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INTRODUCTION: How was this book created?


Alexandra Okada, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University UK.
Leader of the CoLearn open research network

 The Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, arguably one of the most significant early twenty-first century developments, has already celebrated 10 years of its mission towards opening up access to knowledge for all. During this next decade, we believe that the focus of the OER movement will move beyond the provision of ‘open content’ to include ‘open construction’. Knowledge is created in a constructive process, so our understanding of OER should include, not only teaching and learning materials shared under open licenses, but also open technologies, open methodologies for transparent building and sharing of OER as knowledge.

Open Educational Resources and Social Networks”, a book created by the open research network COLEARN, highlights different ways of reusing, recreating, remixing and redistributing OER.  Its purpose is to illustrate how the collaborative production of research-based OER can contribute to enriching learning and teaching experiences in formal, non-formal and informal contexts.

The volume represents the current state of the OER movement, which has spawned an increasing number of initiatives around the world and now counts with advocates and collaborators amongst educators, learners, researchers and technologists. This variety of OER initiatives currently reaches various levels of primary, secondary and tertiary education; different kinds of providers – government, public and private; diverse areas of knowledge; as well as a growing multilingual base outside the English-speaking countries.

It draws on the book Collaborative Learning 2.0: Open Educational Resources also edited by the Knowledge Media Institute. Collaborative Learning 2.0 demonstrates possible uses of OER and Web2.0 to improve collaborative learning experiences and support key outcomes in terms of user-generated knowledge and development of skills.

With this in mind, this book aims to provide readers new opportunities for enriching collaborative open learning (colearning) by constructing knowledge together through social networking and co-authorship.

The rational of  “Open Educational Resources and Social Networks” draws upon three key features of Cyberculture, which drive colearners and professionals headlong into an age of real-life communication, large-scale collaboration and collective production: participatory media (Rheingold, 2008), commons-based peer production (Benkler, 2006), mass collaboration (Tapscott, 2006).  Through open channels, colearners can convey their views by sharing questions, information, tools, practices, methods, productions and reflections. They can also rate, tag, review, comment and share others’ collaborations.  All of these contribute to the development of new thoughts, research and innovation towards open collective knowledge.

This book was developed via “Social Knowledge Media”, therefore exemplifying  a process of generating, understanding and sharing knowledge using several different media, as well as understanding how the use of different media shape these processes (Eisenstadt & Vincent, 1998, p. 4). Social Knowledge media focus on dialogue and sense-making as opposed to a transmission or broadcasting approach (Dalgaard, 2009). It emphasizes the importance of social interactions for enriching collective understanding as well as collaborative and personalised construction of knowledge.

Social Knowledge Media were used in the enterprise of creating this book for:

  • bringing research groups together for co-authorship;
  • discussing Openness Philosophy and co-designing of OER;
  • reflecting and collaboratively describing technologies for co-creating content as OER;
  • creating and publishing, collaboratively with readers, open multimedia resources which can be reused, readapted, remixed and redistributed by anyone;
  • collecting open data to analyze and review participants’ contributions and productions:
  • developing and disseminating open educational research based on the processes, technologies and networking used to produce this book.

Open Educational Resources and Social Networks presents fruitful strategies grounded on solid theoretical and practical foundation for the production, reuse and dissemination of open academic content with the purpose of promoting collaborative open learning as well as professional development for any reader interested in REA. The book is organised into three parts: (1) Background – written in English, (2) Overview – in Spanish and (3) Case Studies with reflections and practices – in Portuguese. A variety of themes related to OER are described in the chapters (Figure 1).


Figure 1 – “Open Educational Resources and Social Networks”  – themes

This book started with a key research question, which was discussed during the whole writing process: How can we, as academic researchers, make our work more accessible and reusable for any interested reader to recreate and innovate it? In other words, how can readers become co-authors?

A hundred and thirteen coauthors from thirty research groups of different universities and countries (Figure 2) co-authored thirty-three chapters that draw upon their mainstream research and redesigned the content to make it more reusable and understandable for a broader target audience.


Figure 2  – “Open Educational Resources and Social Networks” – research groups

Some groups reused their best scientific papers, which were already presented in peer-reviewed conferences, journals, or available in their academic repositories and readapted them under a three-stage review process (described at the end of this introduction).

The majority of the co-authors, who are leaders of research groups in their institutions, invited colleagues, students, lecturers and researchers to provide feedback. In some groups, the most active readers were invited to participate in the chapter rewriting by adding new media components (Figure 3): images, video clips, and knowledge maps, glossary, learning objectives and activities, key questions, social media for further discussions as well as suggestions of how other readers might be able to reuse the content.


Figure 3 –  “Open Educational Resources and Social Networks” – open media components

This book was created under the auspices of the European OpenScout project (Figure 4), in which the Knowledge Media Institute was responsible for developing the OpenScout Tool-Library. The Tool-Library is a social network platform that enables users, including coauthors of this book, to describe their experience of producing OER and tools used for recreating open educational media. Readers can access the Tool-Library through the book Website and use the available  tools to edit the chapters and its OER components, thus extending them by adding their own interpretation, presenting new re-authored versions as well as new tools for other readers to continue recreating new OER.


Figure 4 –  “Open Educational Resources and Social Networks” – OER Tool-Library

The target audience of this book is the wider educational community across all sectors. Its content was written by and prepared for undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers, teaching practitioners, librarians, policy makers, educational technologists and individuals. This book is for anyone interested in how OER through Web 2.0, social media and emerging technologies will impact on formal education and the social of collaborative online learning and social networks.

The role of students, postgraduates and undergraduates as co-authors has been pivotal, and their contribution has been varied, ranging from technical support for the use of technology to create media components, to establishing connections between content and tools as well as participation in discussions (Figure 5) that helped to reshape the material for the intended audience as well as increasing its reusability.


Figure 5 – Colearn Facebook:– visualization
I – Gephi (call for chapters) and II – Touchgraph (coauthors and readers)

Chapters are published under a Creative Commons license, as they were designed as an OER with reusability in mind. The book presents, therefore, not only frameworks and case studies, but also important information to help readers understand how it was produced as well as some suggestions about how it can be reused. Chapters published in the original language (Portuguese, Spanish and English) in this book are also available in other electronic formats on the book Website.

The principles that guided the construction of this book are based on the four key features presented at OpenScience.org:

  • Transparency in methodology, observation, and data collection;
  • Availability and re-use of research data;
  • Public accessibility to scientific communication;
  • Using social media to facilitate scientific collaboration and communication.

The scientific review was implemented in three stages, respectively conducted by: (1) the Editorial Board and OER design team; (2) Scientific Committee and peer reviewers; and (3) social networks of readers and experts in the field. Seven open web conferences were organised with research groups responsible for each chapter, who discussed their content with readers through Facebook and Flash Meeting. The open online discussions and Web video meetings are also available with chapters in the book website: http://oer.kmi.open.ac.uk (Figure 6).


Figure 6 – “Open Educational Resources and Social Networks” ebook – 1st launch at UNESCO FORUM 2012

During the production of this book, a process that lasted a year and half, it was possible to observe that beyond open content, OER include knowledge construction with learning objectives as well as a transparent process of producing educational content. All chapters in this book can be “Reused, Reworked, Remixed and Redistributed”, as Wiley (2009) puts it.  All of us, as open researchers, believe that sharing content openly, together with making the process of creating content transparent, strengthen the “four Rs” of OER.   Even simple OER such as images, photos, graphs in this book include description, objectives, open licenses and tools used to create it, which are available on open social media repositories (Figure7).

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Figure 7 – “Open Educational Resources and Social Networks” social media repositories

We invite academic institutions and readers to participate in this book as co-authors or co-editors by contributing to new versions of chapters, new process of construction and design, new open media resources as well as new editions of this volume. This road is paved initially by the University of Maranhão Publishers (EDUEMA) in Brazil, who are launching this volume as their first OER book within an open access portfolio.


Benkler, Yochai (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven: Yale, 2006. 

Eisenstadt, M., & Vincent, T. (Eds.) (1998). The Knowledge Web. Kogan Page.

Dalsgaard, C. (2009). From transmission to dialogue: Personalised and social knowledge media. http://ojs.statsbiblioteket.dk/index.php/mediekultur/article/viewArticle/1333 Vol 25, No 46 (2009) – Mediated learning/learning media – Journal of media and communication research

Jenkins, Henry. (2006). Convergence Culture- Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006. 

Hilton, J. Wiley, D. Stein, J., Johnson, A. (2010). The four R’s of openness and ALMS Analysis: Frameworks for Open Educational Resources. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, Volume 25: No. 1: pp. 37-44.

Okada, A., Mikroyannidis, A., Meister, I. & Little, S. (2012). Colearning– Collaborative Open Learning through OER and Social. In: Okada, A.  (2012). Open Educational Resources and Social Networks: Co-Learning and Professional Development. London: Scholio Educational Research & Publishing.

Rheingold, Howard (2008). Welcome to Participatory Media Literacy.Participatory Media Literacy. Available at http://www.socialtext.net/medialiteracy/index.cgi/ (accessed January 2009)

Tapscott, D.. & Williams, A. (2006). Wikinomics:How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. New York: Penguin, 2006.

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