Into the wild – Technology for open educational resources

Reflections on three years of the UK OER Programmes.

Between 2009 and 2012 the Higher Education Funding Council funded a series of programmes to encourage higher education institutions in the UK to release existing educational content as Open Educational Resources. The HEFCE funded UK OER Programme was run and managed by the JISC and the Higher Education Academy. The JISC CETIS “OER Technology Support Project” provided support for technical innovation across this programme. This book synthesises and reflects on the approaches taken and lessons learnt across the Programme and by the Support Project.

This book is not intended as a beginners guide or a technical manual, instead it is an expert synthesis of the key technical issues arising from a national publicly-funded programme. It is intended for people working with technology to support the creation, management, dissemination and tracking of open educational resources, and particularly those who design digital infrastructure and services at institutional and national level.


Published by University of Bolton, Deane Road, Bolton, BL3 5AB

ISBN: 978-0-907311-35-5 (print on demand: book (£3.36) printed by Lulu; or free pdf to print yourself)
ISBN: 978-0-907311-36-2 (ebook, Kindle: free download; or from Amazon (77p))
ISBN: 978-0-907311-37-9 (ebook, ePub: free download)
ISBN: 978-0-907311-38-6 (ebook, pdf: free download)
(All prices are the minimum for the distribution channel)

Licence and source

Creative Commons Licence Into the wild – Technology for open educational resources by Amber Thomas, Lorna M. Campbell, Phil Barker and Martin Hawksey (Eds) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

You are free to share (to copy, distribute and transmit the work) to remix (to adapt the work) and to make commercial use of the work under the proviso that you attribute the origin of the work (if possible please include the title, the names of the editors / authors and a link to this page).

To help you re-use this work editable formats are available. We originally wrote the book using the BookType, an online collaborative authoring and publishing platform. Booktype will allow you to clone our source, contact Phil Barker if you would like to do so. There is also a Word .docx file that we used for the final published versions.

Errors and bugs?

There are some minor bugs in some versions: bullet points don’t display well on the kindle version, reference links are erratic on the ePub version (more for some readers than others), the images on the print pdf have white lines on them. We hope none of these are serious problems for you. If you do find a serious problem please contact Phil Barker.

Transcoder Final Report

Link: Download PDF

Summary: The transcoder project set out to develop and trial a cloud based service that can change one type of educational content package into another (i.e. transcode). Such a capability would help overcome the current proliferation of incompatible content packaging formats, which can be an obstacle to the dissemination and re-use of packaged learning content.

The aim was to both test the technical feasibility of such a transcoder, as well as explore the business case for deploying it as cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS). In that regard, both the initial set-up phase as well as potential future business models were explored. Possible further developments of the service were also considered.

The transcoder software was developed after a pattern established by a similar, advertising supported service for other kinds of file formats. The pattern is centred around a manual upload and download of packages, in order to facilitate maximal transcoding capacity without bottlenecks. The software itself was developed to be hosted on Amazon web services, for a variety of reasons that include flexibility of deployment, price and sustainability.

In the event, demand for the service turned out to be low, which may have something to do with limited usage of packaged content in the JISC community, exacerbated by limitations of the design of the transcoder’s interface, and possibly also the range of conversions that were developed and are currently available. As a consequence, the low start-up investment costs as well as the scalable exploitation costs of cloud computing offered clear advantages for this type of service. Also, at this, or even much higher levels of usage the ongoing costs required to keep the service going are low. Finally, feedback from stakeholders indicate that a few simple extensions to the software could make the service more useful.

Continue reading

What is IMS Content Packaging?

Link: What is IMS Content Packaging? (pdf).

A CETIS briefing on IMS Content Packaging, a specification for sending learning resources (or learning objects) from one program to another, facilitating easier delivery, reuse and sharing of materials. IMS Packages enable you to export content from one virtual learning environment (VLE), content management system or digital repository, and import it into another while retaining information describing the media in the IMS Package, and how it is structured, such as a table of contents or the HTML page to show first.

No longer current.

What is ADL SCORM?

Link: What is ADL SCORM? (pdf).

A CETIS Briefing Paper on the ADL Shareable Content Object Reference Model. Shareable content objects (SCOs) are individual, electronic units of learning that may be combined to create a course of study.

No longer current