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A collage that includes a person typing on a laptop from the comfort of their home and a rainbow-like doodle that represents a signal coming from the computer. It indicates how the person is transmitting and sharing information.
Image credit: Christiann Koepke at Unsplash

Developing an open educational resource repository for the public sector with an inclusive lens

Session summary

  • Recognize the different elements of OER initiatives that can contribute to inclusion throughout the design, collection development, marketing and contributor support stages
  • Evaluate how you can make your own OER initiatives more inclusive with a list of guiding questions


Modified transcript

Land — Stewardship Gift — Reciprocity OER — Equity

This presentation will cover

  • sharing context in the Government of Canada
  • decisions that went into the design of the open educational resource platform
  • framing of the collection development approaches
  • marketing strategies used to raise awareness about open educational resources
  • strategies used to engage with and enable content contributors

Sharing in government

Reasons for sharing

  1. Emergent & urgent needs — Across all government sectors, people are looking to develop relevant training to meet emergent and often urgent needs. Some immediate topics that come to mind include agile project management, business intelligence, virtual meeting guides, mental health, user research, and change management.
  2. Time & money — To meet these needs, time & money are of essence. While the desire to reduce design costs may seem obvious, especially given that it takes approximately 142 hours (or 2 months) to develop a course in 1 language. There is an additional challenge for the Government of Canada when it comes to the cost of translation, since experiences have to be offered in both English and French, the country’s two official languages.
  3. Equitable access — While learning should be available to everyone, equitable access is not a guarantee. Canadian government is made up of organizations of all sizes, some have over 40,000 employees and an entire Branch dedicated to training and learning, other organizations are under 20 people and simply have no professionals who could develop training from scratch.
  4. Pockets of expertise — This brings us to pockets of expertise. There is a sense of awakening to the fact that the public service is made up of over 300,000 employees with a variety of expertise. What better way to leverage their knowledge than to share resources?
Different sharing platforms are represented as purple blocks floating through and invading the slide.
Sharing is happening everywhere

Sharing is everywhere

We made GCshare

Screenshot of My Learning Canvas and My Career Tool resources. The first one is a Word document with a table-like layout providing prompts for reflection about learning. The second one is a Google document with prompts and sections to help people document their professional journey.

Sharing is for everyone

Sharing is not for everyone

  1. It’s not perfect! — People were worried that their content wasn’t finished or perfect
  2. How will others use it? — They feared how others might use it
  3. Can I take it down? — They wondered if they could take it down later
  4. Quality of learning — Some weren’t sure if their resources were good enough, as they weren’t professional instructional designers
  5. Accessibility & format — Many were unaware that their learning products posed accessibility barriers — tables with split cells, images without alt text, missing headings, inflexible document formats to name just a few issues
  6. Copyright & licensing — On top of that, copyright is an area that has very low awareness in government, making it difficult to trace back what was used in any learning product. Not surprisingly, licensing and open licenses specifically are also not well understood.


Questions we asked ourselves — Design

  • Through design, how are we demonstrating what we are asking others to do?
  • Are the images we use on the website open source? Why not?
  • Who is centred in these images? What message does it communicate?
  • Have we provided appropriate credit where needed?
  • How can we reflect the values of diversity in website copy?
  • Is the metadata reinforcing stereotypes? Are the categories and language used positively contributing to shaping the world we want to see?
  • Have we made explicit our commitment to accessibility of the platform via an accessibility statement? Or a statement on inclusive writing?
Infographic showcasing the persona of Tony. Their needs, values, and sharing behaviors.

Research artifacts to support design decisions

Graphic of a computer screen in the center of which is a figure of a black person. Photo of a woman of colour working on a laptop from their home. Image credits: Undraw and Unsplash.


Screenshot of the French language “Share” page on GCshare platform. The message telling people that we are happy they are here is written in inclusive language.


Screenshot of the Accessibility metadata element filter. The metadata values that include different WCAG criteria are included. Screenshot of the “Delivery method” metadata values in French. Inclusive writing is used to indicate that instructor-led training could be led by either male and female instructors.


Screenshot of the Accessible Usability Scale score for GCshare from Fable accessibility testing.


Collection development

Questions we asked ourselves — Collection

  • What will make this platform inviting and useful?
  • How is it different from the commercial training and learning platforms?
  • Who might be excluded from using or contributing to the platform?
  • What resources will we include or exclude? Why?
  • Who will be making these decisions?

What we heard — Collection

“I feel if enough people put enough good quality resources on this platform […] people will use it, but if there aren’t a lot of useful resources there, most people probably won’t. […] what will drive use are the resources.”

Collection objectives

  1. Accessibility — Let’s start with Accessibility. Government of Canada content is required to be bilingual and it has to meet important accessibility requirements. But we also know that it is a real struggle for those doing the work to be able to integrate many of these essential requirements into their demanding workloads. We wanted to show that accessibility is important and we also wanted to position the repository as a place where things don’t need to be perfect. So resources across all accessibility levels were welcome. By sharing what folks had so far — as a starting point, it would allow someone else to improve the content, instead of everyone always missing the mark.
  2. Shareable content — We would advocate for shareable content that is in plain language, targeted and results in concise learning objects that are easy to reuse; this also touches on the formats that make reuse and adaptation easier
  3. Professional content — We wanted to contribute to professionally focused (rather than academic) OERs that can support training of mature learners and those seeking upskilling or career change
  4. Redefine learning — We wanted to broaden the definition of what is accepted as a “learning resource” to include a variety of content types including templates and case studies as well as content at different stages of development such as drafts and iterations with feedback
  5. Indigenous content — As I mentioned earlier in the metadata section, we also wanted GCshare to be a welcoming space for contributors of Indigenous knowledge across Canada. We recognize and respect that Traditional knowledge does not always align with Western conventions of intellectual property and we wanted to learn from the community about the best ways to support them.
  6. Francophone content — To support the work of the Government of Canada and to contribute to the global OER community, we also wanted to encourage the development of OERs in French which are still quite limited.


Questions we asked ourselves — Marketing

  • What are the communities that have the most to gain from OER?
  • Who is working on similar initiatives?
  • Whose voices can we amplify by including them in this work?
Tweet on the left promoting learning on the topic of accessibility that can be reused and adapted in the Government of Canada. It includes an image showing the dos and don’ts of camel case hashtags. Tweet on the right promoting the value of adapting learning and integrating diverse perspectives into it. It includes an image of two people interacting with digital services, one of them is a person of colour on a wheelchair.

Connect to communities with similar goals

  • AlphaPlus — Ontario’s organization focussed on helping adult literacy education professionals to incorporate digital technology
  • CivicActions Accessibility — an open, agile project and community.
Tweet promoting the Accessibility Handbook produced by the Canadian Digital Service and released under Creative Commons public domain license. It includes a preview image if the resource. Tweet highlighting resources on the topics of design, wellness, communication and leadership that Government of Canada will be able to reuse when GCshare launches. Includes an image of a librarian at a computer, from an original tweet announcing the upcoming launch of the platform.

Celebrate contributions

Screenshot of GCshare Medium blog’s section on Mindsets & skills. It shows 3 article contributions by 2 team members on the topics of accessibility and online learning.

Write about what matters

Contributor support

Questions we asked ourselves — Contributors

  • How can we encourage contribution from those who are not sure they have something valuable to add?
  • What are the biggest barriers to contributing?
  • How do we want contributors to feel?
  • How can we help?

Support provided

  1. Accessibility review — this included areas like headings, title clarity, tables, alt text, content order and flow
  2. Image review — checking if images used in the current products were copyrighted and sharing alternative free image sources with contributors
  3. Licensing advice — this involved explaining Creative Commons licensing as well as what Crown Copyright meant which is the default copyright licensing applied to the Government of Canada content; and it also involved explaining copyright in general and how if any third party content was used in a product, without explicit permission, this content could not be shared under open licenses
  4. Metadata draft — this often meant filling out the metadata for the resource and asking the contributor to review the draft, rather than asking them to fill it in from scratch

What we heard — contribution

“I have a personal doubt that people are interested in what we have created, but it’s worthwhile to experiment.

This vision excites me in training and learning, how we can share and reuse learning content.”

“I’m really grateful for this. I appreciate the challenge to make my work more accessible. I learned how to use more PowerPoint features and learned a lot about formatting in Word as well (and I was already pretty adept!)”

“I feel good, I was a little worried about how all of this was going to happen, it was a bit overwhelming — how do we upload all these documents, translation, etc. I just don’t have the time… You made it feel like it is a collaborative process, that it will be manageable and does not have to be a big thing. Your attitude, excitement and energy, made me feel like we will do it together. It also made me feel good that this is not just a repository of stuff, but someone who cares and understand how it will be used and how things will be discovered will support it with their expertise.”

Relevant links:



An open learning and content sharing initiative in the Government of Canada./ Une initiative d’apprentissage ouvert et de partage de contenu au sein du gouvernement du Canada.

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ksenia cheinman

:: digital content specialist — passionate about open learning + inclusion + collaboration + systems + stewardship + learning design + reflective practice ::