“Open” produces better outcomes than “Closed”. This gives us a new responsibility. We must now prioritize our time and resources accordingly. The time has come to value “Open” as a fundamental quality in education and in our learning resources. – Head of NDLA, Øivind Høines
The Norwegian Digital Learning Arena (Nasjonal digital læringsarena) is a joint enterprise operating on behalf of the county councils in Norway. Our goal is to develop and publish high quality, internet-based open educational resources (OER) in subjects taught at upper secondary school level and make these freely available.
The term “open” is a cornerstone in all our projects and an important part of our strategy as we develop new subjects and open educational resources. From the beginning in 2007, head of NDLA Øivind Høines and his team started working on how NDLA could build the plattform, content and organization with “Open” as an important quality.
For NDLA as an organization this materializes in four focus areas:
- Open standards
- Open source
- Open interfaces
- Open methodology
A major reason for us at NDLA to use open standards is that we would like our content to be reused and remixed by anyone. By using open standards we aim to make it easier for systems from different parties using different technologies to interoperate and communicate with our content and technology.
Another important aspect of open standards is to hinder confinement to a single vendor or proprietary technology, and to provide better conditions for free competition between all technology vendors and content creators. Open standards set out to prevent unfortunate interlocking, monopolization and competition bias.
An important area of focus is the use of standardized protocols and specifications where it is deemed relevant. This is pertinent both in between components internally in the NDLA solution, but also in NDLA’s communication with third-party services.
A few examples of such standards and specifications:
- HTML5: a mark-up language intended for the formatting of webpages with links and other information that can be viewed in a browser|, and which is used to structure the information. HTML5 incorporate several new kinds of content (e.g. audio and video) than previous versions than the HTML standard.
- CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is a mark-up language used to define the layout of files written in HTML or XML.
- Tin Can: a standardized API for learning technology making it possible to gather data on user experiences. To a larger extent than today, NDLA will be built upon this notion of open standards and known specifications.
Open sources is an important part of all development at NDLA. We have based our plattform on Drupal and contributed significantly to the development of H5P as a platform for easier creation, sharing and reuse of the developed content and applications.
H5P is not a standard, but an implementation that supports HTML5. H5P is being used for the development of different kinds of interactivity in NDLA. H5P is an open source-based framework for the development of HTML5 based content (video, interactive presentations, multiple choice assignments, timelines, etc.). We are proud to say that more than 2400 websites all over the world now run H5P.
Why open source?
Open source software is software that is distributed with the assumption that the source code is being made readily available for reuse. The opposite is software that keeps the source code secret/closed or protected through legislation. The main strategy of NDLA has always been geared towards open source , but in certain contexts it has proven difficult to avoid using third-party products or components that follow other regimes of licencing. In the future, NDLA will go further and demand open source software in all vital parts of a solution.
We are interested in sharing our content in any way we can. In addition to developing our own website and servise we develop AAPI’s (i.e. application programming interfaces) or open interfaces to make it easier to reuse our content by any third-party.
By developing and using such open, well-documented API’s, NDLA will facilitate a modularity that deems the solution more service based and flexible to change. Additionally, both the data and the modules become easier to reuse by third-party.
What is an API?
API’s (i.e. application programming interfaces) are the interfaces between different software components. API’s link the components together in standardized ways. The API describes what will happen in different circumstances, e.g. finding or saving specific data in a database. An open API is an interface that is openly described, i.e. that is a known matter how it operates so anyone can develop a solution that can link to and benefit from it.
Open methodology – crowdsourcing
For us at NDLA, crowdsourcing is an methodology where the individual teacher and pupil can create, co-create and develop content themselves. The concept of crowdsourcing makes it possible for a larger group of people, e.g. teachers, to revise an academic plan, curriculum or the actual content in learning resources.
Crowdsourcing is a work practice based on voluntary participation, where a large amount of contributors execute a task based on a sense of community, participation and self-organization, rather than managerial control. Numerous actors thus contribute to the improvement of quality on a specific product.
The word “Open” has for us a pedagogical foundation. Learning as an activity thrives in an open landscape where information is truly liberated and free. We learn better when we freely can participate, when we openly share what we make, when we are allowed to remix the work of others, and our own contributions becomes part a wider and connected society. – Head of NDLA, Øivind Høines.