Input Sought: Choosing/Using an Institutional OER Repository

You @cjnewton may look at this presentation or e-mail directly to Colin de la Higuera to know where the project is at right now.

It’s always good to get positively Downsed!

Thanks @Downes who has ears and eyes everywhere online.

+1 on the approach that both @Arwalz and @LornaMCampbell mention. This is similar to what we do at BCcampus. We have our own custom built platform to host open textbooks (developed after many years of getting frustrated having this conversation internally over and over again). Developing the platform, we paid close attention to both the user experience (hiring a graphic designer and UI/UX expert) and to the machine experience, building open api’s and paying close attention to Schema.org’s LRMI metadata for discoverability in search engines from Google to sites like OERSI.

However, that is just for textbooks and works well for textbooks. For other content types, we also maintain a Kaltura site for audio and video resources, 2 separate Pressbooks instances (one for our BCcampus funded projects and one for any post-secondary faculty in BC to use), and our H5P elements are all embedded inside the Pressbooks book they are associated with. I like to think of each Pressbooks book as an H5P repository for that particular subject area.

We also contribute resources to wider repos, like MERLOT and OER Commons for greater discoverability. But, like Anita, we always maintain our own copies of whatever we submit to externally hosted services as a backup.

Many years ago we went with a centralized OER repository (openEquella. This is an open source product stewarded by the Apereo Foundation of which - full disclosure - I am a Director on) However, we discovered that the one repository to rule them all doesn’t work when dealing with the multitude of OER content types that are out there. So in recent years we have begun diversifying and using multiple specialized repos built to handle specific content types instead of a single repo and making sure that we can programmatically connect all the bits and pieces through technical means like api’s whenever we can.

1 Like

https://moodle.net seems to have a limited upload size. This is fine for most OER, but not for whole courses. I am keen to find a repository for Moodle courses, each with a CC licence, and created for Peoples-uni which has now closed. A whole masters level programme and a series of open online courses as well as the whole curriculum are available. Thanks, Dick Heller

I guess @cdlh might want to join the discussion. Not only on this topic but also on the AI discussion that is going on. Some weeks ago Colin advised me to read the OECD Framework for the Classification of AI systems report to understand the basics of AI, how both data and algorithms are crucial - might be of interest to @Downes also.

1 Like

Phew! What a thread! Good job, @BarbaraClass & @cogdog !
It hits so close to home, for me, that I had to take several steps back before responding.

One quick response: we’re currently exploring Omeka S, which I could describe as a user-friendly alternative to DSpace with strong support for Linked Open Data. While it’s mostly known/used for museum-type collections, we’re finding it eminently appropriate for OERs and other digital resources meant for learning, from videos and graphs to PDFs and Word documents.

As a type of extended disclaimer… Currently, my most direct involvement with a platform for OER is around Pavillon REN, a bilingual (mostly French, some in English) catalog/database for no-cost digital educational resources (REN) with an emphasis on OERs. Funded by Quebec’s HigherEd ministry, it’s linked to the province’s Digital Action Plan (“DAP” or «PAN»).
Digital Action Plan for Education and Higher Education | Ministère de l’Éducation et Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur (gouv.qc.ca)

For primary-secondary education (K-11, if you will), there’s another platform: Open School/École ouverte. While I’m not directly involved in this one, some of my colleagues are. This presentation, in French, gives a useful overview of that portal’s core features, including the upcoming authoring system which will allow learners and teachers to collaborate on resources and publish them for anyone to use.
C1 - Découvrir « Ma classe », c'est l'adopter! - YouTube

That platform is quite different from Pavillon. Pavillon isn’t a repository and it’d only be called a “portal” in a loose usage of that term. Quebec’s OER creators have been clamouring for a repository. We’ve been thinking about solutions for the medium term. And, yes, we’ve gone through all sorts of details, from metadata to interop and competency frameworks.

All this to say… This topic is very close to a significant part of my dayjob.

Again… Phew!

For context, our panel (in French) during #oeweek 2022 set the stage for some related discussions.
Panel sur les plateformes REL canadiennes - YouTube

Now, answering multiple points in the same reply (so that Discourse doesn’t complain about me)…

We do. Including our IT team. (I’m on the Digital Pedagogy team.)

My DSpace experience is mostly indirect (though our IT team hosts at least one DSpace instance for an open archive focused on Open Access). What I hear about DSpace isn’t that immensely encouraging for people (like me) who care deeply about technological appropriation. I’m sure people at eCampus Ontario would have very positive things to say about DSpace, since that’s allegedly what they’re using as the backend for their Open Library. So far, I’m finding Omeka S to be more appropriate for the same usage pattern.

Neat! Some people balk at the idea. It’s not always clear why they do. Sure, there are issues in versioning and interoperability. These aren’t intractable problems. Especially with proper indexing leveraging Linked Open Data.

That might help some institutions which “do OER” as a branding exercise. (I’d call that OpenWashing or fauxpen.) It never ceases to amaze me that some people who advocate for the production of new OERs would refrain from using others’ OERs. Yet that’s part of our open landscape and we might as well get them involved in a broad community instead of fighting that urge.

:frowning:
Probably by building a self-sustaining structure… and/or one which can adapt/morph with changing needs. It’s a tough problem. Probably not intractable. Easier once we correctly identify its root causes.

Relatedly:

and:

This part is about designing something sustainable from the start, including principles of archiving (info pros are good at this). Open formats help, of course. As does interoperability through compatible approaches to metadata. There’s also the notion that archives grow organically among peers, though curation might suffer from biases.

We’re on the same page! The key, here, is probably to collaborate with librarians.

I’ll try to bring your list to other people who’ve made their own. I think there are similarities and differences.

Fair. We advocate for some of that (our org hosts 120 Moodle instances). For Moodle proper, an issue for us has been in access between institutions. Especially when it’s not clear whether or not people/orgs want accounts.
With H5P activities, it’s an easier story. Create them anywhere (WordPress, LMS, Lumi…), use them anywhere. I keep my hopes up for expanded use of Moodle’s Content Hub.

Agreed!

Similar to the point @Mackiwg about pedagogues’ needs, librarians are primary “partners in crime”. In our observations and experiences, search engines do a poor job at surfacing relevant OERs. And a major advantage with properly-indexed OERs is that we gain insight on how to adopt, adapt, use, leverage, contextualize them.

YES!
Been singing the LOD song for a while, including the #LODLAM chorus.
Yet people turn a deaf ear. Maybe because it relies on a shared understanding of some principles from indexing and data management.
The easiest entry point to gain this insight is this simple categorization:

Before GCshare, there was a project at CSPS to leverage openEquella for multi-tenancy, in the NextGen LMS. (It got me to discuss some issues with Ian Dolphin.) At the time, there was a possible connection with Moodle. In the end, the School went with D2L’s Brightspace and the Moodle instance for Open Learning has had an uncertain future.
Hope some people there have been talking with you or with others at Apereo.

Hi @Mackiwg, Edinburgh uses a combination of in house and cloud hosted services. Kaltura and our VLE are cloud hosted, but other services, such as our academic blogging platform and various library services, including our open ebook service are hosted locally.

I suspect there are a number of factors behind the resurgence of interest in centralised OER repositories including increasing ebook costs, the shift to online learning during the pandemic, and new practitioners coming to the domain of open education. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the new repositories being established are more sustainable than their predecessors.

1 Like

OER Commons microsite users don’t “refrain from using others’ OERs.” Quite the opposite, in most cases. The microsites allow for curation of content, often adapted from existing OER, applicable to a specific context for ease of discoverability.

@Dickh I’ve uploaded 27 full Moodle courses to MoodleNet which comprise a complete middle school math curriculum. How big are your courses?

1 Like

Precisely! What I meant to say is that they sound like a solution for people who are avoiding others’ OERs based on perceived issues with branding.

Thanks for the clarification!

MoodleNet addresses the ease of discoverability with two options:
1- use Collections which are groups of resources on MoodleNet
2 - allow anyone to create their own opensource Moodlenet site which can be discoverable to anyone else.
In both cases, LMS files can housed on MoodleNet along with almost all other types of media. The problem with OER Commons is that it requires LMS files to be hosted someplace other than OER Commons. That’s a significant restriction for primary and secondary users that need whole course LMS files.

2 Likes

Agreed that this is not a large enough size on https://moodle.net, however as a free and open OER repository, we have to limit this for the servers with many thousands of resources. This is why you can have your own MoodleNet for your own server, open source and free.

2 Likes

Thanks @danmcguire for your encouragement. I’ve tried again and all well, I am within the upload size.

1 Like

Fair. And probably an opportunity for some honest discussion about costs. We often discuss revenue sources as part of investigations about business models. In fact, experts in Okoli & Wang’s Delphi Study mostly mention production costs. Hosting costs might become a primary concern. After all, a large part of the “LumenHero” discussion was about hosting costs.

So, Paul, anything you could share about your servers would be helpful.
It might also be useful to gain insight @Learnful. As I work for a nonprofit which hosts many platforms, I’m hoping I’ll be able to gain some insight to share from our perspective. Besides, we could search for openly available data on hosting costs.

In my experience, users often underestimate server costs. At a tiny scale, it’s quite possible to run servers at a very low cost, especially when the stakes are low in terms of liability. “I’m able to run my personal site with a ton of content for 5USD/month and it’s mostly reliable” doesn’t sit well with a situation in which a large population depends on your online service.
When an organization like MoodleNet runs things at such a huge scale, the calculations get orders of magnitude more complicated.

1 Like

Hello all! I just joined this very active list and am excited to read what you all have to say about OER repositories. I wanted to chime in here re: OER Commons’ functionality as it relates to LMS files. Our users most certainly can upload their LMS files (SCORM, Thin CC, etc) to OERC using Open Author. We do ask for folks to include metadata and overview info in their Open Author resource and then attach their file to that same resource.

I would add that resources created using Open Author (full text) may also be exported to SCORM or ThinCC for use wherever anyone wants to put them. We also integrate with major LMS using LTI.

For OER Commons we aim to make the content as platform agnostic as possible so educators can get what they need where they need it.

Mindy Boland
ISKME | OER Commons

2 Likes

Not sure if you folks have seen this: View of Open For All: The OERu’s Next Generation Digital Learning Ecosystem | The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning but it explains our (the OER Foundation’s) “digital learning ecosystem” made up of a variety of FOSS services for educators and learners and our cost structure. We’ve got about 20k registered learners, and (last year) 200k visitors (anonymous) based on analytics… and our systems have substantial ‘head room’ - we expect that we could easily support 10 times more users with no additional capacity. Our annual hosting budget is well under USD10k - so current $0.50ish/participant per year. The costs for a fully Free and Open Source Software infrastructure are trivial for an organisation. I’m amazed at how much more others seem to feel they need to spend.

2 Likes

It seems as though most open repositories will allow a visitor to directly access OER content such as pdf files by downloading them. However large files such as a Moodle course can only be downloaded to another Moodle host rather than a visitor being able to access the course itself through the repository? Are the server costs the limiting factor?

We at MoodleNet are working with Moodle LMS to allow courses to be shared to a MoodleNet repository (even your local install). Watch [MDLNET-701] LMS Integration - Moodle Tracker

Unfortunately (and possibly luckily), I don’t have this info as it goes into our central hosting which expands automatically. I will not know the costs until we budget for the next year.

1 Like