Designing the new OER Policy Registry

As previously announced Creative Commons and the OER World Map project are currently working on the relaunch of the OER Policy Registry. An initial version, which already includes the data of the former registry, is already available.

The redesign of the registry was intensively discussed by a group of dedicated OER Policy specialists at the third OE Policy Forum, which took place in Warsaw last October. The following post summarizes the discussion, specifies important new functionality and points out remaining open questions.

We try to develop the new OER Policy Registry as open and transparent as possible and everybody is invited to participate! In order to do so, please share your ideas for cool new features with us, either replying on our blog, commenting directly on github or sending us a mail. You can also support the project by adding missing policies to the new registry!

The third OE Policy Forum in Warsaw, organized by Centrum Cyfrowe ended just some weeks ago. Like usual, this great event was very helpful for all of those, who are interested especially in policy making related to OER and Open Education. During the Forum the OER World Map project presented two workshops related to the relaunch of the OER Policy Registry, a project started recently in cooperation with Creative Commons. Both workshops were extremely fruitful and provided lots of valuable advice for the design of the new OER policy layer within the OER World Map.

After a first reflection of the many comments and ideas, we believe that we can outline the future design of the OER Policy Registry much clearer now. Following points can be noticed:

Basic Approach

  1. Creative Commons basic approach to describe one policy on one Wiki-page with special metadata still makes sense and should be continued. So what we are looking for is rather an evolutionary than a revolutionary design.
  2. The following user story was confirmed several times during the workshops:

    “As a policy maker, I would like to find good practice examples of successfully implemented OER policies, so that I can reuse/adapt them for use in my institution/government.”

    Variants to this story replace the policymaker by either “OER-advocate”, “advisor” or “researcher”. All of these groups might have slightly different information needs, but the overlap seems to be significant here. Paul Stacey added focus to the potential macro level use of the platform:

    “As a multinational organisation supporting Open Education I would like to aggregate policies to show the breadth of efforts across the world to signal Open Education as an active global endeavour.”

    Both user stories complement each other very well and are expected to provide a good basis for the design of the platform.

  3. Showing best practices examples will be more important than showing all policies available. The OER World Map platform provides “likes” and “lighthouses”, which can be used to identify good practice examples. During the workshop, we also discussed the possibility to set “negative lighthouses/likes”, since there exist some policies, which could serve as warning examples. While this admittedly makes sense, we are ambivalent about implementing “dislikes” or similar functionality. For the beginning, we assume, that marking negative examples with a special tag should be sufficient.
  4. The answer to the fundamental question “What is a policy?” remains to be fuzzy. Igor Leskos definition

    “A governmental policy refers to whatever governments do/decide to do about a particular opportunity, issue or challenge, which refers to a course of action, by governmental entities, in relation to OER. Such courses of action may include the following: 1. Legislation such as rules, regulation, green papers, white papers, bills, etc. 2. Economic activities – funding programs (direct or indirect in the context of OER) 3. Information campaigns – press releases/briefings, declarations, etc.”

    can serve as a good starting point, but addresses explicitly only the national level and therefore does not fit so well for the institutional level. Probably it will make sense to collect all different definitions, which are available before trying to provide an own definition. (Related issue: #1618)

  5. Thanks to Nicole Allen for highlighting that, while the majority of participants of the workshop came from either Europe or the US, the design of the registry, namely the used metadata fields should be double checked with policy experts, from other regions of the world, especially South America, Africa, Arabia, and Asia.

Basic Architecture

  1. One of our initial ideas was, that an external website would be helpful to concentrate the user attention to the topic of policy making. Since then we included a landing page for the OER-Policy-Registry on the OER World Map, which seems to make a good start. While the idea of an external website still make sense to us, it seems to be of lower priority than initially expected after our discussion in Warsaw (related issues: #1630, #1631).
  2. Fabio Nascimbeni contributed the great idea to include overview pages for each country (related issue: #1694). This approach was provided by the emundusatlas (which is not updated any longer) and proved to be very helpful there.
    The approach fits well to the approach of the OER World Map to provide country views, which appear when clicking on a country. We plan to extend the country view layout with specific statistics provided by our Kibana tool within the near future (see related issue #1467). Adding a policy report sections would be a consistent continuation of this approach. Also these reports could be a good use case for the extended report layout we discussed in the past (related issue: #1310).

Core Areas of Activity

Following areas of activity will make up the functional core of the relaunched registry and therefore can be expected to make up the focus of the project:

  1. Getting the metadata right: The existing metadata scheme should be extended and refined. Doing so we should build on existing experiences of other initiatives, especially the metadata used by SPARC to collect OE policies in the US. Also, the two examples of OA-Policy Collections provided by Javiera Athenas (see and provide helpful orientation, though their specific focus on Open Access prevents simple imitation. Finding the right metadata will allow us to cluster the policies in useful ways. It will also make up the basis for statistics and therefore has to be handled with care. (An overview of all used and proposed metadata-fields can be commented here. Issues related to policy metadata can be found here on Github)
  2. Making the filter section complete: This is closely related to “getting the metadata right”: Currently not all available fields can be set as a filter within our search section. To ensure complete functionality it has to make sure, that all policy related metadata-fields can be set as a filter on the platform as well.
  3. How a cooperative data editing processes could look like was not discussed during the workshops due to missing time. The intense discussions during the workshop proved it likely, that communication between editors will be necessary to discuss and evaluate registry entries, which will often be hard to classify. Currently, direct communication between editors is not strongly supported by the OER World Map platform. While it includes the possibility to comment on entries, other users are not notified by the platform about new comments.
    The situation will be improved by the implementation of subscriptions, which are planned for early 2019. The idea is that users will be able to subscribe to certain search filters so that users (inter alia) can be informed on new entries and updates related to policy making as well as on comments related to these updates.
    Alternatively or additional we could use hypothesis to annotate and discuss entries on OER World Map. (related issue: #1629)
  4. Providing process updates: Policies are not stable entities. Rather they follow a policy life cycle (“proposed”, “active”, “dead”) and on each step multiple events can appear, which might be worth documenting. An example could be the adoption of a law on OER by a major body, or a special hearing on the topic. For these cases, it makes sense to provide “updates”, which reflect the overall development of a policy. How this could be done on the OER World Map has to be discussed. One available solution would be using comments. Alternatively, a dedicated update functionality could be included into the platform.

Some Details

  1. Precise reference to a single policy document would be desirable, but will not be possible in all cases. Therefore it might be necessary to include fields for multiple external links, which together describe the policy (related issue: #1617). Additional a comprehensive narrative description will be necessary which highlights the importance of editorial control of the entries. Currently, the World Map doesn’t allow to upload a document but allows to link to documents published on the web. Our experience with the OER registry so far indicates that the upload of documents might become necessary soon.
  2. We could experiment with different colours for the pins of different policy levels. For example, we could mark institutional policies in a different colour than national/local policies. It would also be interesting to see, in which regions policies of both levels appear together (related issue: #1693) or if/where primarily policies of one type can be found. For sure one prerequisite for using different colours for the pins is, that policies receive a pin depending on the location of their author/publisher (related issue: #1272).
  3. Another good point mentioned by Tamara Kováčová, was to provide an automatic PDF-translator. Translating a website normally is no big problem. Translating a PDF can be more tricky and is of a certain importance since some policies are only available as PDF.


All participants of the workshops agreed, that updating the policy registry is expected to be the biggest challenge of the initiative. We discussed several aspects related to the future operations of the registry:

  1. A hackathon to collect European OER/OE policies was identified as a very reasonable next step. As Fabio Nascimbeni pointed out convincingly the number of policies in Europe is still rather low, so that it is quite likely, that a small group of dedicated experts could collect the majority of existing policies within one or two days. If successful, the hackathon approach could be adopted for other continents as well.
  2. Paying editors (at least partly) for collecting policies seems more reasonable than expecting that data collection will happen voluntarily by its own. If resources can be found for this, the question remains how exactly compensation can be provided. In theory, it could make sense to pay for every single new policy which has been added to the registry. Nevertheless, this approach will cause high transfer costs and therefore is likely to be categorically rejected by most institutional administrations, as Meredith Jacobs assumed. Alternatively less monetarised compensation, e.g. in the form of travelling costs could be considered.
  3. Another interesting alternative is the generation of policy reports (see above 2b). It might be easier to find funding for OER reports, which could include data collection as well. At the same time, regular reports could provide great tools for the quality assurance of the underlying data.
  4. When successfully implemented the OER policy registry could even become a basis for future consultancy business. A consultant, who is skilled in using the policy registry might get consultancy offers from institutions. This is especially true when the consultant is mentioned to be related to a special policy somehow. (related issue: 1695)
  5. In the future, the registry might be advised by a consortium of institutions like OER World Map, Creative Commons, OEC, Centrum Cyfrowe, SPARC Europe and SPARC. The advisory committee could advise the new OER Policy Registry while also being responsible for adding new and maintaining existing open education policies. Organizations that commit significant time and/or resources to update the OER World Map will be recognized on a Partners page. Details of this cooperation still have to be figured out.

What is next?

Following our agile approach, we will try to finalize the next development iteration as soon as possible.

  1. Focus till the end of next year will be to get all metadata fields right so that intensive data collection can start.
  2. Also, we will finish our initial specification of the platform till the end of next year and implement most pressing issues.
  3. In order to do so, we will identify and real-life policies and reflect on needed fields & functionality. Critical questions will be fed back and discussed with the early adaptor group.
  4. Another focus of specification will be the report/overview section.
  5. Preparation of the OER Policy Hackathon which might take place in Spring 2019. The idea here is to start with a European focused event. The goal is to bring together a small group of European Policy experts (5-10), which collect together 80% of the existing national and institutional OER/OE policies in Europe. If successful, a additional sprints for other countries/continents might follow. This could be connected to a major OER conference.
  6. Also, we could use Open Education Week 2019 (March 4-8) for another data collection activity worldwide. Ideally, the European Sprint should be done before.
  7. If you want to start right now to help the OER Policy Registry becoming a more powerful and comprehensive tool, there are two things you can do:
    • Add specifications directly as issues to the OER World Map Github or comment on existing issues. You can also reply on this post or send us your ideas or comments by mail.
    • Add further policies or policyrelated materials to the OER World Map. In order to learn how to do so, please start right here
Form to add a policy to the OER World Map.
Form to add a policy to the OER World Map. Please make sure to choose “Policy” as Publication type

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