First Steps

Infrastructure for Open Educational Resources

Hannover (GER), October 2019 – Whether single visualisations, videos, podcasts, lecture notes, course material, or entire courses, open educational resources (OER) refers to a highly diverse range of learning tools that meet certain requirements. OER can be lesson materials of any kind, in any medium, published under an open license. They can be shared, modified, reused, adapted to specific teaching and study contexts, and expanded collaboratively, making it a lot easier for learners to gain access to high-quality educational resources and open learning. 

Seeking to establish an infrastructure for the sustainable provision of OER in higher education in Lower Saxony, the Ministry for Science and Culture (MWK) has launched the "OER Portal Lower Saxony" project as part of the federal state government’s digitisation master plan. A kick-off meeting with the project partners at TIB – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology in Hannover marked the project’s official start. Dr. Philipp Schaumann and Dr. Stefan Niermann, representing the MWK at the meeting, were able to report back to the Ministry with their impressions of the event.
The aim of the project, led by TIB, is to establish a sustainable infrastructure for open educational resources for the benefit of faculty. "Besides developing an OER portal for Lower Saxony on the basis of the edu-sharing open source software, we also want to pave the way for linking several portals to enable searches in distributed entities. It will then be possible to connect learning management systems such as Stud.IP and Moodle, video platforms such as the TIB’s AV-Portal, and presentation platforms such as SlideWiki via the OER Portal," explained Margret Plank, Head of the Non-Textual Materials Lab at TIB and Project Coordinator of the OER Portal, summarising the objectives.
TIB has teamed up with five partners to realise the "OER Portal Lower Saxony" project: ELAN e. V. (E-Learning Academic Network Niedersachsen); HIS-Institut für Hochschulentwicklung e.V.; Osnabrück University; the University of Applied Sciences Emden/Leer; and the Stud.IP association. Over a four-year period, the project will receive around €5.5 million in funding from MWK’s "Special funds for financing the expansion of gigabit networks and the acceleration of digitisation efforts".
The project partners used the kick-off meeting to plan the next steps together. "The first thing is to develop and launch the platform, and to evaluate it in the context of higher- education institutions in Lower Saxony. This involves creating use scenarios and designing personas to identify the requirements that different user groups place on the portal," stated Project Leader Noreen Krause from TIB, describing the first steps towards implementing the planned OER Portal. Other work packages include the areas of quality assurance, metadata, legal certainty, community building, and teaching support for OER creators.
While the new "OER Portal Lower Saxony" project focuses on the development and operation of the infrastructure and on measures to support creators, the aim of the second pillar is to promote the creation of new, high-quality content that can then be provided and reused in the portal. To achieve this, the MWK is expected to make available grants totalling more than €2 million to faculty in Lower Saxony within a competitive procedure from 2020 onwards. In addition, learning material created within the "Innovation plus" and "Qualität Plus" MWK funding lines are also to be incorporated in the new OER Portal.