Technological roadmap for developing OER

We at NDLA are working on a roadmap that will define the guidelines for all our future projects, architecture and technological plattform. This is work in progress but we have narrowed the scope to focus on some core elements. From these core elements I have picked out the most important ones and written down my thoughts.

It all starts with User Experience

Start developing with strong focus the user experience and always keep the user at the centre of you development. Its natural to think about UX when developing the fronted of a solution but one tends to forget that the way we build APIs and other infrastructure components also affects the user experience.

User experience is«a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service»

Build your systems for change

The edTech marked is changing rapidly and new and innovative solutions is being presented on a weekly basis. Not all of these new services will of course be relevant for projects developing OER but…. as we see fields like adaptive learning, learning analytics, crowdsourcing and game based learning developing over the next decade it will be important not to build OER plattforms as monolithic structures.

Open licenses, open source and open standards

We at NDLA(Norwegian Digital Learning Arena) have build our project on a strategy with open content and open source as core elements. We do this for many reasons. The most important aspects are that openness gives us flexibility in terms of development and higher quality on the end product. At the same time it prevents vendor lock-in and lets other projects re-use and build on our content. Many OER projects are looking to a more decentralized model of production. Having a free license on the content is crucial to support this transition.

It is important to be aware that having a strategi with open content does not exclude the possibility of also bundling with Copyright material.

Separate technology, design and content

It is a goal in itself not to develop content for a specific technology or platform. If you manage to separate content from technology it will provide easier transition from one platform to another and it also provides greater opportunity to introduce the digital resources to your users on different platforms based on the same core content.

A practical example is an online resource developed for a web based plattform where you at one point would like to use the same content in an mobile app. If implemented correctly the content(or parts of the content) can be presented to the user seamlessly between these to plattforms.

In many projects, it is to costly to implement this strategy fully. For these projects there are standards for embedding content from different platforms together. One of these is LTI.

A modular approach to development

In computing, microservices is a software architecture style in which complex applications are composed of small, independent processes.  These services are small, highly decoupled and focus on doing a small task, facilitating a modular approach to system-building.

Some key properties of microservices architecture:

  • The services are easy to replace
  • Services are organized around capabilities, e.g. user interface front-end, recommendation, logistics, billing, etc
  • Services can be implemented using different programming languages, databases, hardware and software environment, depending on what fits best
  • Architectures are symmetrical rather than hierarchical (producer – consumer)

The term «Microservice arcithectur» simply means you focus on building small in order to keep it simple.

As mentioned earlier in this blog post, this is something we’re working on right now, and the areas that I have mentioned her are only a selection.  This means that this bloggpost by not in any way represents our final roadmap.

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How to make your own taylor made Open educational resource – mashup from Khan, CK-12 and H5P

This video tutorial is based on workshops that we did in 2014, both in Uganda and Sweden. The basic idea is that instead of just consuming resources or writing your own from scratch, you take bits and peaces from global OER projects and build your own OER based on your specific local needs. This will ensure high quality and at the same time make it easer to build OERs for those with limited resources.

In this video tutorial I walk you trough the practical aspects of actually making your own taylor made OER based on a mashup of text, video and illustrations from the following projects:


Offline educational resources – crucial for African schools in the years to come

During eLearning Africa 2015 in Addis Abeba I have met many enthusiastic and inspiring people. The conference has covered many topics like MOOCs, mobile learning and the importans of vocational training.

With my background as an advocate for open educational resources the big question for me has been; Can open educational resources make a differens in changing global learning – and specifically for emerging economies? After listening to talks on different relating topics and talking to teachers and startups from many different countries my conclusion is: YES!

During his keynote the frist day at eLearning Africa, Mark Surman from the Mozilla foundation showed a survey with predictions that within 2025 nearly 5 billion people all over the world will be online. Most of the new users will be in developing countries.

In the meantime it is crucial to address the fact that most africans schools are not online. The importans of online connectivity and the importans of offline resources when a school goes offline for any reason. For those schools that are online, having offline resources will also address the issue of cost when using video lectures from sites like Khan Academy is equally important.

There are some projects that have addressed this problem and I would like to give en introduction to some of them:

KA – Lite


KA Lite offers instructional videos from Khan Academy on math, science, history, economics and matches the common core standards. They also provide a diverse collection of math exercises for students that generates immediate feedback, provides step-by-step solutions, and works through a point system to encourage continued practice of material. You can download as many as you’d like to use in your installation of KA Lite.

Offline version of Wikipedia

Wikipedia offers free copies of all available content to interested users. These databases can be used for mirroring, personal use, informal backups, offline use. All text content is multi-licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License (CC-BY-SA) and the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). Images and other files are available under different terms, as detailed on their description pages. Often this means that you can use the pictures as well.

Gutenberg project – 46.000 books offline

Project Gutenberg offers over 46,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online. We carry high quality ebooks: All our ebooks were previously published by bona fide publishers. We digitized and diligently proofread them with the help of thousands of volunteers. No fee or registration is required, but if you find Project Gutenberg useful, we kindly ask you to donate a small amount so we can buy and digitize more books.

The Rachel project

The Rachel project have made a server(small and compact) including some of the best educational resources on the web, neatly packaged together for download and distribution in places without internet. For more info, check out this video explaining how it is made.

Apps on Android and iPad

Some of the apps on tablets like Android and iPad will not require you to be online at all times. There are a groing number av apps that will provide a good learning experience.

Some of the apps that we have tried in projects are:

  • Mathking
  • Quizlet
  • Dragonbox
  • O Clock

Tanx to Nuug Foundation as sponsor for my trip to eLearning Africa.