Co-authors & Project Team: Michelle Brennan, OER Information Services Manager; Lisa Petrides, CEO ISKME.
ISKME’s OER Commons offers a comprehensive infrastructure and suite of services for educators globally, including groups of curriculum specialists, administrators, content providers, teachers, librarians, and technology and resource decision-makers who seek to implement high quality and adaptable curriculum through the use, evaluation, and improvement of open educational resources (OER).
Launched in 2007, OER Commons serves as a digital library and collaboration platform for content providers and emerging open education practitioners at all levels. Engaging with over 500 OER content providers from around the world, ISKME provides the open scaffolding necessary for knowledge sharing and access to teaching and learning materials, strategies, and curricula online. The site has over 35,000 registered users, 55,000 resources, and millions of visitors from 193 countries.
ISKME first created OER Commons in 2007 as a digital library and content hub to support OER discoverability, use, and reuse. Together with OER content providers and educators, OER Commons aggregates content collections, enriches resource metadata, and curates and organizes rich metadata to support the use and reuse of collections. Resources cover all subject areas and levels of education. OER Commons resources span a wide range of formats including html, ebooks, pdf, video, audio, games, courses, lesson plans, lectures notes, and search tools to enable users to find resources for different contexts of use.
The OER Commons platform today features Open Author, an inclusively designed authoring and remixing environment to support the creation and adaptation of media-rich OER, hosted locally on the platform. The authoring environment produces OER that are accessible using a broad range of assistive technology devices such as screen readers. Open Author resources can be downloaded as PDF or SCORM, or as a “teaching bundle”, a zip file containing PDF and media components. The OER Commons infrastructure also supports the evaluation and improvement of quality OER with embedded Common Core State Standards (CCSS) alignment tool and Achieve OER Rubric tool and EQuIP Rubric evaluation tool, developed by several states partnered with Achieve to support collaborative review of CCSS-aligned content, as well as the ability to align content to the Next Generation Science Standards.
The system uses the Django Python framework, which powers OER Commons Platform and Learning Registry application. OER Commons authored content uses Creative Commons licenses, while aggregated resource collections from around the web contain a wider array of applied licenses. OER Commons displays all licensing data in a clear and concise way, making licensing information accessible to all users, regardless of previous experience with OER content.
OER Commons uses an internal metadata profile based on modified LOM, which includes additional fields added to support different projects and initiatives e.g. CELT, A11y and LRMI. As an early adopter of the LRMI specifications, ISKME has mapped all 55,000 OER Commons resources to LRMI-compliant metadata. LRMI and A11y markup is included in the HTML of resources so it can be found by search engines and other applications operating on top of the OER Commons platform. Metadata can be exported as HTML or XML. OER Commons metadata does not use the exact terminology of LRMI, but a mapping has been created from the internal metadata schema to LRMI. The alignmentObject is used to align to NGSS and Common Core state standards. Some Schema.org properties are also used.
The full OER Commons metadata profile is available for collection providers to download. In addition, ISKME provides a metadata sample template for providers to build and export their metadata for inclusion in OER Commons.
OER Commons features a number of different metadata workflows:
- Content can be submitted to OER Commons by collection providers and cataloguers who work directly with the OER Commons digital librarian. Collection providers send a CSV file to a metadata technician who reviews the data, normalises it, and uploads it in bulk.
- Individual users can upload content and metadata via a web form. All resources and metadata are reviewed before submission.
- The content authoring tool also allows users to create metadata. Some metadata is computed e.g. licensing, as many people are not familiar with different variations of open licenses. The system walks them through the licensing process step by step and computes the appropriate license based on their response.
- Users can interact with resources once they have been catalogued and have had basic metadata added. Free text can be added by users which then becomes keywords and resources can be aligned with a range of standards including Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and other specialized standards.
Metadata is kept consistent internally by digital librarians to ensure all works well within the application to support search and discovery. OER Commons is committed to maintaining a rich metadata ecosystem with robust checks and balances to ensure high quality metadata.
Metadata that is shared with the Learning Registry is largely in the form of Dublin Core, though some LRMI and Schema.org properties are also used. All resources that have been evaluated using the Achieve OER Rubrics are shared with the Learning Registry. These rubrics help users determine the quality of OERs and the degree to which they align with Common Core State Standards. When uploading to the Learning Registry, LRMI and Schema.org markup is taken from the internal metadata schema and mapped across to Dublin Core. Getting resources back from the Learning Registry has proven to be problematic due to the difficulty of filtering resources.
ISKME brings its OER Commons infrastructure and tools to address organizations’ curriculum needs and facilitate team workflows in customized areas of the site. Network Hubs are a key component of ISKME’s comprehensive solutions for hosting and indexing content and facilitating collaboration and collection development for a specific audience. In terms of future developments, OER Commons continues to build tools to additional alignment standards, e.g. National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, as well as modified state-specific Common Core standards.
Microsites are comprehensive solutions for hosting and indexing content for a specific audience, and can be located at subdomains of oercommons.org, or be distinguished by a customizable URL at the domain level. Microsites contain all features available on the main site, but house their own collections as well as special curated collections of the full OER Commons database of resources. Microsites on OER Commons can be structured as one or more “network hubs”, in which a single microsite is the organizing umbrella for a number of sub-collections or networks. Within a microsite, resources are presented in the context of customized taxonomies and our digital librarians work hand in hand with partners and content providers to identify, categorize, and describe relevant content.
Additionally, ISKME serves as a thought leader around content and metadata interoperability, is a launch partner for the Learning Registry, serves on the LMRI Advisory Board, and leads a project for the US Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) on the creation of cloud-based learner profiles for accessibility. ISKME is part of the GLOBE consortia of repositories from around the world that seeks to build common ways to share and federate educational resources and metadata.