Authoring Tools and Hosting Platforms

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This week we are exploring authoring platform for creating or remixing open textbooks. In addition, we will look at hosting platforms where you can post your materials for browsing or printing and also distribution sites where you can add a link to your website to make it easier for learners to find.

Creating and Remixing OER

Okay, now you are ready to write your open textbook or you have already written it using a word processor but want to find out what kind of tools are available for creating an online format and where this online version of your open textbook should live. Some questions for you to consider:

  • What is the best online format for your textbook?
  • How is the best way for learners to use your materials?
  • Are you working with multiple authors where a platform for modifying the textbook is needed?
  • What open license do you plan on publishing your open textbook under?
  • Let's look at a couple of options:

Connexions

Connexions is an authoring platform where you can create your open textbook modules and make them widely available. It also supports multiple authors since it has versioning built into the system. It is also has many visitors to its site which will make your materials more likely to be used by learners outside of your campus or college. It allows you to edit modules directly or import Microsoft Word files. First you have to join Connexions in order to get started authoring. Also, read about Dr. Davide Rocchesso who did just that.


In addition, students can order printed copies of open textbooks for a modest fee at the Connexions site using the QOOP service. Connexions allows you to publish your materials as web pages in xml format or in Portable Data Format (PDF) or the new Electronic Publishing format (ePub) that is widely used by mobile readers.

Finally, Connexions publishes all materials under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license which is the least restrictive open license and reusers to give attribution to authors before reusing materials. If you do NOT plan to use the CC-BY license then Connexions will not be the right repository for you. Read the Connexions Repository Philosophy module to find out more about the intention behind this open educational repository.


Sign-up for an account and you can get started writing an article or wikipage or contributing to others. Wikibooks are a collection of wikipages that can be created and edited online for your learners to browse or others to contribute to. Each time a page is modified, the version number of that page changes to reflect the modification.

Wikibooks uses the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license (CC-BY-SA) so any wikibooks that you create will automatically be published under this license. Users can export wiki pages to Portable Data Format (PDF) in order to read them or print them offline.

The overriding philosophy at Wikibooks is that the community platform:

  • Enables you the WRITER to teach a subject that you know.
  • Enables READERS to learn the subject without paying exorbitant textbook prices.
  • Inspires WIKIBOOKIANs to contribute to your book, making it a better resource.

Check out these promising new open textbooks on Nuclear Engineering by our community member, Josh Peterson.


Sign-up up for an account on LeMill, the web Community for finding, authoring, and sharing open educational resources. First at all, you can find learning resources. You can use the resources you find in your own teaching or learning. You can also add your own learning content to LeMill. You may edit your content and combine larger chunks of learning resources from individual media pieces. If you wish you may also join some of the groups producing or editing learning resources. In LeMill the content is always easily found where and whenever you need them.

"For all resources in LeMill (content, methods, tools, stories, group blogs) we use Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License. This guarantees your right to use the content found from LeMill freely and also protects your rights as the author. The license allows anyone to modify and improve the content in LeMill, but also guarantees that you're always listed as the author of content you've made, and any improvements are also published using the same license. This allows you to also benefit from improvements made by others."

LeMill design and development is lead by the Learning Environment Research group at the Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki. The software development team is international with partners from Finland, Estonia, Hungary and Norway. LeMill is also part of the European Schoolnet's Learning Resource Exchange initiative.


Lulu is a an open publishing house that allows authors to publish open textbooks or any other book or text object on their slite. Authors keep their rights (hopefully an open license) and retain 80 percent of the profit they set when their book sells. Lulu provides print-on-demand and worldwide distribution. David Lippman of Pierce Community College in Washington state uses Lulu.com to distribute his book, Math in Society. Students can read the Portable Data Format (PDF) online at Lulu or at David's site for free and can order a softbound print copy for $10.00.

iTunes University

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ITunes U allows institutions to distribute freely everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs, audiobooks to tours to students who can download them fo into iTunes on their PCs or iPhones, iPads, or iPod Touches for watching and listening anytime. More than 800 universities have active iTunes U sites. About half of these institutions — including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and UC Berkeley — distribute their content publicly on the iTunes Store.

Last fall, iTunes U Apple announced that Oxford University, Connexions at Rice University, and the Open University United Kingdom have all added openly licensed digital books to the lectures and other materials traditionally available on the popular educational-content platform. This is the first time that iTunes U has offered e-books on the platform. The net effect is that these materials are now searchable at iTunesU as well as at their own educational institution thus increasing the potential number of readers.


Check out De Anza College's iTunes U site which hosts class lectures on Environmental Studies, Medical Terminology, Math 10, and other valuable community lecture series such as the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures which are actually recorded at its sister college, Foothill.

Weekly Forum Questions

This question will be posted in the Forums tab but just giving you a heads up on the discussion question for the week.

  1. Which authoring or hosting platform are you planning to use to develop or remix open educational resources. Why did you choose it? Does your educational institution have a site-license for authoring tools or does it maintain an iTunes U site for distributing instructional materials to learners?