Openness in education means more than just access or legal certainty over what you are able to use, modify, and share with your students. Open education means designing content and practices that ensure everyone can actively participate and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge.

5.4 CREATING AND SHARING OER from the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators and Librarians

By now you probably have a good sense of why sharing OER is valuable to users. However, investment in sharing OER remains limited.

In the article, The Uncertain Future of OER by Tom Berger, the open education sharing economy is identified as not having seen complete success. Berger notes, “…teachers have not taken those materials, adapted them, and re-uploaded them to share their improvements—in the OER field, unlike at Wikipedia, the revising and remixing seem to be happening offline, if at all, and the original resources are not undergoing continuous improvement” (Berger, 2018).

While it can be debated whether the resources are being used and/or improved upon, the issue Berger identifies here is valid. Sharing OER is complex.

Sharing open educational resources is difficult because the discoverability of OER isn’t systematic. Unlike libraries where standardization of discovery practices are in place and controlled by librarians and knowledge organization professionals, OER can be found anywhere and everywhere. There is no one system that’s going to make it easier to find content because there are just too many systems where OER can be shared. There also is no single process or workflow when it comes to sharing material. Sharing practices will depend on the creator of the OER and how they make decisions about their content. But the practice of generating a workflow to better understand where you are sharing content and how to collect data about those open resources can mitigate some of these difficulties and increase the success of OER in the sharing economy.

This module will provide a workflow approach to sharing OER.

Considerations Before Sharing

Scenario – Sharing Openly Licensed Modules

Professor Pérez has completed a set of course modules titled “Inorganic Chemistry for Chemical Engineers.” They have used images, created videos and textual content, and interactive elements. The content has been assigned a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and is ready for sharing.

While Professor Pérez has an OER to share, before sharing they need to consider their intent. What is the purpose for sharing, who do they want to reach, what are they hoping to achieve?

Sharing open educational resources requires a number of steps. When making decisions about sharing your open educational resource, you need to first have a sense of purpose and intent for sharing. The following are a few things to consider when deciding to share your content.

What do I want my OER to do for me?
It may be that the intent for sharing your OER is simply the use by others. This is a fine reason to share your resource. However, you may also want to share to connect with other educators, to gain metrics around the content being used, to promote the work so others may improve upon it. Knowing your intent can help direct where the content should be shared.

Who do I want to have primary access to my OER?
Identifying your key audiences is crucial for developing a plan for sharing your OER. Different spaces may cater to specific audiences, age ranges, and subject expertise. Some spaces may provide functionality that allows you to network with other educators creating similar content. You may also need to develop separate marketing plans or different messages depending on the audience.

Are impact metrics important to me?
Impact metrics refer to whether the repository tracks data about how your resource is performing (e.g. number of downloads, citations). Some repositories will provide very detailed metrics about your OER (e.g. geographic location of downloads, number of views, etc.). Deciding what kind of reporting is important to you and how you will use the metrics is a way to focus where you may share your content and what additional planning you may need to undertake to get the right impact metric details. For example, tracking if others have modified your work can be complicated and may require a different approach to data collection.

OER Sharing Workflows

When engaging in an OER sharing workflow, here are some larger issues to consider when addressing the discoverability and findability of your OER that go beyond how and where to share your content to make it available for people to use.

Developing Standard OER Metadata

Metadata is data about data. It is descriptive information about a particular data set, object, or resource, including how it is formatted, and when and by whom it was collected. For example, take a look at the kinds of metadata that could be added to describe the image below:

UBC Library Elmscott Chaucce Ddigital Colouring Book, April 2018. 

Metadata is extremely important in making content discoverable, whether it be on the general web or in a database like those used for research materials.

When developing metadata about your OER, creating a standardized approach is necessary. Standardized metadata, or metadata that has a common meaning, structure, and terms, will ensure your OER is made identifiable across platforms. Additionally, ensuring standardization of your metadata will support others to accurately attribute your work.

Developing OER Metadata

Before distributing your OER, you will need to develop standard metadata about your object. Many platforms you will use to share your content will have a standard structure for metadata entry and will identify the required information, or fields, before you upload your content. However, the details of the metadata (e.g. title, author, description, date created, etc.) need to be developed by the OER creator.

For example, this template shows the metadata that should be filled out for every resource that is shared in the Nordic University Health Hub on OER Commons. OER Commons has a standard metadata form, but the Mandatory Tags/Keywords have been defined by the group to support ease of finding resources on a given topic.

Metadata structure may change across different repositories; however, there are common fields that you will need to include. The table indicates some of those common fields.

Source TypeExample: video, an audio file, quiz, etc.
Author(s)Creators of the resource.
TitleTitle given to the resource.
Publication DateDate the resource was created.
URLLocation of the resource.  
Subject(s)This field will outline the subject covered in the resource. Subjects can either be controlled or collaboratively generated. 
AbstractA brief abstract. 
Duration/LengthLength of the resource (e.g. minutes, pages, etc.).
AudienceBy institution (e.g. College, University, etc.) and by level (e.g. undergraduate year 1-2, graduate, etc.), or if this is a resource for faculty only.
Copyright/LicensingThis field will describe the kind of licensing that has been assigned to the object (e.g. Creative Commons, YouTube Standard License).
Table 1 – Common OER Metadata Fields

Take the time before sharing to fill in standard metadata descriptions that you can then use across all platforms. 

Choosing a Repository to Share

Types of Open Educational Repositories

While there are several ways to share your OER once you have created and licensed them, posting them to an OER repository is a great way to increase access to your resource. However, there are different types of repository you have to consider when sharing, and each will offer different features and functionality.

Resource Archives are repositories where you can upload your resource to the repository and it will live there. This is helpful if you do not want to host your resource yourself but want to upload it elsewhere for others to find more easily.

Example: WikiMedia

Archives and Aggregators are repositories which host resources as well as gather metadata from other places. These are third party platforms run by businesses or nonprofits and often require some sort of payment.

Example: MERLOT

Resource Aggregators are repositories that collect metadata from resource archives or resources that are on other websites. Searching in this repository will provide you with metadata and links which were uploaded to the collection.

Example: OER Commons

Aggregator of Repositories are not truly repositories where you can share your content but as aggregators of other repository content. The aggregator of repositories will pull content from other repositories into one space for searching.

Example: Mason OER Finder

Common Features in OER Repositories

The types of repositories listed above have different features and are created for different purposes. Because of this, you may find you are sharing your resource across multiple repositories. However, there are many repositories out there and narrowing down which you will use is an important step in your workflow. There is no single repository that will meet all of your needs or have all of these features, so you will need to pick a few that are most important to you. The following are some of the most common features that will impact your decision about whether or not to use a particular repository. To find a list of OER repositories, go to the UBC Library Open Education Guide.


Hosting refers to whether or not the OER can be uploaded to the repository directly. If not, then the resource must live elsewhere (e.g., a personal website) and a link is put in the repository.


Some repositories require their items to have a specific license attached to them. Most repositories will accept a range of licenses, but there are some that are more specific.

Peer Review

Peer review is offered by some repositories as a service. In most cases, having your resource peer-reviewed is not required.


Sometimes a repository will have accessibility guidelines for their resources. Some repositories will have special features such as being able to upload multiple formats, video players, or embedded viewing.


If the repository is indexed, it will show up within an overarching search engine (e.g., Google or Summon) which in turn makes its resources more findable.


Analytics refers to whether the repository tracks data and is able to provide information about how the resource is performing (e.g., number of downloads, citations).


Some repositories are more stable than others or offer archiving services to ensure the OER is preserved for future use.

Sample OER Sharing Workflow

Now that the we know the workflow for sharing an OER, what does it look like in practice? Let’s revisit the scenario of Professor Perez:

Scenario – Sharing Openly Licensed Modules

Professor Pérez has completed a set of course modules titled “Inorganic Chemistry for Chemical Engineers.” They have used images, created videos and textual content, and interactive elements. The content has been assigned a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and is ready for sharing.

Having reviewed the purpose for sharing, developed standard metadata, and identified the appropriate spaces for sharing, Professor Perez’s sharing workflow is the following:

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Figure 1: Professor Perez’s OER Sharing Workflow

Step 1: cIRcle Resource Upload and Metadata Creation

The first step was uploading the OER into cIRle, UBC’s open repository that focuses on the archival standards of making the item accessible. cIRcle provided support for submitting and indexing to make the content easily findable. cIRcle is indexed in high-profile search engines like Google as well as academically focused search engines like Google Scholar and OAIster, making it quick and easy for scholars and others to find the work. Additionally, loading the OER into cIRcle provides long-term access. cIRcle is an archival space that provides a permanent URL so the links to the OER remain the same over time. 

Note -- Not all people have access to an institutional repository. Discuss your options with your home institution. If you are unaffiliated, MERLOT is a good option for housing your content as it is the oldest open educational repository available to those without an institutional repository. 

Step 2: Upload Metadata to Additional Repositories

The second step for Professor Perez was to upload the metadata and the permanent link to OER aggregators. So, for example, Professor Perez loaded the information into OER CommonsMerlot, and AMSER, an applied science and math open educational resource repository. The OER will have a permanent location within cIRcle, but, the metadata for the object is going to be located in a variety of aggregators to support greater reach. 

Step 3: Impact Metrics

The final step for the OER Sharing Workflow is impact and metrics. Professor Perez has shared their OER in 4 different places and may have a number of data points related to the use of her content from cIRcle, OER Commons, Merlot, and AMSER. Impact metrics and promotion will be covered in the next module.

Open Text Sharing & Discoverability


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