When I first got involved in open education many years ago, it was because someone at work asked How would you like to share your teaching materials? Ever since, encouraging others to share has been important to me. At the end of February 2021, I opened a Flickr account with the aim of publishing some of the images that we use in our online courses and further work towards the Extension School’s mission to educate the world –by default we share the content of our MOOCs as open courseware under CC BY-NC-SA. What I had in mind as a next step was to invite others to share theirs too, and together create a bank of photos visible to everyone and publicly searchable. Of course, it was also an excuse to talk about Creative Commons licenses and correct attribution.
We Like Sharing is managed by myself at the Extension School for Continuing Education and contains images created by TUD staff and students, and occasionally their friends and families. Anyone can contribute; the only request for their photo to be uploaded to the repository is that they choose the CC license under which it is released –they retain copyright, not TUD, and decide what permissions they give to those who would like to reuse their images.
The photo bank was launched to coincide with Open Education Week 2021; to tell of its existence and invite contributions, a competition was organized –’Submit a photo that illustrates your interpretation of open’.
Six months later WLS contains 339 photographs shared by 60+ colleagues and students. All photos are tagged to help users find what they are looking for (or what they are not looking for); all released under an open license; all with suggested text that can be copied and pasted to attribute each image correctly, and a short description that can serve as alt text. The images have received nearly 140.000 views, a pretty number if you ask me, and although I have not been able to track how many have been reused, I have anecdotal evidence that some of them now feature in places they weren’t intended for. All good, right? So what’s the challenge? Sustainability. How do I keep this going?
The strategy must address how to attract a constant flow of contributions. In my experience, sharing does not come naturally to many, not even a photo of a landscape you took while on holidays that otherwise would remain hidden in your phone. First, you need to keep asking, you need to keep reminding people that they can share; this I will do, but I also trust that anyone who deposits an image will show and tell others, and thus spread the word. The competition worked well in March to raise awareness and attract participation. Can we do it again next year? Make it an annual event linked to OEWeek? I hope so.
Second, if you have an audience, keep them engaged: create a newsletter to inform people how the repository is going, what pics have been reused, which received the most views, the most comments, what requests have come in for a photo to be part of this or that collection, this or that album.
Third, increase the visibility of the repository: the Flickr account needs to be part of the institution without belonging to the institution; add a link to it wherever teachers, staff and students go to access other resources, i.e. the online learning hub, Teaching Academy website, etc.
Fourth, you have the beginnings of a community, nurture its spirit so that sharing happens not only because you like it but because you are also helping others: does anyone need a particular image for their course? Send the request out via the WLS mail list; someone might be able to photograph it for you.
These are only a few ideas. To action them will require time, energy and a lot of patience and endurance. It won’t happen overnight, but don’t give up. Good things happen to those who share.