OER Summer Workshop, PSU

Michael Collins
4 min readSep 29, 2016


On July 18th, 2016, @katrinamwehr, @alexboyce26, and I facilitated a day-long OER workshop (#OERWorkshopPSU) with a small group of Penn State educators. In order to prepare for the workshop, we met almost every week for three months. The goals were to explore the power and limitations of the OER Schema project and to teach faculty how to make and use OER.

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Syllabus Tagging

We designed a syllabus tagging activity to teach the workshop participants how OER Schema works on a conceptual level — a process which also helped us better conceptualize the schema for ourselves. This activity included a few different kinds of pre-filled and blank tags that instructors could physically tape onto a printed syllabus. Since this was the first time we ran the workshop, we were apprehensive that this wasn’t going to work, but the exercise went smoothly, even accommodating what I can only describe as a non-linear blob of interconnected course assignments (obviously this was @tomlauerman’s syllabus contribution).

We not only wanted to help the workshop participants understand OER Schema, we wanted to give them the resources to build it for themselves. For this purpose, we chose Gitbook.com. Prior to the workshop, @alexboyce26 created a plugin that was able to let a Gitbook author apply OER Schema to Gitbook content. We also constructed an interface prototype on codepen.io to show how anyone could transport OER Schema-tized content once it was published to the web. Unfortunately, teaching Gitbook.com and OER Schema coding after the tagging exercise proved a little too ambitious, so we switched gears and instead had a valuable discussion on the implications of the new OER standard. The discussion included topics like schema bias, context confusion, appropriation dangers of OER, and more. The main takeaway for me from this workshop is that the OER Schema seems like it’s going in the right direction.

Making the Future Happen

standards that have the most adoption … are those that balance utility, creative expression, and developer comprehension

I recently watched this redecentralize.org talk called 10 Years of Standards Failure and I think the thesis of the presentation can be summed up by this: standards that have the most adoption (a.k.a. success) are those that balance utility, creative expression, and developer comprehension. If the success of the workshop tagging activity is any indication, OER Schema is well situated to become a successful standard. I suppose the criteria I left out is general awareness of the project, but that’s for another time. The next items on the agenda include finishing the Gitbook.com plugin for OER authoring, building a functional application for using and remixing OER, being more active on the W3C group page, collecting feedback for the schema, and documenting the schema so others can use it.

Originally published at www.collinsartanddesign.com on September 29, 2016.