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Brooklyn College Library & Academic IT | Library Guides | Creating Accessible OER | OER Guide for Faculty

OER and Publishing Platforms: Home

Discussion of the features offered by various web platforms useful for Open Educational Resources (OERs) and other types of publishing.

Introduction

These are some commonly used OER and publishing platforms.. This landing page explores some primary features, use cases, and advantages/disadvantages of each one. The platform-specific pages linked in the navigation above provide additional information and resources.

This guide is intended as a basic overview of  OER and publishing platforms; as such, it may not fully explain certain technical details in the interest of brevity. Please feel free to contact the OER Development team for questions and further information (site created by OER Developer Colin McDonald, email here).

Brooklyn College Wordpress

This version of Wordpress hosted by ITS at Brooklyn College allows for quick site setup and a selection of templates, with some options for customization.

Ideal Use: Quick setup of a blogs or course site in the BC community with few custom or uncommon requirements.

Pros:

  • Easy inclusion of other Brooklyn College community members.
  • A range of plugins and themes available by default.

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to work within ITS and wider BC site framework for customizations/additions.
  • Wordpress dashboard is cluttered; tough to tell what plugins and features are available at a glance.
  • Site back- and front-end have shown performance inconsistency.
  • Media uploads are capped at 7 MB (Commons caps at 40 MB).

Manifold

Hosted by CUNY in collaboration with other partners, Manifold offers a way to publish public domain and open-access books on the web with supplemental resources and social annotation. Manifold is free and open source, and CUNY’s installation is available for use by all CUNY faculty, students, and staff..

Ideal Use: Instructors looking to create well-designed, customized versions of public domain or open access texts.

Pros:

  • Resources including audio, video, and interactive content can be embedded into texts.
  • Features include annotation, highlighting, and referencing associated documents.
  • Strong visual presentation and back-end interface display under continuous development.

Cons:

  • Requires a separate log-in.
  • Preparation of texts may be required to optimize appearance.
  • There are minimal editing features once books are imported, so changing content requires re-importing.

Vocat

Developed by a team organized at Baruch College, Vocat is a full-featured platform for professors and students to share and interact with video, audio, and images.

Ideal Use: Creating a collaborative, private space for a group to upload and interact with media and each other.

Pros:

  • As this tour helps illustrate, a prime feature of Vocat is the variety of media annotation and uploading possibilities for students, including highlighting and drawing on content.
  • Professors and evaluators can take advantage of robust tracking and grading features for students and their courses and course projects.

Cons:

  • The platform must be hosted and set up by the user, but it is available as an open-source code package with instructions for hosting out-of-the-box and with minimal cost and setup time via Amazon Web Services.
  • There is no public-facing part of the course areas; all users (from professors to students) must log in via individual accounts with pre-determined sets of permissions.

Omeka

Developed at George Mason, Omeka is a publishing platform geared toward online exhibit creation and academic, non-technical users, though it still offers a range of features.

Ideal Use: Building resources that revolve around a series of different "items" or pieces of content/media that need to be presented in a clean, searchable format. General text pages are also an option.

Pros:

  • Diverse feature set and use cases.
  • Variety of plugins and pre-built templates.
  • Detailed admin panel for collecting and organizing data/items.
  • Versatile presentation of photos and multimedia.
  • Detailed documentation.

Cons:

  • Requires either self-hosted installation or a paid setup on Omeka's servers.
  • Paid-setup version limits availability of some plugins, design customization, and other features.
  • Admin panel geared toward exhibit and collection functionality may be obtrusive or overkill for smaller-scale publishing and items without much metadata to incorporate.

LibGuides

This platform, developed by Springshare, is geared toward very simple publishing and integration with librarian needs and library resources.

Ideal Use: Sites that make heavy use of Brooklyn College Library resources or accessible online archives, with little need for a more modern and customizable visual design.

Pros:

  • Admin editor offers a "what you see is what you get" interface, making it easy to lay out text and materials without a tech or coding background.
  • Library resources can be searched and ingested automatically by ID numbers.
  • Options to copy and build off of other LibGuides.
  • Simple incorporation of media like video embeds, password-protected documents, and slideshows.
  • Quick switching back-and-forth between different layouts to test possibilities.

Cons: 

  • Design options are limited by the box-oriented "building blocks" of each site.
  • Tough to incorporate blog or chronological elements, "posts" not a foundational element.
  • Can be difficult to navigate settings and more advanced customizations.
  • Very cumbersome image uploader/manager.
  • More limitations in mobile design than more modern platforms.

Scalar

Scalar logo. Sylized S with name spelled out below.

Hosted by USC, this platform offers accounts to academic users to take advantage of its hybrid ebook-publishing / media repository functionality.

Ideal Use: Linear, book- or narrative-style materials that also make use of images and video in an integrated way.

Pros:

  • Features include robust in-house annotation for both images and video, as well as integration with the Hypothesis annotation service.
  • Sites can be structured in a more linear fashion using a Table of Contents and sequential links, or presented as a looser collection of materials.
  • Content can be locked down or opened up for viewing, copying/licensing, and collaborative editing.
  • Visualization and other features help track contributions.

Cons:

  • Account creation can require a bit of back-and-forth with the USC gatekeepers that manage the site. May 
  • Can be more challenging to indicate "new" vs. "old" material and organize course content in a familiar navigation given the linear emphasis.
  • Occasional performance issues when using USC-hosted version. Can be hosted externally, opening up more flexibility.
  • Sequence for uploading and managing media can be counterintuitive at first.

OER Commons

A platform created by ISKME with an array of different applications geared specifically toward OER creation.

Ideal Use: Difficult to say due to the variety of applications in the platform, which attempts to appeal to projects of many sizes and backgrounds. Would appeal to those looking for a more tailored, structured solution rather than customizing an open-source foundation like Wordpress.

Pros:

  • Large user base, and large selection of resources available via participants to be collected and adapted by new users.
  • Variety of applications include groups, hubs for larger networks of information and people, and microsites with custom branding and a larger suite of information and functionality.

Cons:

  • Platform usage requires accounts; more difficult to evaluate features and experiment than many other platforms.
  • More robust options seem to be tied to partner and other arrangements with the platform organization.
  • Visual customization may not be as flexible on more open platforms.

CUNY Academic Commons Wordpress

This Wordpress platform is managed by CUNY and developed with its community in mind.

Ideal Use: CUNY-affiliated sites in need of versatile yet user-friendly publishing features.

Pros:

  • Quick setup and publishing of sites geared toward academic content and interaction, including simple privacy and layout controls as well as CUNY-managed hosting and development.
  • Streamlined login/setup for new accounts.
  • Latest release responds to user needs with new templates, plugins and widgets.
  • Large and rapidly-growing social network, with built-in interaction.
  • 40 MB limit for media uploads (BC Wordpress 7 MB).

Cons: 

  • Limitations on what can be installed on top of default features.
  • May be difficult to determine what features or roles to utilize within the broad Commons network.

OpenLab Commons in a Box (CBOX)

With its latest version CBOX OpenLab, Commons In A Box has created a dynamic open-source platform for educational publishing.

Ideal Use: Larger-scale, more complicated OERs that may require community/collaboration features, multiple sites, and individual user accounts.

Pros:

  • Offers two main themes, one of which requires configuration of Wordpress to multisite ability and may be cumbersome for some users and web hosts.
  • Social networking, various content types, and plugin packages offer great versatility for larger courses and projects

Cons:

  • Requires separate hosting/installation to a Wordpress site that can download the CBOX plugin.
  • Plethora of features may be confusing or intimidating to some users, though thorough web documentation and initial setup steps help cut down overkill or unneeded complexity.

Podcasting / Hosted Media

There are a couple of different ways to incorporate and distribute audio episodes, depending on the size, frequency and intended goal. A few notes:

  • The BC-hosted Wordpress offers the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin out-of-the-box, for use with quick audio uploads to be consumed within the Wordpress site.
  • Once audio files are added to Wordpress, via plugin or otherwise (the BC OER team has developed custom solutions for using large and numerous files), these steps can be used to package the files into a podcast feed, which can then be submitted and distributed via iTunes.
  • Android users can subscribe directly using the Feedburner feed in the packaging steps above.

Open Educational Resource Information

Unless otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

This open educational resource was created as part of the CUNY and SUNY 2017-19 Open Educational Resources Initiatives. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NY State Legislature awarded CUNY and SUNY $16 million to implement open educational resources to develop, enhance and institutionalize new and ongoing open educational resources across both universities.

Special thanks to the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs, the CUNY Office of Library Services, Brooklyn College Administration and Professor Miriam Deutch, Coordinator, Brooklyn College Open Educational Resources Initiative. Site design and formatting by Colin McDonald, OER Developer.

Header image via Jamie Spencer on Flickr, CC.