In 2007, a group of enterprising students from the School of Information started working with Ted Hanss, then in the Medical School dean’s office as director of the Office of Enabling Technologies, to launch an OER initiative that would serve the whole campus. The team won grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to support process, policy, and software development, as well as to facilitate collaborations with partners in Ghana, South Africa, and Ethiopia as part of the African Health OER Network.
Law and Policy
During those first few years, Open Michigan focused on developing a legal and policy framework to support the production and publication of OER. We convened experts on copyright, trademark, and privacy law to help us create the dScribe, or Distributed Scribe, process to clear educational materials of copyright and privacy issues so that they can be published online under Creative Commons licenses. Using dScribe, Open Michigan trained students and faculty on the basics of copyright and open licensing, and facilitated the clearance and publication of hundreds of courses and resources from across the U-M and from our partner institutions across Africa.
At the same time, Open Michigan developers worked to build a software platform to facilitate the copyright review and clearance process. They developed OERca, a tool to that enables reviewers to import documents, flag and remove third party copyrighted material, replace it with licensed images, and mark everything with the relevant license or public domain mark. OERca is open source and runs on linux-based servers (as well as MacOS). Though OERca is no longer under development, the code is available to build on and adapt.
The African Health OER Network (hereafter abbreviated as “the Network”) was a flagship project during Open Michigan’s early years. Both the Open Michigan initiative and the Network were envisioned in 2007 and launched in 2008 with the aim of creating a multi-directional exchange of knowledge between University of Michigan (U-M) and African universities that would advance health education globally. Though the grant-funded partnerships concluded in 2012, we continue to host a large collection of OER from our African partner institutions.
Open Michigan Today
After a dormant period, today Open Michigan functions as a collaboration between the University of Michigan’s Health Information Technology and Services (HITS) group and the University of Michigan Library. HITS continues to manage the OER collection and provide support to faculty who wish to share their materials online, while the Library maintains a gateway to all things open at the University of Michigan, including open access journals and open data.