Open Resources | Viewpoint

OER Glue: 'Use Open Education Resources Where They Are; Integrate With Everyone'

If you find a good OER (open education resource) and copy it into your project, and meanwhile the OER keeps evolving, your project may quickly become obsolete. But OER Glue (from Tatemae), recognizing the transience of Web 2.0 resources, lets you mash live OERs into your project. "Your content stays fresh," according to OER Glue's Web site. OER Glue also integrates with many important educational and cultural Web 2.0 platforms and sites, including Google Docs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blackboard, Moodle, Flickr, Wikipedia, Plone, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, MediaWiki, RSS, Delicious, Google Calendar, Survey Monkey, Maple TA, IRC, SMS, e-mail, and more.

Sticking to OERs: Web 2.0 Content without Losing Context
Today, more and more academics are using what are called "open education resources" (OERs), which are, in fact, "open." MIT's Open Courseware Initiative is perhaps the best known, but hundreds of other sites are listed at

In the words of OER Glue's Web site: "In contrast to other tools, OER Glue lets you adapt content to your context where it already exists instead of requiring it to be copied it into a new repository or system for modification." Since you don't move the resource to your own repository, but just access it as you normally would access a Web site, the company claims you avoid any copyright issues.

Most importantly for education in this century, OER Glue projects can be "owned" in perpetuity by either faculty members or students. It is a free platform with premium services for which there is a fee structure.

What is so remarkable about OER Glue is its recognition of the dynamic, ever-changing nature of education resources now that they are built with electrons and not atoms. Electrons don't stop moving and neither do objects on the Web. OER Glue is remarkable, also, for its other recognition: Students need management tools as much as faculty do in a world of self-directed learning. While faculty members can build courses using OER Glue, students can, at the same time, create projects in OER Glue within the faculty members' courses. You have Glue within Glue.

It is not surprising that OER Glue would be so savvy: The developers have a dozen other exciting projects under their belts. At the Tatemae Web site, you'll find links to TwHistory, Tipping Bucket, folksemantic, OCW Finder, plan collection, National Library of Virtual Manipulatives, make a path, eNLVM, ozmozr, genlighten, and teachers without borders. According to Joel Duffin, co-founder of OER Glue with Justin Ball--I quoted Duffin in the headline of this article--he and Ball got tired of building applications for every need and so decided to build a platform within which others could build their own projects.

OER Glue is now a Google Chrome (Google's Web browser) extension. The company has plans for Internet Explorer and Firefox versions as well.

OER Glue's development was funded in part by the National Science Foundation. OER provides its own versions of OER Glue and extra services: reports, widgets, branding, an institutional OER Glue Web site, and customer support.

OER Glue and Open Source
OER Glue is open source [Creative Commons license: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)]. This means any one who downloads OER Glue "must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one." [] It's clear the developer community has a history with OER Glue's developers and will continue to add value to the source code.

After many years of controversy about open source, it should be clear that open source refers only to the source code for the platform or application: It means the code is not proprietary. Open source, in theory, invites community ownership, improvement of the source code, and perpetuation of applications built on the source code. Usually, however, if there is a company or group of companies who support applications built on the code, the code will more successfully thrive. In the case of OER Glue, the company offers services for users of OER Glue and is also the developer of OER Glue. Other companies, however, can also use the source code and develop their own products based on the source code. Open source is a viable and vital alternative to proprietary code, the practice by which the code is secret and not shared. Moodle, the fastest-growing course management system in the world, is open source. Sakai, another global course management system, is open source, as is Sakai's portfolio tool, the Open Source Portfolio (OSP). (See the Open Source Initiative or Source Forge for more information on open source.)

Platform Independence
It is hard to overstate the importance of OER Glue and other similar applications built by those who understand how Web 2.0 works: It is constantly in motion, community-based, knowledge-building--not as serial revisions, but as mashups or remixes in a social environment. This application, like so many others, accepts the conversational nature of knowledge building today. In a conversation, ideas keep flowing and consensus can build, but knowledge is the conversation.

OER Glue also offers a platform that a college or university (or school) can adopt formally which also allows students to have their own OER Glue projects that do not depend on the institutional instance of the platform. They can have their own totally independent OER Glue instance, which then stays with the student, including whatever course content the student's instance is now "glued to."

Instructors using OER Glue in their courses and encouraging their students to do so also, take advantage not only of a growing cultural store of OERs for learning but also provide their students with training in using OERs themselves.

The name of the company behind OER Glue is Tatemae, a Japanese word hard to translate out of the cultural context, but it seems to mean presenting yourself in society as society expects, but in American culture the equivalent might be "probity" or "authenticity." It seems an appropriate descriptor for these ex-Utah State University developers with ties to David Wiley at USU, well known for his global leadership in Web 2.0-appropriate learning.

Links to Learn More About OER Glue (How OER Glue works) (Joel Duffin talks) (Joel Duffin and Justin Ball, creators of the OER Glue platform) (OER Glue QuickStart)

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