Isaac Mulolani

The use of open education is growing and has become a global movement. Across much of North America, most post-secondary institutions are in the process of integrating the use of open education resources (OER) into their teaching and learning activities. The number of OER repositories from which instructors can draw resources continues to grow each year.

In addition,  the number of different technology tools used to develop these resources also continues to increase.  These digital technologies include both commercial and open-source options.  Since the open-source movement preceded the open education movement, there are significant numbers of open-source tools available for OER creation.

This resource is intended to provide the OER community with a summary of some of the currently available digital technologies for creating open content. The decision on which technology to use is one that every OER creator will eventually need to make. This guide is designed to provide a starting point particularly for instructors and faculty at post-secondary institutions. The guide should help prospective creators of OER pick both the most appropriate tool for their specific context as well as their level of technical expertise.

Chapters 1 – 4 and 8 of this resource are accessible to all audiences. Chapters 5 – 7 contain more technical information related to open-source tools and may not be as accessible for people new to Open Education. It may also be inaccessible for those  with low to medium technical skill levels. This is normal since open-source tools require a high degree of technical expertise. For anyone new to the field, these can be tackled last.

Chapter 1 starts with very basic information on the definition and description of what constitutes OER. There is a description of open licensing and specifically, the Creative Commons licenses. This includes a description of the 5 R Framework provided by David Wiley. The ALMS Framework is described along with how it allows creators to create and remix OER. The importance of this framework when using Creative Commons licenses is highlighted.

Chapter 2 introduces the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by providing a brief listing of each goal. The discussion progresses to discussing how digital technology can be leverage to achieve these goals particularly those in Education. A discussion on technology frameworks and the affordances digital technologies can potentially provide is crucial to this conversation on selecting appropriate tools for OER creation.

Chapter 3  focuses on commercial word processing tools.  It starts by briefly discussing Microsoft Word, a tool that most people around the globe are familiar with. The specific features of MS Word useful for the creation of OER are described. In addition, the Softmaker Office tool is described along with features helpful for OER creation. Another useful tool described in this chapter is WPS Office. A description of its useful features is provided including its built-in PDF creator and  convertor. Comparison of features available for each of these tools is provided at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 4 describes a number of open-source word processing and additional tools. The word processing tools include LibreOffice and Google Documents. Two additional technologies that can be used in combination with word processors are Gnu Image Manipulation Program (Gimp) and Inkscape. A simple description of the features useful for OER creation is provided with each of these.

Chapter 5 introduces the basic open-source TeX-based systems that arose out of the open-source software movement. These include MiKTeX, TeXlive and MacTeX on Windows, Unix/Linux and Mac systems respectively. Some of the relevant tools that can be used to help create OER are briefly described. An introduction to editors, both commercial and open-source, that can be used with TeX systems to automate the workflow is provided.

Chapter 6 delves further into TeX-based open-source tools by highlighting some packages useful for content creation. There is a discussion on including graphical elements and mathematical content into a document. Some presentation tools of relevance to instructors creating content for the classroom are also listed for reference.

Chapter 7 continues discussing TeX-based tools further by describing some other helpful tools such as LyX and TeXmacs that have a user interface designed to simplify the editing process. Two tools that allow collaborative editing are presented: Overleaf and Papeeria.  R, a more hybrid open-source development tool useful for instructors who work with statistical content is introduced. The RStudio editor with its ability to use RMarkdown is discussed briefly. RStudio can be used to create multiple formats from a single file which is extremely helpful especially for academic use.

Chapter 8 provides a description of some of emerging OER tools such as Pressbooks, EdTech Books and LibreTexts. Pressbooks networks are becoming more widely used across North American colleges and universities. LibreTexts is an OER repository with increasing numbers of resources and course ware, particularly in STEM areas. More recently, a homework system and H5P repository have also been added to LibreTexts’ offerings. To round out this chapter, the Ximera TeX-based system is described specifically for instructors who are open-source users. Another tool of interest for open-source users is the PreTeXt system. Both Ximera and PreTeXt allow a user to create multiple formats from a single source file thereby increasing the accessibility of a resource. These tools also provide interactive online documents in addition to static PDF files increasing both the engagement and accessibility of resources.


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Tools for Creating OER by Isaac Mulolani is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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