The German speaking OER landscape in numbers

We recently published the OER Atlas, which gives a good overview on the actual state of the OER landscape in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The following post is a translation of the second chapter, which analyses and summarizes the collected data.

1. Entries per Type

OER Atlas 2016_Bbl_DRUCK 190216.indd
Figure 1: Number of entries according to entry type (persons, organisations, projects, services, events)

The database for the Atlas contains 157 entries in total. 134 of these were entered during the calls´ duration in November and December 2015 by using forms, all remaining entries were added afterwards.

The input is based on the OER World Map Data Model which distinguishes between actors (persons or organizations) and activities (projects, services, events). The distinction between the different types ca be difficult at times and is additionally complicated by an unclear usage of terms in common speech. In our rather technical language the term ‘project’ is defined as a targeted one-time undertaking that is limited by a certain start and end date [1]. In contrast ‘services’ [2], intend to provide additional value for one or more target groups on a permanent basis. In our understanding an ‘organization’ can run a ‘project’ which aims at developing a ‘service’, which is provided by the ‘organization’ usually after the ‘project’ has ended. In practice these distinctions are often blurred lines, and sometimes even the actors do no distinguish between organization, project and service, especially if the are named equally.

Therefore a number of entries had to be re-classified as different types afterwards. It occurs that entries, originally classified as a ‘project’, had to be ascribed as a ‘service’ by editorial review later on. Conversely, entries that were submitted as a ‘service’ were classified as a ‘project’, because the aimed at ‘service’ was not yet available.

With 64 entries the ‘services’ represent the largest group of submissions. Following the OER World Map Data Model there exists in theory at least one provider (organization or person) for every service (as well as for each project). Nevertheless this opportunity to submit a double entry (service and provider) was hardly used, potentially because of the relatively high effort to input the data [3].

The submitted ‘persons’ are not included in the Atlas– due to the small number of submissions, which was not representative.

2. Entries per country

OER Atlas 2016_Bbl_DRUCK 190216.indd
Figure 2: Entries per Country (D-A-CH Countries: Germany, Autria, Switzerland)

139 entries and therewith 88% of the total number are submitted from Germany. Austria contributes 14 entries (9%) and Switzerland adds another 3 entries (2%). Projected on a theoretically equal number of citizens this would equate to 131 entries from Austria and 29.4 entries from Switzerland. If this collection represents a realistic distribution of OER related activity in the three D-A-CH countries is questionable, because the data collection was initiated in Germany. As a consequence it is possible, that a number of Austrian and Swiss OER actors did not learn about the call or just did not participate.

3. Entries per Federal State (Germany)

OER Atlas 2016_Bbl_DRUCK 190216.indd
Figure 3: Entries per Federal State (Germany)

Concerning the entries submitted from Germany, separated by Federal State, it might be surprising that Baden-Wuerttemberg with 27 entries and Bavaria with 26 entries are head of the lead. One of the reasons for Baden-Wuerttemberg`s top position is that the “Zentrale für Unterrichtsmaterialien” (ZUM), as one of the oldest German OER initiatives, is located there. The metropolis region around Munich with initiatives such as Serlo and the Siemensstiftung as well as the association BIMS e.V. are the main cause for a high number of Bavarian submissions.

The German OER center Berlin is ranked third with 19 entries. Besides the public funded major project “Offene Bildungsmaterialien für Berlin” there are several OER producers as well as various actors, that can be accounted as political advocacy groups (Bündnis Freie Bildung, Creative Commons, Open Knowledge Foundation). Furthermore Berlin is home to the Wikimedia Germany Association that, amongst other things, held the large OERde 13 and OERde 14 conferences and completed the project “Mapping OER” just recently.

4. Entries/services per field of education

The participants of the OER Atlas were asked which field of education they connect themselves to. It was possible to name more than one field:

OER Atlas 2016_Bbl_DRUCK 190216.indd
Figure 4: Number of entries according to educational sector (early childhood education, school, vocational education, higher education, adult education, non- informal education)

According to that the school sector is numerously strongest with 102 indications, followed by the higher education sector with 82 and the adult education sector with 71 entries. At the end of the field are non-/informal education, vocational education and early childhood education.

The school sector got the most indications, but it can be assumed that its dominance is even stronger than what these data suggest. This conclusion can be drawn when you look at how many services where assigned to each educational sector in the table of contents (TOC) of the OER Atlas. In contrary to the statements of the participants (which allowed multiple answers), the assignement in the TOC required an assignment to only one educational sector:

OER Atlas 2016_Bbl_DRUCK 190216.indd
Figure 5: Cleared up number of services according to educational sector

From this perspective 55% of all submitted and counted services are taking place in the school field. Assuming that of the 21 services which were assigned to be cross-departmental a high number is rooted in the school sector as well, is occurs justified to speak from an obvious dominance of the school sector. The school sector outnumbers the following university sector by far and other sectors appear to be a lot less active in comparison.

The number of multiple indications can be interpreted as indication that within the field of OER the lines between the fields become blurred. There are various offers that address schools and universities at the same time, mainly because of the given thematically overlapping of upper secondary and tertiary education. Another example are offerings from universities that also address the field of further education. Finally all contents created in the context of formal education can be used as “collateral benefit” in the field of non- and informal education.

5. Services per subject

OER Atlas 2016_Bbl_DRUCK 190216.indd
Figure 6: Number of services by subject (science & mathematics, arts & humanities, infomation & communication technology, educational science, social science, health & welfare, generic qualifications, business & law, engineering, agriculture, services)

Regarding the subjects covered by the resources offered by the services it might be less of a surprise that most of the offerings are from the field of mathematics and science that are traditionally highly represented in digital media and open access. It is more of an unexpected result that 37 services offer capacities in the field of arts and humanities. Well represented here are subjects like languages, religion and philosophy as well as history. Following subjects are information and communication science, as well as educational sciences which can be explained by the fact that all services that cover the topic of OER are also counted as part of the education field.

6. Services per service type

OER Atlas 2016_Bbl_DRUCK 190216.indd
Figure 7: Services by service type ( mooc provider, text book provider, repositories, referatories, wikis, other)

The term ‘service’ is, according to the definition above, quite abstract and needs further concretisation. The development of a convincing system of sub categories therefore is an important research question. The OER Atlas is not capable of answering this question concludingly, but it can pose and set it into scientific focus. At this point two aspects can be emphasized:

6.1 Repositories and referatories

Recent studies distinguish between repositories (platforms to store resources) and referatories (platforms that contain links to resources). During the process of attributing the entries to one or another category the following became obvious:

  • The term ‘repository’ is still indistinct and requires further definition. Ideal-typical repositories are found in the higher educational sector as ‘institutional repositories’ which are characterize by providing a defined collection of materials which is accessible and managed by a specific repository software. In comparison this kind of repository can hardly be found within the school sector. Nevertheless there are numerous services which provide a stock of OER. This leads to the question if every website, which provides resource automatically can be classified as a ‘repository’.
  • ‘Referatories’ appear in different forms and diverse technological backgrounds. The simplest form of a referatory is a link list such as the one you can find on ‘CC Your Edu’. A more sophisticated approach is provided by social-bookmarking-services such as Edutags which allow to generate link lists collaboratively. The technically most advanced form are search engines  such as Elixier which index meta data or/and full texts of documents to provide fast information retrieval.

Relatively high in numbers are services that combine both repository and referatory functionalities, for example several of the German federal education servers. The OER Atlas counts these services as referatories – this assignment however is not necessarily mandatory.

6.2 Wikis

Figure 7 also points to another phenomenon: Wikis are the numerously largest group of counted services in Germany. 24 of a total 64 services (37.5%) are based on wiki technology. Wikis can be used to generate link lists (compared to the simple referatories mentioned above), as well as to upload documents (compared to repositories). Additionally they allow users to generate web documents in a very simple and quick way. The OER Atlas results show that wiki technology seems to be popular especially  in the school sector.

7. Services by license type

OER Atlas 2016_Bbl_DRUCK 190216.indd
Figure 8: Number of servcies according to used license type

One important aspect for analysing OER services are the used  licenses. 45 of 64 services stated to provide (also) CC BY-SA licensed material. This positive impression is supported by the fact that 44 services indicated to use only one of the license types CC 0, CC BY, or CC BY-SA. According to this 68.75% of the German-speaking services exclusively publish under licenses that are approved by the Creative Commons seal ‘Approved for free cultural works’. These licenses all match the requirements of common OER definitions. This (presumable also in international comparison) excellent result reflects the high priority which is given to licensing issues by the German OER community. Only 4 out of 64 services indicate to use other than Creative Common licenses, which is positively regarding the aspects of combinability and legal compliance.



[2] We use the term ‘service’ in the sense of ‘online-service’ including all different kinds of offers, which can be found in the web and which provide value to the OER community. The most prominent example are repositories. We adapted the term from the vocabulary. It seems to be somewhat irritating in and might be adjusted in the future.

[3] Unfortunatly the OER World Map input templates where not yet in place when we collected the data for the Atlas. We therefore had to use provisional templates to collect the data, which did not offer optimal usability.






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