What is OER?

‘OER’ stands for ‘Open Educational Resources’ and refers to freely accessible materials that can be used for a range of activities around teaching and learning. What makes them open is that they are typically published with an open license instead of a traditional copyright license. One key feature of OER is that they afford new opportunities for collaboration and innovation in teaching and learning.

According to the UNESCO definition, OER are “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”

Following the definition by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation OER can be (or include) full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

Although comprehensive definitions like these are well-known, the detail of how to arrive at a final definition for OER remains debated. The OER World Map project takes a broad and inclusive approach, providing information about actors and activities from the field of OER in the strict sense of the term, but also about related subjects like Open Education, Open Access and MOOCs. For more information on our collection strategy, please see “What belongs on the OER World Map?”

Who is this website for?

The OER World Map provides helpful information for everyone who is interested in or connected to OER and Open Education. The system is designed to provide real-time answers to questions like:

We believe that this set of data is of special importance, since it provides a solid foundation for future attempts to collect knowledge about OER and Open Education in a systematic way.

Our platform provides relevant data and information to all stakeholder groups from the field of OER. This diversity provides a major challenge for system design since user oriented interfaces are typically informed by the clearly defined needs of user types.

At the moment, we focus on three main use cases (or “epics”):

In addition to browser access (on desktop and mobile) The OER World Map makes data available to other systems through an Application Programming Interface (API), which will allow other services to reuse our data easily.

Our use - which are used to design the services we provide - cases are collected on GitHub. If you think anything is missing here, please contact us!

How can I participate?

The success of the project is dependent on the participation of the OER community. There are many ways to contribute. The most important ways are:

There are many other ways of contributing to the project. A complete overview can be found here.

How can I input and edit data?

To be able to enter data, you only have to register yourself to the OER World Map. You can find further information on how to use our input templates in our wiki here.

What belongs on the OER World Map?

The OER World Map collects data about actors and activities related to OER and Open Education. At the moment we concentrate on elements of the OER infrastructure. We are particularly interested in:

Data typeDefinition Examples
organizationsAn organization is a steady group of people sharing collective goals. The spectrum reaches from fully incorporated legal persons on the one hand to loosely connected communities on the other. universities, corporations, associations, communities
projectsA project is a temporary undertaking (within or across organizations) intended to accomplish particular tasks under time constraints. The OER World Map project
servicesA service is an online offer, which exists on a steady basis, and provides functionality and value related to OER to its users. repositories, aggregators, authoring tools, communication platforms
eventsAn events is a gathering of people, which take place at a certain location (virtual or physical) at a certain time.conferences, workshops, barcamps, moocs

There are many opportunities for future expansion of the model.

What do I have to keep in mind when I set a lighthouse?

The Ljubjlana Action Plan highlights the need to identify models of good practice, which have proven to be sustainable ways to organize production, sharing and use of OER. We believe that learning from experiences made in other countries will be key for fast global mainstreaming of OER, so please consider setting some lighthouses.

Setting a lighthouse is pretty easy: When you are logged in, you simply click on the lighthouse symbol on the profile page of the entry you want to mark. Then you have to explain in the comment field what the community can learn from this particular example.

Please set lighthouses only in case you are not affiliated with the entry in any way!

Where are the OER?

We believe that the discovery of individual OER has to be provided by search engine based services. The OER World Map facilitates the discovery of OER indirectly by providing qualified lists of OER services.

What is an open license?

The widely accepted OER definitions by UNESCO and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation require the use of a special ‘open’ license, which transforms a conventional educational resource into an open educational resource. Traditional copyright prescribes what can and can’t be done with materials that one has authored (or owns the rights to). Rather, it acknowledges and expresses these rights by recognising the author and prescribing specific conditions for use and reuse.

An open licence doesn’t undermine someone’s right to be recognised as the author of their work. Rather, it recognises the author and sets out more specific conditions for use and reuse.

Depending on the specific license this allows for a range of behaviours known as the ‘5 Rs’ of openness:

A slightly different focus is provided by the Open Definition which states that: “Open data and content can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose”

Though there are many different open licenses available, Creative Commons provides the by far most used open license family. We generally recommend the use of CC-BY or CC BY-SA licenses for OER. Both license meet the strict requirement of the open definition and also have been approved for free cultural works by Creative Commons. More information about the use of open content licenses can be found here.

Can I add services which provide non open resources to the map?

The most common OER definitions by UNESCO and by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation compulsory require the use of open licenses. “Free” or “gratis” resources (resources which are accessible without any cost on the internet but not openly licensed) are not OER according to these definitions. We take openness very serious since the idea of reusing and modifying resources is central to the concept of OER. By focusing on openly licensed material the OER World Map will provide real value to users, who are especially looking for reusable material.

Nevertheless, since the gratis offerings of today might become the openly licensed services of tomorrow, we don`t think that it makes sense to exclude non-open services dogmatically. Therefore, the OER World Map records and shares services providing material under a variety of licenses, with a minimum requirement that the material must be freely available online (“gratis”).

We do, however, take an active lead in highlighting the special benefits of open licenses. In order to do so, we currently provide search for openly licensed material. We are also working on developing an openness indicator, which will be used in the future to visually convey information about the degree of openness of a service at one sight.

Projects are handled more flexibly than services. Many projects aim at goals related to Open Education in the wider sense and provide results which are valuable to the OER movement, even if they do not provide openly licensed materials. To avoid excluding valuable experiences, we believe that the OER World Map should be open to all projects which believe they make a contribution to the field of Open Education.

Should MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) be added to the OER World Map?

This is an interesting question. The simple answer is “Yes!” But things are more complicated, if you look at it in more detail:

A criticism that has frequently been made is that many MOOCs are not using openly licensed material (which arguably makes them “free” or “gratis” but not really “open”). As stated above, the World Map can also include gratis services and materials. This is true for MOOCs as well. But if a MOOC does not provide open resources, it will be classified accordingly using the “openness indicator” in the future.

One could alternatively argue that MOOCs are courses, which are using and providing OER (if open licenses are used), but that this does not make them OER themselves. Indeed it could be argued that MOOCs might be better classified as Open Educational Practices (OEP), than OER. Nevertheless, since there is an obvious connection between MOOCs and OER - and there is much interest in MOOCs - we believe that it makes sense to include MOOCs as well.

Concretely, the OER World Map offers the possibility of including MOOC providers as services and individual MOOCs as events. Our current collection strategy does not concentrate on MOOCs, but this could potentially be a focus in the future.

How will you use any information I share?

We believe data privacy is important. You can find information about our legal and privacy policy here. In order to assure that your data will be as safe as possible, we cooperate with a lawyer specialized in data protection law. We follow a privacy by design approach, which makes sure that data privacy is taken into account from the beginning of the development process. This is true for all personal data provided to us. Nevertheless it has to be understood that all data published on the platform, including your personal profiles will be available to everyone as open data.

How can I contribute stories?

We invite you to share your OER story with the community and tell others about your OER activities! These could be OER projects or initiatives, Open Educational Practices like someone generating OER or teaching with OER, the development of guidelines & institutional policies on OER, new insights and research on OER, as well as the development or use of helpful infrastructure tools for OER. Please include a title and a text (no longer than 5000 characters) that describes the who, what, when, where, why and how of the activity. A photo connected to the story would also be great. Please note that stories will be published under CC-BY. If you have an OER story which you consider worth sharing, please register yourself and add it to the OER World Map. We are looking forward to hearing from you soon! We can also republish articles, blog post and other sources directly where these are available openly.

Do you want to hear from students as well as educators?

Yes! We believe that the student voice is often not loud enough in discussions about OER. We are interested in hearing from anyone with a good story to tell about OER and how it has made a difference to them. This is especially true for stories from a learner perspective.

What does it mean to become a country champion?

Country champions help to map the OER world by country – gathering data, assuring its quality and raising awareness of the project. Check out our blog post for more information about the country champion network. The map on the homepage shows where country champions are still needed. If you are interested in acting as champion for your country, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Will the OER World Map be available in several languages?

The initial version of the website is beeing developed in English. Nevertheless, we believe that in the long run the site should be available in many languages and the system is prepared to support multilingualism. At the time being the platform supports data input in all major languages of the world and the system will show you data within the language chosen in your browser, if available. If you are interested in translating the website into your own language, please contact us.

Why are countries displayed in different shades of green?

Countries with documented OER activity are displayed green. The more activity there is, the darker the colour. We call this mechanism “heat map”. The heat map is based right now on a very simple algorithm: the number of entries. We are thinking about refining the algorithm in the future (e.g. by representing the number of entries into relation to the number of inhabitants).

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