OpenLearners, come to the site … or not

January 20, 2007

Working on the OpenLearn project I think one of the surprises has been the ingenuity shown by other people. When we launched there were somethings that were in need of a bit of development. One of those was the upload/download of content. But at least it was possible. That has proved to be a good move as a few people have now taken the XML we provide and reworked it to suit themselves. I suspect I only know about some cases as there is no need to ask permission or contact us in order to do what you wish with the content.

The key example for me is the work that Tony Hirst has been up to on his OUseful site. Motivated at first by wanting to provide different navigation Tony took our XML apart and made it into RSS feeds. He has then played with it in various ways including a very neat way to make the content into daily feeds. He has set up a way to subscribe to the OpenLearn courses on a daily basis. Have a look at (If you want to try it and you are not using an RSS feedreader at the moment then Google Reader is fairly straightforward). I presented a joint paper with Tony at the TENCompetence workshop, the paper and presentation for that are available via

At the technical side this is a push towards providing RSS feeds so that there is no need to convert our pages before processing. On the more general side it should encourage us to consider ways to have various of the possibilities that the open content offers happen, whether as part of our core site or through the efforts of others.

Tony Hirst is not the only one working with OpenLearn content, at the same conference Stefan Dietze from the Luisa project talked about ways to use the content to illustrate the semantic web and learning designs. These are both examples from people working at the OU, but with no connection to OpenLearn. A further example comes from Australia where as part of their work on a Global Library Services Network OpenLearn content is being put into a collection of material under Creative Commons licence so that it can be distributed to remote communities.

There is no need for anyone to ask us or work with us to do this sort of thing – so is there anything else out there yet to be found?


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