An OER Star rating?

Black swan in flight

To the western world, the swan was innately white – it was almost seen as impossible that a swan could be any other colour. Once Willem de Vlamingh discovered the black swan, the notion of the unpredictable, or what constituted a swan became vague. Interesting that discovering a mammal with webbed feet, a beak and one which laid eggs and not live young was somehow less definitive in challenging taxonomies. So whereas we could argue that this could be a discussion over epiphanies and OER, it isn’t – it is a question of what characteristics should an OER have?

Yesterday at the OER3 / OER RI meeting in London we discussed whether it made sense to centrally mandate a characteristic of OERs – greater than say ensuring the resource is licensed openly (which is arguably a given, like all swans hiss). Perhaps discussion of top-down or bottom-up approaches doesn’t work with the notion of “open” – but then what of Tim Berners-Lee’s open data classification?

? make your stuff available on the web (whatever format)
?? make it available as structured data (e.g. excel instead of image scan of a table)
??? non-proprietary format (e.g. csv instead of excel)
???? use URLs to identify things, so that people can point at your stuff
????? link your data to other people’s data to provide context

So we can accept an approach where perhaps there isn’t a black / white / duck-billed cut off point, but instead a structured approach to which we agree some elements offer a more useful OER to an end user, but in not doing so prevent people from creating an OER. As we are developing the Great Writers resource, we are moving towards thinking about how we can enrich content and empower users of the content as simply and efficiently as possible. Sadly, we can’t work out in advance who are users are – we may know for some, but we definitely can’t make OER for all of the people all of the time. Giving too many options to end users may confuse, but giving too few options may lead to a failure of the content to be reused. If options for reuse could be mandated, or an OER star rating for reuse existed, then we could all develop around a “best practice” and it would be easier to consider what forms of reuse we could have on a site. At present we support, downloading, embedding, attributing and social media sharing – which are all relatively useful, but that is “what we think are useful” – is it worth us expending the time on doing so?

So could we consider any of these as a first or second star of OER reuse ratings? I’m loathe to suggest a standard, but I feel that I can offer the following two

? The OER can be downloaded
?? The OER can be embedded (iframe, object, video / audio).

I think this is a fair minimum of “Openness” and not too much effort to produce – the other options are considerably more effort.

I would welcome comments and thoughts on this, and how people would like to reuse OER.

Posted in Content, copyright, dissemination | 7 Comments

7 Responses to “An OER Star rating?”

  1. Amber Thomas says:

    Great post, and something I’ve been thinking about too. There seems to be a lot of dimensions of openness of a resource – legal and technical. Something that interests me is that embed can make something remixable even without giving it a CC licence. And that editibility of free content is usually dependent on software (free or paid) and device platforms (which someone paid for somewhere). And that, as remix platforms like OERGlue develop, they can be licence-aware, so that the tech and legal are tightly coupled. So many directions this whole tech/legal intersect could go. I think its not a unidirectional path. Hmmm. (Strokes beard).

  2. Amber Thomas says:

    oops – the following sentence in my post is missing a word: Something that interests me is that can make something remixable even without giving it a CC licence !

  3. Patrick Lockley says:

    I think remixing is a bit more complicated than reuse (remixing means editing – whereas reuse could just be copying and pasting), but I would agree openness has a scale – but it was more also about having a goal to work towards – so to be three star it must…… gives a target to help people develop.

  4. Hi Pat, interesting idea. I hate to mention the T word, but are you effectively suggesting a taxonomy of openness? It would certainly be useful, and it might work, though any kind of controlled vocabulary is notoriously hard to agree on. I’ll stick my neck out and suggest that the next star rating might be…

    ★★★ The OER can be repurposed (or edited, adapted, whatever.)

    Beyond that would you end up in licensing territory, i.e. defining the conditions under which an OER can be used or repurposed?

  5. Patrick Lockley says:

    I am not sure if it is a taxonomy – as it develops linearly without ramifying?

    I think edited and repurposed become interesting as we tend to release the end product – not the parts.


    ★★★ The OER can be edited (so doesn’t like flash, or PDF / epubs)
    ★★★★ The OER is available in multiple formats
    ★★★★★ The OER can be downloaded as parts (audio/video easy – harder for more LO like content)

  6. Very true. More like a controlled vocab than a taxonomy, sloppy use of terminology on my part.

    I like the way this star rating is developing, but…you could conceivably have an oer that can be downloaded as parts but which can’t be edited. Does that matter? Maybe not.

  7. Patrick Lockley says:

    I think you could have a taxonomy that never forked – but that to me isn’t really a catalogue, just a list? Ergh “What is a taxonomy?”….

    The order of the stars is open to question – I would say though that my stars are reuse stars, not remix stars – so perhaps there are multiple options? Reuse can stop before editing, I think remixing makes it explicit.

    But ideally, I want some one else to come up with it, so i can work towards it. Maybe it’s a machine readable as well?

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