Draft – originally published in: Schön, S., Ebner, M., Hornung-Prähauser, V. (2017)
Digital social innovation within education: Five insights on the role of digital tools in the
field of Open Educational Resources (OER) projects. In: Nata, R. V. (ed). Progress in
Education. Vol. 49. pp. 167-188. Nova publisher
Digital social innovation within education:
Five insights on the role of digital tools in the field
of Open Educational Resources (OER) projects
Salzburg Research, InnovationLab, Salzburg, Austria
University of Technologies Graz, Educational Technologies and Services, Graz, Austria
Salzburg Research, InnovationLab, Salzburg, Austria
Open Educational Resources (OER) are regarded as one of the main digital social
innovations (DSI) of the last centuries. OER is defined as open licenced learning content
or software for learning and teaching, e.g. textbooks, courses, or learning management
systems. Building on the authors’ experiences in OER within the projects, this
contribution describes four OER projects as case studies for OER. Based on a general
case outline, involved partners, funding, development and organisation, used digital tools,
results and impact of the projects are characterised. The final chapter addresses the main
issues on tools and software needed in OER projects. According to the experiences in the
case studies five assumptions about digital tools in OER projects are postulated and open
Keywords: digital social innovation, OER, MOOC, digital tools, case studies
1 INTRODUCTION: OER AS DIGITAL SOCIAL INNOVATION
Innovations potentially change the world – our health, businesses, and processes. Social
Innovations meet social needs issues and solve burning societal. Social innovations are“new
ideas that work to meet pressing unmet needs and improve people’s lives” (Mulgan, 2006, p.7
cited in Anderson et al., 2014, p. 22). Newly arising cooperation and forms of collaboration
“leave behind compelling new social relationships between previously separate individuals
and groups which matter greatly to the people involved” (Mulgan, 2006, p. 5, cited in
Anderson et al., 2014, p. 22). Technologies and the Internet are important drivers for many
industrial and commercial developments, for example industry 4.0 or smartphones. This is the
same with social innovations. Digital technologies enable new collaboration processes.
Digital technologies also enhance communication among social actors. They also support
them in solving great social challenges. The range of so-called "digital social innovations"
(DSI) is amazing. DSI range “from social networks for those living with chronic health
conditions, to online platforms for citizen participation in policymaking, to using open data to
create more transparency around public spending.” (Bria, 2015, p. 4). DSI is “a type of
collaborative innovation in which innovators, users and communities co-create knowledge
and solutions for a wide range of social needs exploiting the network effect of the Internet”
(Digital Social Innovation, 2014, EU- Project homepage).
Many digital social innovations have emerged in the field of education: The majority of
projects mapped by the European DSI project focused on education and skills (Bria, 2015, p.
6). Web 2.0 is for example regarded as a driver for inclusion in learning (Schaffert, Cullen,
Hilzensauer & Wieden-Bischof, 2010). Furthermore, Social Media has pathed the way to
learn in a cooperatively and collaboratively form (see Schoen & Ebner, 2012).
Open Educational Resources can be considered as another significant type of DSI. Open
Educational Resources, in short OER, are open licenced learning and teaching resources (see
Schaffert, & Geser, 2008). OER ranges from textbooks, courses, videos, curricula,
assignments to learning management system software. OER guarantee free access and can be
republished without any additional costs. OER can be revised, reused, remixed and
redistributed (Wiley, Green & Soares, 2012).
In this contribution we will discuss special characteristics digital tools used in OER
projects. Therefore we will use the perspective of digital social innovation with a case study
approach. All OER projects are from the field of educational materials. The projects deliver
educational content but no educational software as result. We will describe the projects and
develop a list of lessons learned concerning the digital tools that had been used or are
currently in use. The guiding question is the following: Which tools and software are used
and needed in future DSI projects in the field of Open Educational Resources development?
2 OUR CASE STUDY APPROACH AND THE VALUE ADDED CHAIN OF
We will examine the whole value added chain of development and usage of OER in our
case studies. This includes (a) changes in development and distribution of educational
resources as well as (b) changes in learning and teaching, e.g. other ways to use the resources.
Figure 1 illustrates the value added chain of OER. This is a modification of the traditional
value added chain of proprietary traditional development of educational materials such as
textbooks (Ebner & Schön, 2011). Traditionally, educational content is developed with a
prefunding of publishers. They pre-finance authors, illustrators and other specialists needed to
develop the educational materials. Afterwards, Sales and Marketing try to re-finance the
project by selling printed materials or apps. Learners and teachers are finally using materials.
With OER, the main parts of the value added chain are the same. But the arrows show an
important change. OER offer a much broader impact. OER can be modified, used as a source
for other educational projects or for up-dates of learning material (high impact on quality
assurance). Every usage might be seen as a marketing effect, too. As it is shown in the
following, OER brings several additional changes.
ADD FIG 1 HERE
Fig. 1. Value added chain of OER. Source: Modified illustration from Ebner & Schön, 2011
We aim to share experiences from five projects we were directly involved in a structured
way. Therefore we give a general description, describe involved partners, funding,
development and organisation, used digital tools, results and impact within the following
short case studies.
3 CASE A: A DISTRIBUTED CROWD BOOK SPRINT FOR AN OPEN
ACADEMIC TEXTBOOK: L3T 2.0
L3T is a German acronym for “textbook on learning and teaching assisted by
technology”. The project was started in 2010 with a video call for chapters for an open access
textbook on technology-enhanced learning. The call attracted more than 130 people –
professors in the field, researchers, and educators. Within ten months 48 chapters were
authored and reviewed in a highly collaborative way. Since February 2011 the book is online
available with the assistance of about 200 different people (Ebner & Schön, 2011). The
project had not received public funding. But it was supported by the editors’ organisations,
especially Graz University of Technology.
From a technical point of view the world’s most used open source platform for journal
management and publishing the Open Journal Systems (OJS) was used. Legally, the project
used the creative commons license “CC BY NC ND” for each single chapter. Therefore it was
easy to use, copy and implement them on a single chapter base. The project has received great
attention in the German speaking area: The free available chapters were downloaded more
than 100.000 times in the first year. Several small follow-up projects deal with the possibility
of different usage of the content. For example iPhone or Android apps were developed or a
special print on demand solution. The main website was completely redone and chapters also
got published on other platforms like Slideshare.com.
In 2013 the book was rewritten during a further research project (project title “L3T 2.0”).
The authors initiated a so called book sprint and proposed that they would like to write the
new version of the book in just seven days collaboratively and online. Therefore eight camps
were organized with the idea to synchronize different kind of people during the whole week
and to support online workers in an appropriate way. Afterwards different roles were defined
from chapters’ authors to designers as well as editors. With the help of numerous online
available tools the whole process was operated, monitored and realized online. The projects
gain a funding by the Austrian netidee initiative about 25.000 Euros for the three leading
institutions. Besides this basic funding, the main work was done by a (non-formal)
cooperation project and voluntary work. Several employers allowed authors to co-operate
during working hours.
In summary, more than 250 people worked simultaneously on the project within seven
hard days. The final result was a lecture book fully available online with 60 chapters on the
issue of technology enhanced learning (Schön & Ebner, 2013). Additionally the whole
content is now licensed with the creative commons license “CC BY SA” and each single
picture, too. This makes it now an fully “open educational resource” in the sense of current
definitions, as it now allowed to copy, modify, re-publish the texts or single pictures under
the same license (“share alike” component).
A detailed description and evaluation for the first issue as well as the second issue of L3T
2.0 is available in German language (Alimucaj et al., 2012; Ebner et al., 2014). Table 1 gives
an overview about the tools that were used in the project L3T 2.0. The L3T project also
developed many own tools and applications, for which we give an overview in table 2.
Table 1. Roles of digital technologies within L3T 2.0.
Planning and Project
Project Management: Trello.org, Wordpress Weblog for description of roles
and news, Several Google Docs with detailed information, OJS for reviewing
Video conference system (Visicon, whole day available via streaming and
daily internal management meeting), Google Hangouts for L3T TV (daily news
in the morning), several others (e.g. Skype).
Distribution and PR
Website, Open Journal System, Wordpress Weblog, Social Media (Twitter,
Facebook); L3T apps, L3T Analytics, also Slideshare and FlickR (for single
chapters and images)
Several tools (such as Google Docs), E-Mail, also a special L3T editor (for
development of parallel html, epub and PDF version)
Table 2. Own technological developments within L3T
Print on Demand Service
This add-on for the OJS made it possible to order printed versions of
(personally) selected chapters of the textbook (see Ebner, Schön & Alimucaj,
Several apps are available for the whole textbook in both versions (OJS app),
one early iPad demonstration chapter (see Ebner & Schön, 2012)
Several Web applications that merge access and download information, e.g.
chapter statics and geo based download visualisation and a Web application to
illustrate the tour of special L3T editions meant for PR (Ebner & Alimucaj,
Editor that delivers epub, pdf and html versions of the chapters
Finally, we sketch the results and impact in table 3. Beside the textbook, several tools and
apps the book sprint itself still attract a lot of interest. The widespread use and several copies
of the book - several libraries of universities archive L3T chapters – make in fact new
challenges, because it is difficult and mostly impossible to update the chapter (Ebner &
Table 3. Results and impact of L3T
Two issues of an open licenced textbook (nearly 600 pages in Print), in several formats (PDF,
printed version, e-pub, html, via apps)
More than 500.000 chapter downloads after five years, perception as one of the OER flagship
projects in German speaking higher education, several usages in higher educations, also
MOOCs, several awards (e.g. the New German Book Award 2011, the German OER award
2016 for a flagship project)
5 CASE B: AN OPEN LICENCED TEXTBOOK ABOUT MAKING WITH
The open licenced textbook about making with children was published in March 2016
and contains a project description and several introducing texts. The publication is available
under the CC BY license and as printed book (Schön, Ebner & Narr, 2016).
The development of this textbook can be characterised sketched as follows: We started to
collect project descriptions for making with children for an open licenced online course for
teachers (autumn 2015, with more than 600 participants at imoox.at). Therefore we asked
experts to use our template and to contribute to the online course as well as the textbook. In
an additional open call for contributions during the online course the existing 17 project
descriptions were supplemented. The collection and communication of the contributors were
done with the help of a central Google document and e-mail communication. The final editing
was done with Open Office and the support of central Dropbox-folder of the editors.
The final textbook includes 33 project descriptions in the field of simple programming,
photography and film making with smartphones, 3D printing, alternative hardware etc. A
foundation (HIT Stiftung) contributes 2.000 Euros for authors’ copies and marketing
materials. All additional work and author contributions were done voluntarily within a non-
formal cooperative project structure.
As no traditional publisher was involved, the part of PR has been seen as crucial for the
project: The manual has already been announced in advance on multiple events, postcards and
posters also distributed to all supporters. The presentation and online announcement of the
manual was done at 1 March 2016 as part of the OER festival in Berlin. Due to the
cooperation partnerships with the non profit organisation FSM e.V. and the important
German Weblog “Medienpädagogik Praxisblog” the single project descriptions are gradually
be published on their platforms, too.
Table 4. Roles of digital technologies within the making textbook
Planning and Project
Call, template via Google Doc
Mostly e-mail, editors mostly via Skype (text/video messaging)
Distribution and PR
Homepage (bimsev.de), duplicates as single postings at a Weblog (Wordpress)
and another Homepage (unknown system), Research Gate, Slideshare
Editors: Open Office, Dropbox (authors: simple text editors, MS Word,
Google Doc), additional photos or images
The Maker Movement and making itself is to be seen as digital social innovation: „An
ecosystem of makers is revolutionising open design and manufacturing. 3D manufacturing
tools, free CAD/ CAM software and open source designs are now giving innovators better
access to tools, products, skills and capabilities they need to enhance collaborative making.“
(Bria, 2015, p. 26). Making with children therefore has an important impact (cf. Schön,
Ebner, Kumar, 2015). As it can be seen in table 5, the results and first impact of the handbook
Table 5. Results and impact of the making textbook
Open licenced (CC BY) textbook includes 33 project descriptions and introducing texts by 36
authors, 3 editors, available as printed book and PDF copy as whole or single project
More than 300 reads within 24 hours (ResearchGate), more than 150 sold printed versions
within 3 months, a whole range of positive feedback, e.g. a book review within the German
6 CASE C: OPEN LICENCED MOOCS ON OER: COER13, COER15,
COER16 AT THREE DIFFERENT PLATFORMS
COER stands for “Course about OER”. COER13 was the first open online course about
OER in German language. COER15 and COER16 are up-dated modifications on other
platforms and in other constellations of organisers. The COER series is ultimately an example
of how the open licenses may lead to further use and development of materials. With more
than 1,000 participants, the COER13 was a MOOC (massive open online course).
The first MOOC, the COER13 was the first open German language course on open
educational resources (see Arnold et al., 2015). It was a co-operation project under the
direction of eteaching.org and similar other educational organisations without additional
funding. The online course ran over 12 weeks in spring 2013. Within 6 units, 4 videos and 6
live events (later available as videos) the participants were motivated to develop their own
OER. The didactical model as well as the technical considerations of the course follows the
connectivistic cMOOC approach (Arnold et al., 2014).
In 2015, materials were selected, expanded – now 20 videos are available - and offered
on the imoox.at platform as so-called xMOOC. The xMOOC approach builds on units with
videos and computer marked assignments.
In 2016, the course will be extended and available again. For the first time worldwide,
two platforms will provide the same MOOC in parallel: Besides iMooX now another OER-
MOOC-platform, called mooin, will provide the course. iMooX and mooin are partners at the
MOOChub, a cooperation of OER-MOOC-providers. Additional interviews were conducted
with OER stakeholders from various sectors on OER, but the course structure and key
elements will be similar and building essentially on COER15 and COER13.
Technically, COER13 used a public available website and the RSShopper software to
bring together contribution from diverse RSS streams via the same hashtag. The
videoconferences were offered through Adobe Connect.
The online course COER15 was on the platform "imoox.at" (a joint project of the
University of Graz and Graz University of Technology), which is specialized in OER courses.
For the platform the Austrian UNESCO Commission has taken the patronage (Kopp & Ebner,
2015). The platform itself is an own development of Graz University of Technology.
Additionally, for COER16, with mooin another platform for open courses is in use (Moodle
derivate). Table 6 only features tools used in the current COER15 and COER16.
Table 6. Roles of digital technologies within COER15 and COER16
Planning and Project
via Google Docs, e-mail
Mostly e-mail, editors mostly via Skype (text/video messaging)
Distribution and PR
MOOC platforms iMooX (own development) and mooin (Moodle derivation),
Editors: video editors and other
COER13 got more than 1,000 registered participants. Although the opportunity for PR
was very limited, the second MOOC COER15 got also more than 500 participants. The
openly licensed course materials and impact from COER13 won an OER award in March
2016 in the category "OER about OER". Results and impact of the (ongoing) COER series is
impressing (see table 7).
Table 7. Results and impact of the COER13/15/16
COER13: 6 units, 4 videos and 6 live events (video conferences) over 1,000 participants
COER15: 6 units, 20 videos; over 500 participants
COER16: 6 units, about 24 videos (not started yet)
All videos are available via YouTube, some with several thousand views; German OER award
2016 for COER13 in the category “OER about OER”, public perception as one of the key
multiplicity initiative for OER in German speaking Europe
4 CASE D: OPEN LICENCED MOOCS FOR BETTER DIGITAL
LITERACY: GOL14, GOL15, GOL16 AT IMOOX.AT
Another series of MOOCs is the GOL series. GOL stands for German “Gratis Online
Lernen” and is open online course for beginners in learning with the Internet. MOOCs
normally address an academically interested and corresponding preformed audience. With the
course "Free Online Learning" the target group were beginners from diverse backgrounds;
this includes a profound introduction of English terms and more simple texts.
The free, eight-week online course "Free Online Learning" in 2014 (GOL 14) supported
those interested in entering self-organized learning with free offers on the Internet. The main
content were a general introduction to self-directed learning and at the same time, how to
successfully search the Internet, self organise learning, also forms of collaborative learning.
Thus, the course introduced the self-initiated and -directed learning using the Internet and the
appropriate offers, including awareness of privacy and data business models.
All materials, in particular the learning videos and the accompanying 28-page
"workbook" are under an open license (CC BY). Designed and implemented was the course
of four core partners (BIMS, Graz University of Technology, Association of Austrian Adult
Education and Salzburg Research). Further educational institutions in Austria and Germany
support the course by acting as a delivery point for the printed (free) workbooks: In total there
were 32 dispensaries in Austria and Germany, the booklet could also be self-printed or sent
by postage-paid envelopes. Some of them also offered in addition to accompanying classroom
and online events; for example, 12 offered public meetings in Germany and Austria.
Finally, the development of all course materials as open educational resources as well as
the intensive search for cooperation partners, unproblematic extended the core partnership by
numerous actors: So there was among others a senior club, a hotel, a youth club and an adult
education centre within Austria, Germany and German speaking Italy. From many different
countries (in total 14), learners and also many teachers use the course as a first entry for
learning on the Web or with a MOOC. Several accompanying deals were not available
through the course pages for the public but were intended only for closed groups, so took z.
B. entire school classes participate (z. B. from a Salzburg school).
Technically, the online course on the platform was organized again by iMooX. The same
course was offered a second time in 2015, without similar co-operations and PR activities, for
example no printed workbooks were available. In 2016, a co-operation with LISUM (Berlin)
made it possible to edit all existing materials and add a new unit with a video and a self-
Table 8. Roles of digital technologies within GOL14/15/16
Planning and Project
Mostly e-mail, via Skype (text/video messaging)
Distribution and PR
MOOC platform iMooX (own development), YouTube e-mail, Social Media,
Slideshare (work book)
professional video editors and tools
By end of December 2014, 849 people had registered for the GOL14, and 115 of them
(14%) had received a certificate of participation, because they had passed all quizzes
successfully. By May 2015, the registration numbers have increased to more than 1,000.
GOL14 can be seen as the at that as time largest German adult education course even after the
official course maturity. Also GOL15 got more than 400 participants, but with less (PR)
activities. GOL16 is still running. GOL14 not only got a lot of participants, but also an
uncommon award: In December 2015, GOL14 got the Austrian state prize for adult education
in the category "digital literacy". (see table 9)
Table 9. Results and impact of the GOL14/15/16
GOL14: 8 units, 8 videos, workbook (printed), more than 1,000 participants
GOL15: 8 units, 8 videos; over 400 participants
GOL16: 9 units, 9 videos; over 400 participants (by now, still running)
German OER award 2016 for COER13 in the category “OER about OER”
5 GOOD REASONS FOR DIGITAL TOOL USAGES IN FIVE ASSUMPTIONS
Within this last chapter, we carry out five assumptions concerning the characteristic of
tools used within the five case studies. For this, we gave an overview about the most
important tools within the sketched projects. At a first sight a short description and comment
is given in table 10 as well as a mark if the tool is open source or if it was used for free within
the project. As it can be seen, both aspects seem to be issues, but do not seem the most
Table 10. Exemplary tools in alphabetic order and reasons for their usage in the projects (since 2014).
Explanatory note: þ correct, not correct, n.a. means “not applicable”
Shared files and
A, B, C, D
Dropbox was only used amongst
the core team and not for every
Easy to provide editor rights to
diverse people and synchronous
work possible (USP), very
for L3T TV (USP)
as MOOC system
Plus own development
Own installation, diverse add-ons,
professional review management
A, B, C
The editor was only used by the
editors or limited number of
persons. Reasons are e.g. the
better possibilities of PDF
Most popular service
Support for sharing the OER
In professional version the whole
PM could be made available for
A, C, D
Several diverse tools in usage,
depending on personal and other
Live streaming of
Free usage and support through a
Free and also own installation
A, C, D
Distribution of Call (A) and
Additional reasons mentioned within Table 10 are for example, that the tools are already
widespread (and known by many) or just unique: USP in the table stands for “unique selling
point”. Building on the table and the experiences within the cases, we will finally compile a
list of five assumptions about the usage of tools within OER projects.
Open Source is the ideal, but not the main reason to use a tool. Of course, OER
projects are idealistically bound on Open Source software, as they are also developing open
licenced software and/or content. Nevertheless, this ideal is obviously not always the main
driver for the selection of a tool.
Free availability is a key driver. Many OER project has no or a low budget and are
financially limited. Software and tools that are used within OER projects should cost nothing,
especially not for voluntary contributors.
Tools are needed that allow transparency. This might not a key issue for tools in
general, but many of the tools within the cases are used to make communication and
organisation more transparent. For example the decision for the project management tool
Trello.org was built on the main reason that is was the only tool that allowed publishing all
tasks to the public. Therefore the pro version of the tool was paid within L3T 2.0 (case A).
Usability and popularity of tools are facilitators. Several of the used tools are not used
because of their unique feature, but for the reason that many people know and use them. This
is especially the case for PR activities and used tools, but also for example one of the reasons
to use the open journal system in L3T (case A): Although the usage is complicated, it was the
best known tool for an expert review system in research amongst the core team and
Own developments are sometimes essentially needed. The book sprint of L3T 2.0
(case A) had not been possible without the development of the L3T editor. As OER projects
vary the typical value added chain of educational resources, current tools and software
sometimes not only support, but also limit the possibilities when own development is no
Building upon the case studies, assumptions about the usage of tools within OER projects
were compiled. The selected cases were neither selected randomly, nor are all organised by
completely different persons. Therefore we decided to deliver not results, but “assumptions”.
These should be examined deeper to confirm their validity.
Additionally, the cases show how OER projects vary the traditional value added chain
known from educational resources and how impressive value is generated, also by influencing
as a flagship for projects in other fields.
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