Two years ago in 2016, OER Schema was a list of words and definitions given to workshop attendees on colorful paper — tags meant to be affixed to physically printed syllabi as an analogy to the digital concepts we were interested in discussing. Because this activity made schema visible, we were able to have a productive conversation about the project and its implications. (You can read more about that here!)
At the most recent OER Camp in May 2018, people were using a new authoring tool called HAX to highlight OER in their webpages, adding schema and CC licensing with a click of a button. It’s exciting to see how far the project has come since its inception, thanks in no small part to a grant from the Center for Pedagogy in Arts and Design.
Having the resources to host another workshop gave us renewed motivation to revisit the schema and figure out just how we were going to achieve the goal we laid out in our grant proposal: we wanted users to publish their own OER tagged with schema without having to write any HTML.
OER Camp 2018 Recap
Our ultimate goal for OER Camp was for users to publish openly licensed content on the web. Being able to schematize it would be a bonus. We struggled to figure out a workflow that would allow people to accomplish this all while being free and making it easy to host truly open content.
A few years ago, project co-founder Michael Collins began to investigate platforms to host content for a new online design program he was building, called the Digital Multimedia Design program. He became really interested in one in particular called GitBook, which combined a nice authoring interface with Git version control. Initially, we were really excited about using the platform, but as we began to attempt to use it with our in-house LMS, the limitations of Markdown format began to emerge — media asset management became particularly difficult. We eventually realized the HTML might be the best format with which to author OER. We settled on GitHub Pages as the platform that could host openly licensed course content.
You’ll find more information about the workflow in the documentation from OER Camp, but the short version is this: a person can use a tool called “HAX” (Headless Authoring eXperience) to create HTML content for the web or on their computer, tag it with descriptive schema, and publish the content to GitHub. This workflow gives “developer” powers to the average person so that anyone can publish OER on the web!
While we had some initial concerns upfront about users creating GitHub accounts and introducing that environment into the mix. With the help of some very thorough documentation and some hands-on tech support, the workshop went rather smoothly. We were able to collect everyone’s openly published experiments at https://goo.gl/QFFMhP as a proof of concept.
As a result of our outreach efforts at OLC Innovate 2018 in April, conversations with educators in the Creative Commons community, and appearances at other conferences over the past two years, we have connected with individuals and groups at multiple institutions who are interested in the work we’re doing and how we can apply it in spaces outside Penn State.
For now, everything we used to host OER Camp 2018 is publicly available. The savvy user could hack the instructions and make it work for their own constraints, but our immediate goal is to figure out a way to make this workflow more accessible to others. We’re exploring other static site hosting options and are thinking of producing a virtual self paced version of the workshop. We are also looking for others who are willing to play with the schema and offer feedback (join the OER Schema Google Group). As we continue to present at conferences and publish our experiences openly, we hope to build a community around this project to push it forward with a wider array of perspectives. Our long term vision is to build workflows and tools that anyone can use to publish remix-ready, schematized OER that is sustainable over the long term, something digital formats have traditionally struggled with.