldwide community effort providing a framework for sharing teaching materials via the internet. The term ‘OER’ refers to all learning materials offered freely and openly, and includes learning content (from full courses to lecture notes) as well as learning tools (such as software).

In 2008, UCT joined the move towards openness in education by becoming a signatory to the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. The initiative to cement UCT’s place in this global sharing community has been furthered by the establishment of the OER UCT Project in the Centre for Educational Technology.

Supported by the Shuttleworth Foundation, the OER UCT Project aims to showcase the teaching efforts of UCT academics by encouraging the publication of teaching materials as OER and establishing a directory listing the UCT Collection of OER.

If you would like to know more about this realm or are interested in attending an introductory seminar on OER please leave a comment on this blog and we will contact you.

The seminar will run this Thursday September 29 at 1pm.  Refreshements will be served.

Open Teaching in a Digital Age
Hoerikwaggo 3A, 13h00 - 14h00
Sign up:

Delineating Between OER and Elearning

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 15 Sep, 2009

Creative Commons Image by frozenchipmunk

Recently I mused upon the differences between OER and e-learning.  I found that many of my colleagues had blurred the lines between the two which can present challenges in motivating and understanding one from the other.  

Certainly e-learning has any number of different explicit definitions depending on who you ask.  From learning online, to learning with electronic resources, to an online learning pedagogy … e-learning is a term rife with meaning.  My understanding of e-learning is learning which is meant to occur while interacting with a computer.  

OER should not replace e-learning as a term similarly rife with ambiguity.  It is tempting to create electronic resources and label them OER, but in fact OER extends well beyond the realm of simply ‘electronic’ resources.  The key components of OER are that they are shareable online and freely available to use, reuse, and adapt.  Whereas they must be shareable online, they do not necessarily have to be made use of online.  They could be materials that need to be printed out for a class activity.  

OER must be made shareable through open licenses such as Creative Commons.  This ensures that others will know what can be done with your teaching and learning material (Attribution Always!)  E-learning material does not necessarily get licensed in the same way and is therefore definable from OER.

Currently we are seeing a great deal of e-learning material coming at us, which authors want to designate OER.  This requires us going back and looking at the material, checking for licensing conflicts. (e.g. copy written pictures used within, etc) This process of vetting the material and replacing copy written material clears the material for sharing as OER.    

There are however great similarities between OER and e-learning.  Both should be driven by a pedagogical need or driven by the needs of curriculum.  We aim to have people design electronic teaching and learning materials with “open” in mind, which will lead to it becoming an OER as well as an e-learning resource in its most basic sense: an electronic learning object which helps a students come to a better understanding of some aspect of our world.

Finding Value in Open Educational Resources (OER)

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 6 Aug, 2009

A creative commons image by ryancr

Our team met yesterday to discuss the progress on the project and our next steps.  We have identified a wide array of resources throughout our institution.  Some of which were designed to be shared and are ready to go, and some which were designed for practical use in the classroom or beyond and will need to go through the process of copyright clearance.  The creation of these resources has been driven by a teaching and learning need.  

A question that came up was how we can create value in the process of creating and using OER for academics?  Our system of publishing and sharing must not simply exist but also must address a teaching and learning purpose.  

By making teaching and learning materials discoverable online we are sharing the tools which enable higher order intelligence at our institution.  The tools we use to enable learners to grasp abstract concepts are culturally and socially defined in form and use.  Surely in sharing our particular use of teaching and learning materials and presenting opportunities to adapt or localize these materials at other institutions we are creating avenues for tool development as well as research.  [Since I have been engrossed in Vygotskian theory lately I had to apply some of his principles]

The OER movement in many ways is about addressing the misconceptions people have about sharing in the realm of teaching and learning materials.  Institutions around the world are attempting to bestow the knowledge that we as a civilization have accumulated.  We all use various means and methods to bring the student to an understanding of a subject.  Wouldn’t it be interesting for academics in similar disciplines to share their methods and tools?   

We know we can not force anyone to share.  From what we have seen very few OER movements have been successful in forcing the idea upon the academic community.  An organic proliferation of the “culture of sharing” is what we intend to grow.

We hope that academics will begin sharing in stories of collaboration, translation, adaptation, and a new awareness of how ICT can influence their teaching practices will bloom.  We so often do not know what our colleagues are up to just down the hall.  Perhaps the ability to create an online network of like minded people and a platform for sharing online will provide some of the value we are seeking.  

Understanding Creative Commons Non-Commercial License

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 30 Jul, 2009

The Creative Commons license enables us to share content but not lose it to the public domain.  The enabling nature of Creative Commons is such that it quickly allows us to show others what they can and can’t do with our works.  

I often get asked, do I simply need to add the logo to my document…OR… do I have to go through some sort of application process???   The quick answer is; simply adding the license to your work is what needs to be done.  The long answer is; by adding the logo you are telling anyone who encounters your work, in this digital and interconnected world we live in, what they can do with it for years on.

I have often assumed that the Non-Commercial (NC) clause was an important one to include as I do not want someone else picking up my work and making that million dollars that I ’might’ have.  In fact the decision of which license to use is a major one and has implications beyond the moment you choose to publish.

There are growing arguments for liberalizing the concept of sharing which challenge the Creative Commons NC clause.  If you do choose a NC license you risk being excluded from other free online content sources such as Wikipedia.  Wikipedia, a tremendous success as we all know, also uses Creative Commons licenses.  This may be news to some, but Wikipedia actually encourages commercial uses of their online content.  From the Wikipedia terms of use:

To grow the commons of free knowledge and free culture, all users contributing to Wikimedia projects are required to grant broad permissions to the general public to re-distribute and re-use their contributions freely, as long as the use is attributed and the same freedom to re-use and re-distribute applies to any derivative works.

The idea of growing the commons of free knowledge is particular exciting.  By using the share alike model, seeds are planted as any further re-use or modification of the work implies the same sharing model.

A question arises when considering the use of NC licensed material in educational settings.  Does it make a difference if the use is by an individual, non-profit institution, or profit institution?  These questions and uncertainties may also lead to the non-use of the material where it's needed most.  

An issue we have often discussed is the potentially detrimental effect to developing communities in accessing NC material.  Consider the example of the resource constrained school teacher who wants to print out and distribute Creative Commons material.  They may need to charge a small fee to recoup the cost of printing.  This could be forbidden under a NC clause.  

When you license your work with Creative Commons you are defining its acceptable use for years to come.  A NC clause may in fact ensure that it is never used long after you have a stake in it.  

If your work is popular and of high quality, it will be available on the Internet for free because the license makes it possible.  To make a substantial profit from the work, a company would have to provide added value beyond what is available for free. A NC license stops any such attempt to add value, is this what we really want?
Some argue that in a knowledge economy, value and creativity in the use of available resources might be more valuable and make more sense than re-inventing the wheel in the first place.  The non-commerical clause creates restrictions on material which can lead to the material being difficult to use.  

Lets face it, if you are using a creative commons license in the first place, you want to share right?  It does not make too much sense to choose an open license and then restrict it with a NC clause.  The Share Alike (SA) clause is quite helpful to ensure the work continues along an open and accessible path.  As my new friend Wayne Mackintosh has said:

Going with CC-BY-SA -- your work is now legally compatible with the world's largest database of free content -- without the risks of commercial exploitation using the copy left provision.

This blog is now licensed with a Creative Commons Share Alike license which meets the requirements of the Free Cultural works definition.  


An OER Road Trip

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 28 Jul, 2009

Creative commons image by jayRaz

Recently read an interesting post by Sheila Macneill from The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) regarding her recent “OER Road Trip” in the United States.  Sheila draws on several very different institutions’ experiences and highlights the similarities between them, and attempts to correlate some best practices.  

In particular the lessons learned in relation to funding, OER production, evaluation of quality, enhancement of material/academic standing, and sustainability are of interest.  

Via OpenEducationNews


Milestones of the Movement: OER Championed by President Obama

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 16 Jul, 2009

A creative commons image by scott361

On July 14th, 2009 President Barack Obama announced his commitment to the global OER movement.  The proposed 'Online Skills Laboratory' will provide freely available open and online courses to the nation and presumably the entire world.

"Online educational software has the potential to help students learn more in less time than they would with traditional classroom instruction alone.  Interactive software can tailor instruction to individual students like human tutors do, while simulations and multimedia software offer experiential learning. Online instruction can also be a powerful tool for extending learning opportunities to rural areas or working adults who need to fit their coursework around families and jobs. New open online courses will create new routes for students to gain knowledge, skills and credentials. They will be developed by teams of experts in content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology and made available for modification, adaptation and sharing."  (Obama, 2009)

This will create a massive repository of knowledge available to the entire world and freely available to remix and adapt to local contexts.   

Read the entire script of Obama's speech which includes a number of fundamental shifts to the US education system.


Ten Reasons Institutions Should Freely Share Online Content

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 6 Jul, 2009

On the issue of "Why OER?" I came across this fairly comprehensive list from eLearn Magazine.  From the institutional point of view many 'big picture' benefits can be realized. Read the entire article "The World is Open for a Reason: Make that 30 Reasons!" for even more reasons from the perspective of the learner and lecturer. 

1. Information Dissemination. Colleges and universities are in the business to generate, archive, and disseminate knowledge. OER is a highly effective way to accomplish such goals, especially those related to information dissemination. Colleges and universities also benefit by saving time in developing new content, courses, and programs.

2. Student Assistance. Help potential students find interesting major and minor areas of study as well as interesting casual electives.

3. Supporting Alumni. Retool and provide professional development opportunities for alumni by bringing them back to campus virtually whenever they desire or find the time.

4. Sharing Teaching Practices and Ideas. Foster the sharing of teaching approaches and innovations across the campus or campuses, and, thereby, potentially increase standards of teaching excellence. As this occurs, it helps instructors reflect on their teaching practices as well as their underlying philosophies of what makes for effective teaching.

5. Program, Department, and Institutional Marketing. Market specific courses, programs, and departments as well as the institution or organization as a whole.

6. Goodwill and Global Education Efforts. People in third-world countries might have access to college content that would normally not be available. For example, public health, nutrition, wellness, and family planning courses can be made available to people from countries who are in need of it.

7. Potential Partnerships and Global Education Efforts. New local and global partnerships and programs may arise from the media and other attention brought about from sharing online content. In addition, free online courses can also be packaged into global and transnational education efforts.

8. Content and Course Feedback. People outside the university might lend feedback on the contents that are posted and perhaps even find and point out errors, thereby improving the course content.

9. Economic Support and Career Options. These courses might help the country and the world during difficult economic times such as those currently being felt. With OER, people in tough situations might find career options and valuable new skills.

10. Set Example and Open Dialogue about Educational Rights. MIT, Utah State, and hundreds of other colleges and universities around the world have posted their work online as a shining example to others. Through their efforts, the world community can begin discussions about human rights to education. Universal education rights! Conferences can be formed, books can be written, research can be undertaken, etc.

Quoted from eLearn Magazine

The Changing University: How can we Support it?

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 29 Jun, 2009

A Creative Commons Image by Superkimbo

A recent report from the MacArthur foundation and published by MIT Press underscores the changing landscape in which higher education institutions around the world are currently finding themselves.  This publication will likely reach many people due to the stature of its source.  I connected to the resource via George Siemens' site where he also celebrates the book but criticizes it for building on ideas which may have come out of informal channels such as websites, blogs, forums, wikis, etc  

Education 3.0 and other new models of online artefacts are still new to many of us and often finding ways to cite and give credit is difficult.  Many institutions still condemn the use of these informal sources of information which educational futurists are beginning to embrace as valuable sources of collaborative intelligence.  This may potentially be a major pitfall for our slowly changing institutions - My colleague likens changing a university to moving a cemetery!  

I am looking for a guide to properly citing collaborative intelligence which we review daily online.  Leave a comment with your suggestion.  

Check out the new pdf version of the book from MIT Press, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age.  

The book identifies Ten Principles for the Future of Learning:

    * Self Learning
    * Horizontal Structures
    * From Presumed Authority to Collective Credibility
    * A De-Centered Pedagogy
    * Networked Learning
    * Open Source Education
    * Learning as Connectivity and Interactivity
    * Lifelong Learning
    * Learning Institutions as Mobilizing Networks

OER Survey and the magic of Google Forms

Posted by Haley A. McEwen | 25 Jun, 2009

The OER UCT initiative is in the process of conducting an audit of all teaching and learning materials that could be OER-published by UCT academics.

This audit is intended to provide the OER UCT team with a better understanding of WHO would be interested in sharing their teaching materials, WHAT type of materials these are (for example power presentation, lecture notes, software, simulations and WHERE they are currently stored. Also, the audit will help us plan the technical specifications of what we invisage being a online directory of OERs from UCT.

Initially, we sent out a questionairre to nearly 100 potential OER contributors.  These potential contributors were selected according to three criteria.  Either they had

a)  Signed the Cape Town Open Educational Declaration,

b)  Received one of CET's Teaching with Technology Grants, or

c)  Convened a block release course at UCT

Of the survey's sent out, we received only 13 responses (of which we are very thankful for!), many of which were sent by staff members who we have already liasing with.  It appeared that the survey had an inherent bias, in the sense that only people who were already familiar with, and in support of, OERs responded.  This bias became strinkingly clear as I began follow up calling those who did not respond to the survey.  While there were a few notable exceptions, the majority of the twenty people I was able to contact either had absolutely no knowledge of OERs, or had decided that they were not interested in publishing any of their teaching materials as OERs.  

In attempts to get additional feedback from UCT staff, I created a survey that can be accessed by clicking the OER survey link on the right side of this site.  

This survey was created as a Google Form.  As I have quickly learned (as it only takes a few moments to create one), Google Foms are a brilliant tool for anyone who wants to create an online survey.  

Now one can begin creating the survey or form.  New questions can be added by simply selecting "add question" at the top left side of the page.  


Upon completing the creation of the survey or form, it can then be distributed via email.  When a recipient opens the survey, they will see it in its final, polished form...looking very professional!

Even better, when respondents complete the survey, their responses are automatically logged in a user friendly spreadsheet. As you can see below, my "test" answers to the survey are stored in the spreadsheet.

To see how a completed form or survey looks, try taking the one that I created that is available on this blog!  

Getting the Creative Commons Logo on our OER

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 1 Jun, 2009

One of the questions which keeps coming up throughout our project is; “how do we get our document to contain the Creative Commons (CC) license?”  Although trivial for some, it can be a challenge depending on what type of media the person is working with and levels of experience.  We have seen diverse material ranging from documents to sets of webpages to podcasts.  

Often we are presented with a PDF version of a file which is intended for a CC license.  We then need to request that the author find the original files which they used to create the PDF, ie. Word Document, Adobe InDesign.  We need the source document to be able to insert the CC logo into the document so it can be shared.  

Reflections on Privitization of the University, Commodification of Knowledge Lecture

Posted by Haley A. McEwen | 14 May, 2009

The Leslie Social Sciences lecture theatre swelled with students and academic staff to hear what contemporary social theorist, Robert Jensen, had to say about the current state of Academia.

Before Jensen deployed his own arguments, Jan Theron of the Institute of Development and Labour Law here at UCT, commended the Student-Worker's Alliance for the work that it is doing to achieve improved working conditions for the 1000 (more or less) contract works who currently work at UCT.  Theron explained that the central motivation for the outsourcing (or "externalisation", as he prefers) of workers is that UCT saves approximately R50,000,000 each year.  He also acknowledged that upon outsourcing workers, the University has effectively turned its back on its social responsibility.  

Professor David Cooper of the Sociology Department related the declining wage earned by workers to the increasing wage of academic staff, warning the Student Worker's Alliance that as they pull on this brick which contributes to the very foundation of the University, they are engaging in something which is 'dangerous' beyond their comprehension- while some academic staff may be progressive, many are not and will surely resist the compromise of their growing wage.   Professor Cooper also spoke about his contention that we are currently in the second academic revolution in which civil society will begin to draw more on academic knowledge production (particularly in the social sciences and humanities) to solve social complex problems.  

Robert Jensen, a self-professed 'self-hating academic', argued that within the social sciences and humanities lies  a suspicion/fear/belief amongst academics that they have no 'real' function, as the knowledge they produce is not as valued in the capitalist system as that which emerges from the science and technology field.  Upon making this realisation, Jensen explained that also, once he realised his own 'mediocreness' (or, a person with 'average' intelligence who just happens to work quite hard), the 'sky became the limit'.  In other words, in his own career, once he achieved the highly coveted tenure at his institution, he 'turned his back' on the academic system (stopped publishing in journals, etc. and thus making himself less and less relevant, socially) and began to direct his energies more into the community in which he lives. 

So, what does all of this have to do with the Open Educational Resources Movement?

So, I asked, "how does the OER movement serve as something that academics can step into as an alternative way of being an academic?  And to Professor Cooper, how might the role of the University change as the OER movement gains momentum within the context of your prediction that we are now in a second academic revolution where the University will actually become increasingly relevant in civil society? 

and I waited for an answer...

but none ever came

So, I am left wondering.  However, I can perhaps make a few inferences (standing in correction) about how this presentation can contextualise my own understanding of the OER movement. 

Perhaps Professor Cooper is correct in saying that we are in a second academic revolution, and perhaps he is also correct in his argument that while the humanities and social sciences are not deemed relevant in the field of production, they are VERY relevant at the level of reproduction (solving complex social and economic problems).  So, perpaps, in this light, the opening of educational resources will accelerate the process of getting academic knowledge production 'to the ground', in that non-academics will be able to access information currently surfacing in the Ivory Towers across the globe- thus promoting the value and relevance of academic knowledge in civil society: A culture of sharing that goes beyond academia.  Such a culture is currently in its fledgling stages, as we know from the current statistics of existing OER projects across the globe available on this blog. But, at the same time, should the OER movement prove inevitable, the role of the academic institution/ university itself will change.  Just as we are witnessing the declining role of the Nation in a global era of free trade and economic deregulation (which has caused the economic meltdown in which we are currently embroiled), so to the  Universities walls will inevitably become porous as the regulation of knowledge becomes less and less possible: We live in an era where information and knowledge is in abundance to the point where we actually have to sift through it.  Information on any subject can be found for free TODAY on the internet.  As the knowledge we produce becomes increasingly located in the public realm, we, as academics, will need to find new ways of being academics.  Hopefully, this will entail an end to the 'self-hatred' and 'fear of irrelevance' which currently plages the Humanities and Social Sciences.  


Interesting lecture tomorrow!

Posted by Haley A. McEwen | 12 May, 2009

Tomorrow, the 13th of May, the UCT Worker's Alliance and Amandla! magazine are presenting a lecture entitled,

The Privatisation of the University, the Commodification of Knowledge

The speakers will be Professor Robert Jensen of the University of Austin-Texas and Professor Dave Cooper of the UCT sociology department 

Time: 13:00

Venue: Leslie Social Sciences building, Room LS2B

I plan on attending this lecture, as I think it will be useful in developing my own ideas around what OER 'means' in the context of a neoliberal, globalised, postcolonial world.  In other words, I am wondering:

Can OERs be conceptualised as a 'disruption' to the privatisation of knowledge which has been a standard university practice, and therefore a sort of New Social Movement (like the Anti-privatisation Forum or the Landless People's Movement in the SA context) or

Is the concept of OER itself a manifestation of the neoliberal, free trading world in which we live where the borders of the university are becoming less and less powerful and relevant- just as the borders (and role) of our nations are becoming less powerful and relevant as information, people, and goods are criscrossing the globe at unprecedented levels?

I wonder where the speakers stand on OERs, and I will be sure to find out!



Making your Microsoft PowerPoint file shareable with Google Presentations

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 6 May, 2009

We have created Powerpoint files for our classes, we have made these files available to our class to accompany the lecture, and prehaps we have added these Powerpoint files to the VULA (LMS) site which accompanies the course, but is this the end of the line for our valuable educational resources??

What if certain slides of your presentation could be valuable to someone teaching a similar course in Mombassa, Kenya? Or a colleague based at another university.  How would you get the slides to them? You could email them but this creates a host of issues if your version changes or changes are made by your colleague. What if you could set up a collaborative plane for many people to share and collaborate on one presentation?

You can. Educational resources no longer have to remain static documents stored in filing cabinets or under piles of textbooks-well, they still are in most cases but they just don’t have to be!  We live in a world where new information and communication technologies are creating opportunities for collaboration which we, as academics, have been slow or hesitant to adopt. The time is now to introduce these tools to enchance our teaching practice and as some would argue, adopt them as standard practice.

Google Docs is a web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and form application offered by Google. We encourage you to explore all of these tools when working in a collaborative environment. In doing so you can tell others you are utilising cloud computing-whats that?; Software and storage capability online. This means you can access and work on your documents from any computer on the internet. You don’t have to worry about them being on your memory stick, and you can send the link to colleagues to collaborate on a shared document.

All that is required is a Gmail account, which nowadays is very simple to get. The Gmail account identifies you and is used to identify your documents and permissions.

Google Docs Presentations works just like Microsoft PowerPoint, which we are all familiar with. One can start building a new presentation online, or upload an existing presentation from PowerPoint.

We will start by uploading a presentation that we have on our computer onto Google Docs so that we can share it and work collaboratively.  Click the "Upload" button to begin uploading a document.

Choose the file to be uploaded from your local computer or disc and click the Upload File button.  Google Docs will reconize what type of office file it is and create a version of it online.  

Once the file has been uploaded you can begin to work on it just as you would using Microsoft PowerPoint. There are a few features missing such as animations and transitions but (in this writer's opinion); these were often overused to the point of distracting features of PowerPoint.

Your document is automatically saved every few seconds so you do not have to fear losing it or constantly saving manually.  When you are done editing your presentation you can click on “Docs Home” to get to the docs home page. Here all of your documents are listed and available to work on, share, email, download, etc. 

When you right click on a filename you can see some of the available options for managing this particular document.  There are some useful options here, such as convert to PDF, sharing, publish, and even download as PPT - should you want to work with the presentation again in PowerPoint.  

From the document management page you can also share the document.  By sharing the document you allow others to make changes to the file and contribute material, slides, ideas or media.   We are still testing concurrent collaboration, but it seems as if many people can be working on the same presentation at the same time, so it is great for rapid development of presentations.  

I am inviting Cheryl to this document as she is the original creator.  Once Cheryl accepts she can start making edits to the online document that I will see next time I view it. 

 If you choose to publish the document, you make it available to anyone in the world with an internet connection. You will be given a web address which can be accessed by anyone.  

Once you confirm the publishing this presentation is now published and we can use the web link given to us to share it with colleagues. We can also use the link in an OER directory service such as OER Commons to describe the contents of the presentation and make it searchable on the internet.



Facilitating Online

Posted by Haley A. McEwen | 6 May, 2009

With the aid of Michael's posts on this blog I was able, as a first time user, to navigate the OER content contribution site with relative (I experienced a bit of confusion around the licensing fields) ease.   Tony Carr's online course Facilitating Online has now been submitted to OER commons and is currently awaiting their approval!  

Facilitating Online

  • Author: Tony Carr Shaheeda Jaffer and Jeanne Smuts
  • Subject: Science and Technology
  • Institution Name: University of Cape Town
  • Collection: University of Cape Town
  • Grade Level: Post-secondary
  • Abstract: Facilitating Online is a course intended for training educators as online facilitators of fully online and mixed mode courses. The Centre for Educational Technology (CET) produced a Course Leader’s Guide as an Open Educational Resource to assist educators and trainers who wish to implement a course on online facilitation within their institution or across several institutions. The guide contains the course model, week-by-week learning activities, general guidance to the course leader on how to implement and customise the course and specific guidelines on each learning activity.
  • Course Type: Full Course
  • Languages: English
  • Material Types: Discussion Forums, Homework and Assignments, Teaching and Learning Strategies
  • Media Formats: Text/HTML, Downloadable docs
  • Conditions of Use: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5

    Facilitating online: A course leader’s guide Tony Carr, Shaheeda Jaffer and Jeanne Smuts 2009 Published by the Centre for Educational Technology, University of Cape Town. Private Bag, Rondebosch,7700, Cape Town, South Africa. Tel: +27 21 650 3841 Fax: +27 21 650 5045. Centre for Educational Technology Series Number 3 ISBN: 978-0-620-43000-5 Copy-editor: Laurie Rose-Innes Design and layout: Designs4development Cover illustration: Designs4development (Roulé le Roux) Illustrations in text: Stacey Stent (Centre for Educational Technology) Printed: RSAlitho This publication published thanks to a generous grant form the Ford Foundation. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 South Africa License. You are free to copy, communicate and adapt the work as long as you attribute the Centre for Education Technology, University of Cape Town and make your adapted work available under the same licensing agreement. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California 94105, USA.

    Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5

  • Copyright Holder: Centre for Educational Technology, University of Cape Town
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Using OER Commons to Expose Educational Resources

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 5 May, 2009

First things first, I will argue that Open Educational Resources (OER) are currently being published and used at the University of Cape Town.  Since no formal OER directory has been established, the resources are found scattered throughout departmental websites or on academic’s personal websites.  The question is, can the resources be found by the world at large or university members not explicitly notified. 

Resources such as this should be made available in a more free and transparent manner.  Open resources of a high calibre can only improve UCT’s global image and reach.  The goal of the OER project at UCT is to bring these resources out from hiding and to encourage new resources for presentation to the world at large.

The OER Commons website is a “network for teaching and learning materials, the web site offers engagement with resources in the form of social bookmarking, tagging, rating, and reviewing.”  The role of such a website in our endeavour will be to catalogue and direct learners and academics from around the world to the open resources offered by UCT. 

As of now the actual system that UCT will use to present the material has not been identified but the process of promoting and sharing the resources via OER Commons is being explored.  Once the repository at UCT has been built the process of adding resources to OER Commons will be automated using RSS feeds.  Therefor the point of this excercise is to simply introduce ourselves to OER Commons and understand the types of meta data it attached to educational resources.  

Someone wanting to submit an individual resource to the OER Commons must be a member of the website.  Signing up for the service was fairly easy.  Once logged in you can submit a resource.   Let us walk through the process of publishing a resource. 
The submission page collects a number of specific details about the resource being submitted.  We have submitted Dr. William’s publication; Guide For Tutors In Disciplines In The Humanities And Social Sciences.

Keywords will enable users of the OER Commons to locate specific material.  We have added the basic keywords and as the material is used by the community additional keywords will be added.

Additional information about the resource is added.


 Finally, and perhaps most importantly the licensing terms of the resource are defined.  This will enable users of the resource to know how it may be used.


Once submitted we are presented with a summary page.  Our resource is currently being verified by the OER Commons.   

 In summary, the following information was collected while submitting the resource:
URL Pointer    
Notable Hard/Software


Grade Level
Media Formats
Material Types

Conditions of Use
License Description
License/Copyright Holder

All of this information needs to be provided by the author when considering material as an OER.  It is forseen that we will have a standardized form which the author must fill out to describe the resource.  This would likely be part of the content management system we build to house our resources.

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