Teachers' toolkit for creating and re-purposing OER using FOSS/A toolkit for creating and re-purposing OER using FOSS tools

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Teachers' toolkit for creating and re-purposing OER using FOSS
Preface A toolkit for creating and re-purposing OER using FOSS tools Installing Ubuntu - creating the FOSS platform

In this chapter, we will briefly discuss what is OER and how you can use the toolkit to create, re-purpose and publish OER.

What is OER

This toolkit proposes to enable teachers to use FOSS tools to create and re-purpose OER. The term Open Educational Resource (OER) was coined at the 2002 UNESCO Forum on Open Courseware. Subsequently, its definition has been updated to the following:

…teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions” (2012 Paris OER declaration).

Hoosen, Moore, and Butcher (2012) have provided a clearer indication of the range of possibilities under this definition:

“They are educational materials and resources that are offered freely, are openly available to anyone and, under some licences, allow others to reuse, adapt and redistribute them with few or no restrictions. OER can include lecture notes and slides, lesson plans, textbooks, handouts given to students, videos, online tutorials, podcasts, diagrams, entire courses, and any other material designed to be used in teaching and learning. Thus, the scale of OER can vary significantly. They can be as large as a textbook or as small as a single photograph. They can make up an entire course or curriculum or can be used to enhance existing textbooks” (p. 2).

Using this definition, we can see that OER can support the free sharing and expansion in availability of educational resources. This toolkit aims to enable teachers to create and re-purpose OER.

What limits OER adoption

‘’Build it and they will come?[1]’’ This perhaps captures an earlier paradigm in the OER space, with more and more materials being made available from educators and institutions, but with limited uptake from users. The causes for limited uptake could be:

  1. legal - limited awareness of open licensing possibilities amongst people
  2. cultural - OER availability is more in English than in other languages, thus limiting access and use, especially in countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
  3. social - OER creation is largely ‘expert-driven’ with limited participation of teachers and other resource creators and hence awareness of its possibilities is limited
  4. pedagogical - teaching is often restricted to ‘text books’ in many education systems and teachers are yet to look beyond the text books for sourcing materials for their teaching, this minimises any need for OER

In addition the technology ecosystem plays an important role in OER adoption. With OER being largely digital, the means of accessing OER for reuse, revision and sharing must be freely available. OER began as a digitization of textual resources and thus text format has dominated. However, the digital allows creation possibilities in multiple formats – textual, graphics, audio-visual – and the availability of software applications for creation and re-purposing becomes critical.

Secondly, in a proprietary software dominant desktop environment, where the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is limited, it becomes prohibitively expensive for most individuals and institutions, to license proprietary applications for creating resources in audio, video and other media formats, thus limiting their creation. With the dominance of text format, and the lack of appropriate software applications, users do not have the tools for accessing and re-purposing OER in multiple formats, thus affecting its creation and adoption.

However, we now have a 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, on the web and on mobile phone platforms. The power of OER comes from its ‘openness’, that it can be freely re-used, revised and re-distributed. Similarly, software that is 'open' and 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

FOSS and OER - for, by and of the community

An important advantage of the digital format, is the negligible marginal cost of production of digital resources, whether software or content. George Bernard Shaw has been popularly believed to have said that if two people have an apple each and they exchange their apples, then each will still have only one apple. However if both have an idea each, and exchange these ideas, then each of them will end up with 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 has bolstered the Free and Open Source Software and the Open Educational Resources movements, which represent the 'code' and 'content' components of a free and open digital technology environment. FOSS can be seen as the 'open' means, with which you can create 'open' OER. FOSS and OER should thus be seen as natural allies; which can provide a democratising counter to proprietary software and proprietary content.

Democratising OER production and consumption

Popularizing the use of FOSS applications amongst writers, editors and course developers can enable 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. We hope that access to a free and open technology environment will encourage every teacher to become an OER creator, an OER 're-purposer' and an OER publisher.

Facilitating Technological knowledge

Many, if not most users of ICT, restrict their use to a few software applications. However, if you are able to become familiar with many more applications, over time you will acquire a 'technology felicity', which will enhance your comfort and confidence in navigating the digital world. The FOSS universe has thousands of applications, you will find many useful, in your own work. Often you will find more than one application in an area. Your learning need not be restricted to just one application in any area, learning more applications will increase your expertise and confidence. For instance, even in the area of text editing, you can familiarise yourself with LibreOffice Writer, gedit, KWrite etc. This process of learning multiple applications in an area will give you confidence to explore any new application and learn its features on your own. Such 'learning to learn' ability can be a useful outcome from exploring multiple applications, without inhibition, on your own and the FOSS world provides several applications in most areas.

On your Ubuntu GNU/Linux system, through the 'software centre', you can download innumerable free and open source applications (Applications -> System Tools -> Software) in different domains/areas, from the internet. For instance, you could type 'mathematics' and see all the mathematics software applications available in the Ubuntu GNU/Linux repository, which you can download and install on your computer.

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 and re-purposing of OER in three separate chapters, dealing with text OER, image and animations OER, and audio and video OER.

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 important academic principle to actively build on existing knowledge, hence accessing available OER is the first step in creating OER. Re-purposing OER refers to modifying existing OER for meeting new purposes. Re-purposing is perhaps the simplest method to make more OER available for different needs.

Subsequently, in each chapter, the features of a few applications that will enable you to create and re-purpose OER are explained. The selection of the tools from its universe is based on factors such as its popularity, ease of use, level of community support currently available.

Hands-on learning - using a case of OER on Digital storytelling

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

The best way to use a toolkit is through actual hands-on experiences. You too should identify a topic (or two), in which you are interested to create /re-purpose OER. Your own work as a teacher may require you to source / make materials for classroom teaching-learning processes, or you may want to share your ideas and thoughts, as a resource, with your colleagues for mutual learning, or you may simply want to create a resource for your self-development.

The topic could be from the subject(s) 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'). 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 or need teaching resources.

As we develop the OER on Digital storytelling over this toolkit, accessing available OER and using the different FOSS applications, you too should develop your OER along the same lines. You could create this OER in English or in your own native language (where the need for such an OER may be even greater).

Activity time - Throughout the toolkit, simple instructions for preparing OER are provided as a box item, for you to follow.

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 of Ubuntu GNU/Linux 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. In the next chapter, we will explain how you can install Ubuntu on your computer.

Install the FOSS applications on your computer with Windows operating system

Most of the desktop applications discussed in this toolkit are also available on the Microsoft Windows operating system. You can download the software installation kit (executable files or '.exe' files) from the internet and install on the Windows operating system, see Annexure for information to access the free software on Windows. Typically, double-clicking on the executable file will launch an installation wizard, which will take you through the installation process step by step.

Install the FOSS applications on your mobile phone

You can install the FOSS applications discussed in the tool-kit, on your mobile phone (running on an Android operating system), using the link for the app installer for each app, see Annexure for more information on these apps. The app can be installed using Google Play Store or FDroid. The range of possibilities in creating and re-purposing OER on the mobile phone is likely to be relatively lesser than on the desktop in many cases.

How to license your work as OER

After you create or re-purpose your OER, it is essential for you to provide the necessary license to ensure it is OER. If you do not specify any licence, by default, it is treated as having the traditional 'All rights reserved' copyright, which means others will not be able to freely re-use or revise the same.

In case you are creating an OER from scratch, as the author, you have full freedom to specify an open license. The 'Creative Commons' licenses are popular since they are easy to use and understand. You can refer to their site for more information, before you chose an appropriate license. This toolkit uses the CC BY license which allows users to freely re-use, revise, remix and redistribute, giving credit to the author of the toolkit. You could use any of these three CC licenses that are accepted as 'open:

Description Acronym
Freeing content globally without restrictions CC0
Attribution alone CC-BY
Attribution + ShareAlike CC-BY-SA

In case you are re-purposing an OER, you will need to consider the licenses of the OER you are using as inputs.

  1. In case you are re-purposing an OER which is released under the CC 0 license, then you can give any license of your choice, it is the same as if you had created the OER all by yourself.
  2. If you have used an OER which has a CC BY license, then you can then you can give any license of your choice, it is the same as if you had created the OER all by yourself, however, you will need to give credit to the creator of the input OER, in your own OER, basically you will need to 'attribute' credit to the author of the input OER.
  3. If you have used an OER which has a CC BY SA license, then you will need to release the re-purposed OER also under the same license due to the 'ShareAlike' clause. You will also need to give credit to the creator of the input OER, in your own OER, basically you will need to 'attribute' credit to the author of the input OER.
  4. In case you are re-purposing OER, using more than one OER as an input resource, then you will need to consider the licenses of all the input OER while choosing the license for your OER. Typically, you will need to go by the most restrictive license clauses of the source OER. For instance even if one of the OER has a ShareAlike clause, your re-purposed OER will need to have the same clauses as that OER.

Assumption about the user of this tool-kit

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

The toolkit also assumes that you are aware about the concept of OER and familiar with the copyright / licensing requirements of OER. If not, you can read the A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) book or undergo a two hour course on OER, from the Commonwealth of Learning.


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


  1. Hatakka, M. (2009). Build it and they will come? - Inhibiting factors for reuse of open content in developing countries. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries, 37(5), 1-16. Retrieved from http://www.ejisdc.org/ojs2/index.php/ejisdc/article/viewFile/545/279


The Teachers' toolkit for creating and re-purposing OER using FOSS tools is licensed under CC BY 4.0 license