The main outputs for the project are an online toolkit for students to use and a best practice guide aimed at higher education stakeholders across Europe (HEI managers, lecturers and tutors, disability advisors, external organisations). While the project partners all have the right to exploit (including commercially) the outputs of the project, the project leaders have argued that for the outputs to actually be of use to students and institutions, and therefore give some return in investment of a large user base and influence on policy and practice (McAndrew & Cropper, 2010), it makes sense for the content and code to be openly licensed.
However, licensing is only half the problem. Making the content translatable (Amiel, 2013), reusable and not too generic to be useless in 5 different countries and institutions even within the project is difficult, let alone beyond this. Persuading the technology partner that as well as making the code open source, they needed to embed this code within an open source and well-supported CMS (WordPress) in order for non-technical disability advisers to be able to implement the toolkit without extensive training (Hilton et al , 2010) was difficult, with limited in-house expertise in CMS.
It is also important that the toolkit is redistributed under the same terms and in the same spirit as the original – so much useful information is locked away in virtual learning environments and intranets, but even when it is placed on the public internet, it needs to be marketed broadly. This is particularly important for the group of students forming the audience for the toolkit, who will not necessarily be drawn to the disability pages of their university’s website, or be looking at the websites of various institutions before applying. If open content is published on the internet but nobody knows it is there, does it exist? There is a ‘deep web’ of open content – not hidden behind paywalls or closed-source code but by poor organisation and publicity.
Amiel, T. (2013). Identifying barriers to the remix of translated open educational resources. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(1), 1064–1071. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1351
Hilton, J., Wiley, D., Stein, J., Johnson, A., & Hilton III, J. (2010). The four “R”s of openness and ALMS analysis: frameworks for open educational resources. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 25(1), 37–44. doi:10.1080/02680510903482132
McAndrew, P., & Cropper, K. (2010). Open Learning Network: the evidence of OER impact. In Open Ed 2010 The Seventh Annual Open Education Conference (pp. 1–12). Retrieved from http://openedconference.org/2010/