A tool-kit for creating OER using FOSS tools

From Open Educational Resources

Reasons limiting OER adoption

The role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in promoting quality education, and reducing costs is widely acknowledged. However, research suggests that the adoption of OER is yet to achieve its potential, with several factors inhibiting adoption. These include legal (there is limited awareness of open licensing possibilities amongst people), cultural (the availability of OER in local languages is much lesser than in English, which is an obstacle to adoption), social (OER creation is largely ‘expert-driven’ with limited mass participation of teachers and other resource creators, hence it is yet to become a mass movement involving all), pedagogical (even now teaching restricted to ‘text books’ in many education systems, teachers are yet to look beyond the text books for sourcing materials for their teaching) and political (the default copyright policy globally is ‘all rights reserved’, which may not be the default intent of the creators).

Technological factors also play a role in limiting OER creation. OER is largely a digital phenomenon; it is the proliferation of digital Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) which has allowed the possibilities of creating, revising and sharing resources on a large, global scale, and at low costs, given negligible marginal costs of production. However, OER is usually created using proprietary applications such as the popular proprietary office suite. In a proprietary software dominant desktop environment, where the use of Free and Open Source (FOSS) tools is limited, it becomes prohibitively expensive to license proprietary applications for creating resources in audio, video and other media formats, thus limiting such processes. Secondly the production of OER has largely remained confined to textual materials, learning materials have traditionally been textual in nature, the ‘text book’ is understood as the primary if not the only resource for teaching-learning.

However, today, we have a wide variety of mature and high quality FOSS applications which can allow resource creators and editors to create, re-mix, revise and re-distribute OER in multiple formats. These are available on the desktop environment, some of them are web-based and some available on mobile phone platforms. Teachers can become familiar with these applications will have many choices in creating, re-purposing OER in different formats and publishing the same. The power of OER comes from its ‘openness’, that it can be freely re-used, revised and re-distributed. Similarly, software that can be freely re-used, revised and re-distributed can create a rich learning environment, by providing the tool-set for OER creation and re-purposing.

Free and open technology environment

An important power of the digital is the negligible marginal cost of production of digital resources, whether software or content. As Bernard Shaw said

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."

This is applicable to digital resources as well. If digital resources are allowed to be freely shared, modified and shared again, then it can result in a resource rich environment. This is the idea that triggered of the Free Software and the Open Educational Resources movements.

Promoting a free and open digital technology environment will have a positive influence on OER adoption (which includes both production and consumption) as well.

Democratizing OER production and consumption

There is a possibility to provide a fillip to the creation of OER, by promoting the relevant and meaningful use of a variety of FOSS applications for authoring, editing and publishing OER. In a free and open technology environment where many free and open software applications are being used, resource creators / editors will be more able to create and share OER in multiple formats. Popularizing the use of these applications amongst writers, editors and course developers can be hugely beneficial in enabling the larger and wider development of OER, and in richer formats.

This process can help us move from a paradigm where OER is created by 'experts' for all, to a more participatory process where many more people can participate in OER production and exchange. Every teacher usually has to make or customise materials for her teaching-learning. This toolkit hopes to encourage every teacher could be encouraged to become a OER creator.

The “Hands-On Toolkit for Teachers to Create, Re-purpose and Publish Open Educational Resources (OER) using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)”, aims to promote the creation, re-purposing and publishing of OER using FOSS applications. The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has engaged IT for Change (ITfC) for the development of this tool-kit.

About the tool-kit

The manual is aimed at native and non-English native speakers, hence the language has been kept simple and accessible.

The manual is available in two formats. One is this print edition, (soft copy through a PDF format, which you can use for printing, if you need a hard copy). The second format is an on-line edition in the form of a “Wiki book2”. The Wiki book edition will also be shared off-line on a DVD, with the printed version of the tool-kit, which will enable user to read the digital version without internet connectivity.

Along with the tool-kit, a custom software distribution which contains the FOSS desktop tools covered in the handbook is shared as a DVD, which you should install on your computer, to create OER.

In line with the philosophy of OER, the tool-kit is released under the CC-BY license, and the custom software distribution is released under the General Public License (GPL). The CC BY license enables you to make copies of the tool-kit with or without modifications and distribute it for profit or not for profit. The GPL license enables you to make copies of the software applications with or without modifications. Modifications if any, will also need to be distributed as FOSS.

How to use this tool-kit

The “hands-on toolkit for teachers to create, re-purpose and publish Open Educational Resources (OER) using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)” discusses the creation of OER in three separate chapters, dealing with text, image and animations, audio and video OER respectively. In each chapter, the features of a few applications that will enable you to create, re-purpose OER are explained. The selection of the tools from its universe is been based factors such as its popularity, ease of use, level of community support available.

Each chapter begins with information on commonly used open repositories for that resource format. In creating OER, keeping with the OER principle of ‘give and take’, it is necessary to first check for OER that is already available for the topic you are working on, and use these OER as an input to your own creation processes. Many find it easy to create based on what they currently know, ignoring existing OER. However, it is an academic principle to actively build on existing knowledge, hence accessing OER is the first step in creating OER.

In order to provide a step by step guide through real-world examples on how to create and re-purpose OER, the tool-kit takes a case of “How to create an OER on Digital storytelling”. Over the three chapters, the tool-kit will develop the OER for digital story telling. This is followed by a chapter on ‘Publishing OER’, to help you publish your OER on-line, for the re-use by others.

You are now ready to begin using the tool-kit. The first step is to ensure you have the software applications required.

Install the custom distribution on your computer

You need access to the FOSS applications taught in this tool-kit, for which you should install the custom software distribution provided. The distribution includes the Ubuntu GNU/Linux free and open source operating system which can be installed as a full fledged software system on your computer. You can install it ‘side-by-side’ with any other operating system on your computer as well. A video on installing this custom distribution is available here.

Many of these desktop applications are also available on the Microsoft Windows operating system. You can also download these from the net and install on your Windows operating system. The installation of each application is covered in the relevant chapter

Install the FOSS applications on your mobile phone

You can install the FOSS applications for the mobile phone (Android), used in the tool-kit, using the link for the app installer for each app. The installation of each app is covered in the relevant chapter.

Create your own OER as a part of using this tool-kit

Identify an area which you are very keen to learn more about, or where you feel you need resources for your own work as a teacher. Your own work as a teacher may require you to have materials for classroom teaching-learning processes, or for sharing with colleagues for mutual learning, or simply for your self-development. It will be much more meaningful learning, if as a part of using this tool-kit, you could access, create, re-purpose and publish a OER on a topic which you want to learn/ know more about. The topic could be from the subject you teach (a science topic like ‘Light’ or a mathematics topic such as ‘number system’ or a geography topic as ‘forests’), or a larger issue in education (“Challenges of teaching in inner-city public schools”), or larger social issue (“global warming”). You could create this OER in English or in your own native language (where the need for such an OER may be even greater).

Assumption about the user of this tool-kit

The tool-kit assumes that you have a basic comfort in using computers, you can start and shut down a desktop computer. It assumes very basic familiarity with the commonly used applications on a computer – file explorer, web browser and text editor. The tool-kit assumes similar basic comfort in using a feature mobile phone (aka ‘smart phone’).


You can anytime access this tool-kit, off-line or through the on-line Wiki repository to learn FOSS tools to create, re-purpose and publish OER.


  1. The term ‘adoption’ of OER is used in this note in a comprehensive manner, to include creation, use, re-use, revision, re-mixing,retaining and re-distributing.
  2. WikiBooks is a MediaWiki extension for creating collaborative books, this is a e-book creation platform. MediaWiki is the software used by Wikipedia, the world’s most popular encyclopedia.