Category Archives: platform development


Our collection of open resources and practices

As the OEPS project draws to a close, there is much to celebrate.  We are pleased to share the growing collection of open courses, resources, case studies and open practice guidance which the project has helped produce and showcase the online platform, OpenLearn Create, which the project has helped further develop for hosting open materials and practices and where the OEPS collection is hosted.

In the OEPS collection:

Resources for OEP includes case studies on how other people and institutions have used open educational resources and practices; guidance on ways of finding, using, creating and sharing high quality open educational resources (OER) and how to use open educational practices and research on open education.  These are worth exploring to find something which might be similar to your own experience and give you encouragement to continue investigating the fascinating world of open learning and what it enables for so many people.

The OEPS team have written two courses about open educational practices, Becoming an open educator and Supporting Collective learning in workplace and community settings and have also been involved in co-authoring a course about creating courses – How to make an open online course.

OEPS also worked with the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) to create a short course called My seaweed looks weird for post graduate learners about seaweed aquaculture to explore best practice in seaweed cultivation.

We have produced two short resources introducing secondary school children to using the Open Science Lab tools to enhance their learning of Analysing pesticides or testing for genetic variations using quantitative PCR analysis (polymerase chain reaction).  Early in the OEPS project these were piloted with two schools in Scotland and have been revised slightly as a result of the pilot.

Courses developed with OEPS or inspired by it:

Early in the project The Open University in Scotland produced 3 badged open courses for carers which carry the OEPS badge design – see the OU in Scotland collection for Caring Counts: a self-reflection and planning course for carers, Caring Counts in the Workplace and Reflecting on Transitions.

We are working with Parkinson’s UK on their collection of courses and Dyslexia Scotland and Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit on a collection of courses.  So far Understanding Parkinson’s and Introduction to Dyslexia and Inclusive Practice have been published and each organisation has worked with OEPS to develop more courses which are coming soon.

More recently we’re pleased to see that the OEPS project has encouraged independent course creation – see the free resource for teachers Grow your own loaf created by the Royal Highland Education Trust, inspired by the OEPS project and hosted online as the result of the availability of the free open platform which the OEPS project has helped improve.

Using the OEPS collection

We hope that you will find the OEPS collection useful, not only as a legacy of the project but also as a place to find and share information on open educational practice. The collection can be updated so please contact the OLC team if you would like to contribute to it.





From OER to OEP – OEPS at OER17

Following hot on the heels of the OE Global conference in Cape Town is the OER17 conference in London.  This year the conference theme is ‘The Politics of Open’.


Image credit: CC-BY-NC Taro Taylor remixed for OER17

OEPS has two presentations in the same parallel session period in different rooms.  One is by Ronald Macintyre and Pete Cannell (presented by Ronald) called ‘Mind the Gap: Structural Holes, Open Educational Practices and the Third Sector’.  The other OEPS by Anna Page is called ‘From OER to OEP – enabling open educational practices via platform development and open course building exemplars’. OEPS researchers, Beck and Bea are also presenting on Wednesday in a later session. They are presenting on ‘Exploring international open educational practices’. There is also a presentation from Gill Ryan from the Open University in Scotland (where OEPS is hosted). Her presentation is called ‘Open Learning Champions: a model for widening participation’.

While Ronald will explore the OEPS experiences of working with different partners to develop small badged open courses with third sector organisations and curating learning journeys, Anna will talk about the work OEPS has been doing to further develop the platform on which those courses are being hosted.  Specifically, she will focus on the evolution and use of OU Labspace / OpenLearn Works which was relaunched as OpenLearn Create in January 2017 as an online platform for hosting OER by anyone.  She will examine the improvements and developments which the OEPS project identified for the platform and collaborative course production.  She will also briefly discuss the extent to which collaborative open educational practices promoted by OEPS in these exemplar courses are helping to change cultures in both education and third sector organisations who are exploring OER as a means for wider participation in their subject expertise. Beck and Bea (along with their colleagues from the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University) will examine the meaning of OEP in three stages:

  1. Review examples of OEP in the Scottish context.
  2. Recontextualise these examples and examine them within the international context, through the use of exemplar case studies from around the world.
  3. Present an emerging framework of open practice based on their research to date.

In doing this they aim to further develop a definition of OEP through a systematic analysis of international open practices.

The abstracts for the presentations can be viewed online at the OER17 conference website:

Mind the Gap: Structural Holes, Open Educational Practices and the Third Sector [1516]

From OER to OEP – enabling open educational practices via platform development and open course building exemplars [1486]

Exploring international educational practices [1549]

Open Learning Champions – a model for widening participation [1525]


Slides for the presentations are on Slideshare:

Mind the Gap: Structural Holes, Open Educational Practices and the Third Sector

From OER to OEP – enabling  open educational practices via platform developmen and open course building exemplars

Exploring international educational practices


OpenLearn Works to OpenLearn Create

One of the World Cafe sessions at the #OEPSforum3 on 5 November 2015 featured the open platform which the OEPS project is helping develop further.  This is a brief summary of redesign and further development planned for the open platform:

OpenLearn Works (OLW) draws on the Open University’s expertise to facilitate good online pedagogy and open educational practice. OLW is a Moodle platform that allows the creation and delivery of educational content for free. The guiding principles are:

  • That content is available openly and for free to all users (learners and creators) of the platform (unless it is hosted in the closed VLE sections of the site, where other criteria may apply).
  • That the site provides space for users to publish, reuse and repurpose content and comprehensive guidance on how to do this.
  • That content published on OLW should be released under a Creative Commons licence.
  • That the site should promote and share good open pedagogical practices to support users creating OER and learners using OER as a service to users.
  • There is no advertising on the site.

OpenLearn Works enables capacity building for those developing and delivering free and publically available digitally enhanced learning. The site is both a place to:

  • Develop capacity (academy, toolkit & repository) and to
  • Deliver product (courses, resources, product library sub portals)

The site provides free OER hosting facilities for those who don’t have access to an appropriate VLE for their courses, so is ideal for experimenting with ideas and creating courses across institutions or organisations.

Hosting courses

The following hosting options are currently available:

  • spaces for users to set up their own open courses,
  • project spaces which can either be set up by external users (basic functionality) or by the OU (with enhanced features such as badges and OU structured content)
  • a portal facility (which requires design and some IT development to reuse the basic template for new portals)

The following additional hosting options are planned and are currently being piloted:

  • closed spaces for password enrolment for closed cohorts administered by OU or external organisations who need VLE space for their or OU content which is adapted for their CPD purposes

Current functionality

Users can create open courses on OpenLearn Works which can include textual content, images, embedded or linked video and quizzes using core Moodle. The platform has tools for collaboration when creating a draft course (editing, curating and contextualizing materials). There are tools for learners to collaborate with each other when studying a live course such as blogs, forums, interactive glossaries and polls. The platform supports Open Badging which are Mozilla compatible and mirrors the facility on OpenLearn for issuing badges automatically via course completion criteria.

Future developments

OLC creating open courses

OLC creating open courses

OpenLearn Works will become OpenLearn Create (OLC) to more accurately reflect the open course creation facilities it offers. It is proposed that the redesigned OpenLearn Create will have the following enhancements and improvements to existing features:

  • Mobile responsive design
  • Easier to use interface for creating and updating courses which have a logical flow and navigational structure
  • Improved routes and guidance for remixing and re-versioning OER content found both on OLC and on other OER sites
  • A choice of Creative Commons licence options for publishing content (currently only one open licence option or all rights reserved are the only choices)
  • An improved user profile encompassing course creator and learner elements
  • Course user statistics and data dashboard for reports and analytics
  • Digital badging configuration by the course creator (currently digital badges are set up by OpenLearn Works managers) and Statement of Participation template for course creator’s own branding
  • Improved OER search facilities
  • Exportable formats (for those wishing to study a course offline) or to export to another VLE platform
  • Generate alternative formats (for accessibility purposes) from material uploaded to OpenLearn Create
  • Further configuration of multiple language support for administration menus and correct text alignment
  • Further configuration of the peer assessment module
  • RSS/XML feeds of collections of course materials for display on other websites
  • Plugin additional appropriate tools and resources
OLC creating reversioning courses

OLC creating reversioning courses

We are seeking views on the proposed developments for OpenLearn Create at the #oepsforum3 and welcome comments on this blog post about the platform.

Open Educational Practices hub website launch

OEPS hub home

OEPS hub home

We’ve been building the Open Educational Practices website this year and launch the beta site at the #OEPSforum3 on 5 November 2015 in Glasgow. You can find it at

The site provides an encouraging and engaging place to learn more about open educational practices. It will enable users to:

  • understand about OER and OEP
  • Find useful OER
  • Provide tools to share open educational practices
  • Have a place to deliver their OER to the public

The site has a number of features and further developments are planned. Features include:

  • Guidance introducing users to OER and OEP concepts as well as good practice
  • Open educational practice case studies
  • The OER search
  • OEP communities
  • News about OEP
  • An events calendar for workshops, OEPS advisory forum, webinars
  • Showcase OEP projects which may be hosted elsewhere
  • Links to OpenLearn Works platform where users can create and share OER

The guidance and case studies are grouped in two sections – using open educational practices and create your own, with a set of articles in each section. More articles and case studies are planned, so what is displayed on the site so far is only the start.  The OEPS project team are keen to welcome article contributions or suggestions, so if you’ve got ideas for articles you would like included, please get in touch via and help build upon the advice and guidance to create a richer resource of open educational practices knowhow.  This is the beauty of collaborative, shared open resources and practices and the OEPS site aims to foster, promote and model good practices for the benefit of everyone.

The search is a custom Google search to enable users to search the site, the communities on the site and many external sites and repositories for open educational resources. Currently the ‘other site’ search aggregator is picking up OER from over 200 known OER sites however there are plenty more out there so if you know of good OER sites please get in touch via so we can ensure that the search picks up OER from those sites too.

Anyone can create a community space on the site for their group.  The community feature enables users to join a community which is discovering and exploring the relevance of open educational practices for its needs.  Members can use their communities to share useful links to resources, discuss open educational practices (in their community Google forum which is embedded into the community space on the site), blog about their emerging or established open educational practices and embed a relevant twitter feed.  It isn’t yet possible to comment on community blog posts (this feature is coming soon) and we also want to offer the option to create a forum using the site software (Drupal) if communities don’t already use a Google group for online discussion.  We do have a list of other potential features to include, however we would like users to visit the site, create a profile, set up or join communities, follow other users, read articles and case studies, feedback on the existing functionality and tell us what additional features are needed before we decide on further developments.

Once you have visited the Open Educational Practices site, read some articles, created a profile and joined a community please complete this short feedback questionnaire to help us improve the site for everyone.



OEPS weekly update – 13 March 2015

Pete met with Third sector partners and continued to work on ideas for developing support for practitioners and researchers in specific community contexts. He also attended the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning 2015 conference in Glasgow and presented a paper ‘Lifelong learning and partnerships: rethinking the university in the digital age’.

Ronald has been running a well-attended series of events in Lomond and the Trossachs National Park working with communities using our free online course on setting up rural businesses, putting finishing touches to papers for OER15, finalising a report on Open Science in Schools (a blog post will be forthcoming), and developing a learning design workshop with Glasgow University End of Life Studies team.

Anna continued to compile the ‘How to use OpenLearn Works’ guide which, once published on OpenLearn Works in April, will make it easier for those who are not familiar with Moodle to create and upload their OER to the platform, which currently lacks comprehensive user guidance. The OEPS hub development will commence shortly, following requirements gathering, user story writing and search option investigations. The hub will be built using Drupal.

Caroline and Maggie were busy finalising arrangements for OEPS Advisory Forum#2 in Stirling on Thurs 19th March (#OEPSforum2). It’s shaping up to be a really interesting day with a great turnout. If you’ve not yet signed up, read more about the event at


OEPS hub workshop at the advisory forum

by Anna Page, OEPS project team

Andrew with a group discussing OEPS hub user stories

Andrew with a group discussing OEPS hub user stories

We ran a workshop on the OEPS hub at the advisory forum in October 2014 as part of the requirements gathering exercise for project objective C ‘Development of an online hub to encourage and share best practice in open education’. In early project team meetings and a brainstorming session we had come up with some features of the hub and I had worked these into a series of user stories. Andrew Law (Co-director of OEPS) and I decided to use the workshop as an opportunity to get user feedback from potential users on the user personas and stories to help us identify the priorities for development.

We thought that the main user groups will broadly be Practitioners (practitioners/providers/researchers) and Learners (browsers/informal learners/students). Some user stories were relevant to everyone, some more important to practitioners and some for learners. We asked each group to discuss the user stories amongst themselves from the perspective of Learner or Practitioner, make notes and try deciding if they were high, medium or low priority. Each group gave a brief summary of their discussions and asked questions.

I had explained earlier during the OEPS project team panel session that the existing OpenLearn Works platform, which provides a free public space for people to run their own free learning projects, will be further developed to fully support the OEPS hub. Planned features include adding content on good open educational practice including case studies, clearer guidance on creating and uploading OER and improvements which support communities and organisations to make the most of OER (which will include improving the user profile features, better search functionality and a recommender tool). Other important features include making the platform mobile friendly, interoperable with other platforms and technologies and support for alternative formats. The workshop gave a little more detail about these aspirations and naturally triggered plenty of questions.

commenting on the draft user stories for the OEPS hub

commenting on the draft user stories for the OEPS hub

What became clear from the discussions at both workshops was that people needed reassurance that the hub will not be just another repository (which most wouldn’t find, especially if their default search tool was Google) when there are plenty of OER repositories available already. Existing repositories are not necessarily known about by those new to OER and therefore some might be suffering from low usage.  Instead the hub aims to introduce people to the concept of open educational resources, how to use OER in practice and connect users with each other. It also aims to re-aggregate search of existing OER repositories such as JORUM, Re:Source and Solvonauts. This means the hub will need to facilitate the building of strong supportive communities of OER users and provide those communities with sandpit space for them to experiment with OER. People were very concerned that the OEPS hub would not be a silo, instead it needs to be a pool of connectedness and some people saw it as a node rather than a hub. Others cautioned us to ensure that the development of communities supported by the OEPS hub will need to come from grassroots development and growth, because such communities are likely to be much more successful than top down initiated communities. The concept of a sandpit space for practitioners was embraced.

Doug making good points about the OEPS hub

Doug making good points about the OEPS hub

OEPS hub workshop discussion group

OEPS hub workshop discussion group

One group pointed out that we had missed a persona group who have the ability to make considerable contributions to the hub – the learning technologists. This user group may want to contribute tools and code towards the further development of the hub to benefit both learners and practitioners, possibly via a learning technologist community space in the hub.

The recommender tool concept was extended – in one workshop it was pointed out that a star rating wasn’t sufficient for users whose primary goal is to find or recommend good OER – there needs to be a facility for people to feedback on how an OER had been used and what people are doing with it. This wasn’t explicit in the recommender tool user story, though had in fact already been identified as necessary functionality by the IT analyst. Most teachers would evaluate the quality of a resource before using it themselves, so finding a trustable practice-based resource which others had used successfully in their particular context was really important to them, and community building would help inform their choices of OER.

Feeding back views on OEPS hub user stories to Anna

Feeding back views on OEPS hub user stories to Anna

High priorities for the OEPS hub which emerged were:

  • Provide good trustworthy search facilities coupled with a recommender tool which guides user choice of OER they find via the search
  • Host online events to stimulate discussion, using targeted marketing to different community groups so it isn’t just the ‘usual suspects’ involved in discussing OER
  • Publish good case studies of OER and OEP
  • Provide comprehensive user guidance and good open educational practice (this would be targeted for the different user groups of the OEPS hub)
  • Mobile optimisation is essential
  • Provide information about how and why OER applies in a Scottish context, why are we investing in it
  • Provide space and guidance for practitioners to put their OER or experimental OER because a significant percentage of users are unlikely to have access to an institutional space for creating and sharing OER

People were less sure about the updates needed to the existing profile functionality, unless this development was integral to the community building feature of the OEPS hub and were keen to allow users to login using a third party profile.

For the perspectives of two people who attended the OEPS hub workshops, see and

The project team are discussing the outcomes of the OEPS hub workshops as we work towards the first IT developments to bring these aspirations for an OEP community space for Scotland into reality.