Mobile: A prototype spurred by the hype

(Disclaimer: This entry is rather in-depth. For an abbreviated version, jump down to “The Prototype” section, which begins near the middle of the post.)

The Hype

Mobile seemed to be a buzzword of 2011 (as well as 2007-2010 actually) and it will likely stay that way in 2012. Mobile continues to attract attention (including within U-M), particularly in discussions of social issues like education, health, and economic development. The eTransform Africa report, released in December 2011 by the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, and the African Union includes mobile among the affordable technologies that have potential to transform education. Why? What’s unique about mobile is the combination of these characteristics:

  • Affordability of hardware compared to other computing devices such as netbooks, desktops, and laptops
  • Affordability of service, with many providers offering pay-as-you-go service via SIM cards instead of through flat-rate monthly contracts (long-term mobile contracts are much more prevalent in the U.S. than in other countries)
  • Portability due to their small size and light weight
  • Power efficiency and ability to operate for hours without charging
  • Scalability of infrastructure, as it takes much less labor and capital to set up a mobile broadband network to for a given area than to cover the same physical area using fixed (wired) broadband

These characteristics led development economist Jeffrey Sachs to label mobile phones as “the single most transformative tool for development.” The World Bank has even conducted econometric studies suggesting a correlation between number and growth rate of mobile subscribers in a country and its gross domestic product.

Just how prevalent are mobile phones around the world? Today there are over 5 billion mobile connections and over 80% of the world’s population is within mobile coverage. According to the International Telecommunications Union, 45.2% of the population in Africa has mobile phone subscriptions and 2.5% subscribes to mobile broadband, compared to only 1.5% who own landline phones. With over 600 million mobile phone users, there are more mobile users in Africa than in the U.S. or in Europe.

Numerous projects have tried to harness mobile technologies for health or education. The eTransform Africa education sector study notes that in the education realm, “Significant uses include educational quizzes, multimedia content to solve puzzles (for example, for mathematics), interactive literacy programmes, simple question-and-answer activities, text- and/or audio-based short lessons, alerts by schools/teachers to students or parents, and provision of support to teachers and learners. They can also play an important role in informal education, for example to provide health education information.” There’s a rapidly growing collection of using mobile health applications, some which focus on content delivery, sensors or other diagnostic plug-ins, or enhanced communication between healthcare professionals and patients. (See the mSummit annual conference or MobileActive for some current hot topics and MobileMonday for mobile design community chapters worldwide.)

Within the content delivery category, some notable applications for general and health education mentioned in the eTransform Africa education sector study and the 2011 mHealth Education report from the iheed Institute include:

  • BridgeIT – designed for primary school teachers in Tanzania download short educational videos in math, science, and life skills over the 2.5/3G mobile network and then connect to a computer screen to share with the class
  • Relief Central – free web-based application from Unbound Medicine that provides information to public domain (yay, open content!) health information from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Field Operations Guide from USAID, the CDC Health Information for International Travel, as well as licensed (copyright-restricted) content from MEDLINE journals, Red Cross, and others; designed for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Phone devices
  • TulaSalud – in this project in Guatemala by Ministry of Health and the Cobán School of Nursing, mobile phones are combined with traditional teleconference services (with the facilitator using Premiere Global as a conference call provider and speakerphones from Phoenix Duet Executive collection – both tools that we use here at Enabling Technologies for teleconferences) to do real-time audio-based training sessions; they also use a SMS-based system to aggregate patient data (e.g. about high risk pregnancies) into a central database
  • GUIDE – an online-offline hybrid reference service by AED – SATELLIFE in South Africa that contains medical guidelines, protocols, diagnostic tools, drug formularies, and other publicly available health information services
  • eMocha – an Android-based application by Johns Hopkins University that is being used in the U.S., Uganda, and Afghanistan that uses a local area network model to collect and analyze patient data as well as to deliver training materials in the form of videos (MP4) and quizzes
  • Virtual Nursing School – project by African Medical and Research Foundation that uses telephone tutorials and Java-based delivery of eLearning materials for nurses in Kenya and Uganda


The Prototype

What does all this mobile stuff have to do with Open.Michigan? In December, I mentioned that one of the aims of Open Educational Resources (OER) is to make materials widely available. You may have noticed that the distribution flow diagram for the African Health OER Network that I referenced in my blog post included mobile. Why? With our partner institutions in Ghana, for example, though a slight majority of medical students and residents are believed to have personal laptops and though there are some student computer labs on campus, the penetration of smartphones and other mobile phones are far greater. For this reason, participants in our health OER tech group have long been talking about taking some of the HTML-based openly licensed learning modules that were designed for access on desktops/laptops and experimenting with delivering that same content on a mobile device.

In September-November 2011, some colleagues of mine at U-M and University of Ghana and I completed a small mobile pilot for OER. Our main objectives were to:

  1. Gather information about types of mobile phones that students, staff, and lecturers use as well as any mobile development activities on campus at KNUST and University of Ghana
  2. Create a basic mobile prototype by converting content from an existing HTML-based module to meet the following requirements:
    1. Content includes text, images, audio, video, and quizzes
    2. The module must work across a variety of mobile devices and operating systems
    3. Content should be stored locally on the mobile device (i.e. not web-based)
  3. Solicit feedback from students and lecturers about the mobile prototype

Very soon after we started our work, we realized that 2b and 2c were significant constraints in terms of how we could structure the mobile prototype. Since we wanted it to work across a number of devices and to be available offline, we were left with the common denominator of packaging as HTML pages instead of doing official platform-specific apps (like iPhone, Android, Blackberry, or Symbian).

One significant barrier was that mobile devices vary quite a bit in terms of functionality.  Some are simple bar phones that serve primarily for voice communications and do not have many other features beyond making and receiving calls. At other end of the spectrum, there are advanced phones (“SmartPhones”) with operating systems, full keyboards, and application stores or APIs. There’s a range of phones that read text, images, video, and audio. To further complicate matters, the types of mobiles phones that are sold and used in the U.S. differ greatly from Ghana.

After some initial testing on a Nokia C3-00 Series 40 phone (a model which a colleague told us was common in Ghana), we realized that we couldn’t even assume that our target phones had touch screens nor that they could read Javascript or HTML5, which meant that we could not use slick development suites like jQuery mobile. We decided to focus on static HTML pages that would be transferred to and from phones via microSD card or Bluetooth.

While I was in Ghana in October-November last year, I had the opportunity to do a medical OER focus group with 6 students at University of Ghana and 5 residents at KNUST.  As part the focus group, I was able to gather some feedback about the current use of and interest in mobile devices for learning. Both groups commented that audio is most convenient for mobile phone, then text, and videos third. Videos are better to watch on laptops or desktop computers. Some students already use handheld devices (mobile phones, iPod or MP3 players) to study by listening to audio recordings – including some from their own classes taken with the instructor’s permission – or by watching videos (such as from New England Journal of Medicine).

So, after all these investigation, design, development, and testing cycles (nitty gritty details covered in our design and technical notes), what did we come up with? It is still a prototype, but you can download the zip for offline access (the intended use) or view it online. The prototype is based on an obstetrics and gynecology OER created by University of Ghana. To date, we have tested it on the Nokia C3-00 Series 40, Samsung i900 Omnia with Windows Mobile, Samsung Galaxy XS with Android, and Blackberry (two models, both undocumented).

We found that our prototype worked pretty well across these four platforms, though we still have some lingering questions related to how to structure our learning module, including:

  • Currently the video is accessed through a link in HTML, which opens the video in a native video app instead of the browser. This is useful for video controls and enables us to achieve full screen, but also means an additional copy of video is created each time it is accessed from the HTML.
  • It is difficult to watch videos beyond 4 minutes on such a small screen.
  • Some mobile devices have a file size limit for Bluetooth transfers – one test with a Blackberry had a 25 MB limit, and most videos exceed that limit.
  • The small screen size doesn’t easily lend itself to multiple-choice questions with feedback.
  • Though not in the prototype featured above, we discovered that it was feasible to view surgical videos with labels on the small screen size (see example video, adapted from a Caesarean section module CC BY NC Cary Engleberg and Richard Adanu), though ideally the content authors would have mobile design in mind from the start and create more close-up videos with larger labels.

This prototype is only the beginning of Open.Michigan’s experimentation with mobile delivery. We anticipate doing much more with mobile for OER over the next couple years. For example, we are already in progress of creating a mobile-friendly version of our Open.Michigan website. Other near-time plans envisioned included extending the prototype into a complete module and to pilot test it with a whole class at one of our partner institutions in Africa.

We are still fairly new to mobile delivery at Open.Michigan – especially for offline distribution – so any guidance from more experienced mobile designers/developers would be welcomed. We’re specifically interested in recommendations for how to display videos (is it actually better to display videos within the browser instead of the native video players?) as well as market information about SmartPhone penetration among health workers and university employees/students in African countries, including models and features.

iBooks and Mobile Learning

Apple’s announcement of their iBook 2 project would allow creators to easily develop the textbook of the 21st century with the iBooks Author tool. Does this sound familiar? We hosted a design jam with health sciences faculty, staff and students a year ago that addressed this very opportunity. Participants brainstormed what the medical ‘textbook’ of the future might look like. What features would be valuable? How would you organize the information? How would you access, share and adapt material to maintain locally contextualized and up-to-date information. Since this winter 2011 event series, faculty across the Medical School have started using iPads in classroom and clinical settings. For example, the Department of Anesthesiology has recently started using iPads to transform how their students receive and use information in their academic and patient settings.

The Office of Enabling Technologies (where we live!), is deeply engaged in supporting teaching and learning needs in a fast-paced, technology-enabled environment. Folks from our office have helped local faculty develop interactive iPhone apps using openly licensed academic content. We’ve also worked on developing mobile solutions to viewing and accessing OER in a global setting. The announcement from Apple is probably not surprising to many folks working in educational technology as Apple joins the ranks of content-creation platforms as diverse as Gooru, Moodle, Connexions (and the list goes on).

Despite the confusion around Apple’s EULA, the addition of this toolkit to education brings another big player into the field of technology-enabled educational content. It introduces another venue for content creators (educators, professionals, researchers and students) to express their own creativity in novel ways and, as always, we encourage our content creators to carefully consider how they want to share their work with others. Considerations of when and how to retain copyrights and how to express those copyrights get all the more important as our tools evolve.

Interview with Alissa Talley-Pixley, University Library Associate, Graduate Student, and Open Advocate

Alissa Talley-Pixley is a current University Library Associate, working in the Knowledge Navigation Center and the Tech Deck (both awesome services from our Library!) and a graduate student at the School of Information and in the School of Education. She’s worked across the Libraries at U-M and is an open advocate across the university. As an information professional, she teaches folks how to use tools and incorporates perspectives of openness into her training. She’s also a dScribe for the Fall 2011 session of SI-575, volunteering her time and expertise to support the growth of the Open.Michigan collection.

She recently spent some time to tell us a little bit about her and why she supports openness.

What’s your background?

As a student currently obtaining Master’s degrees in Information and Higher Education, my life is surrounded by ideas of information sharing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Prior to beginning graduate school at the University of Michigan (U of M), I started my professional journey after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from U of M in 2002.  I worked at the U of M Library and then left Ann Arbor (for a few years) to explore careers outside of academia.  I was employed by the Innocence Project (a non-profit, pro-bono law firm in New York City) and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (on an education portfolio), before making my way back to the Library where I worked as an administrative assistant to the Director of the Art, Architecture, Engineering and Science Libraries.  I applied to the School of Information, and by extension the School of Education, so that I could work to share information with those who need it – academics (including students) who create knowledge for the betterment of our communities and society, as well as non-profit organizations and community members who can use information to strengthen their missions and empower those with whom they work.  When I learned about Open.Michigan, it seemed their goals aligned very closely with mine.

Why did you decided to become a dScribe?

Open.Michigan’s values and mission strongly resemble the goals I envision for education in the future.  While having the opportunity to attend college or university provides education to those who are there, much of the content that is produced stays within the classroom.  Open.Michigan encourages education and knowledge to be shared with anyone who is interested.  This idea seems more and more important as the cost of higher education rises and the chance to attend college decreases for those who have fewer resources.  The information shared during classes at U of M, by experts in their fields, should not always be shielded from the community because much of the work is relevant to those outside of the academy.  Open.Michigan provides an outlet and way for people to obtain information that could better their own knowledge-base and improve their work.  dScribing SI 575 – the Community Informatics Seminar was a great way for me to participate in this knowledge-sharing.  The topics in this course (including Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICTD), social media activism, the Digital Public Library of America) are issues which are applicable outside of the institution and could be useful for groups working towards using or improving work in these areas.  It felt important to participate in this movement.

How did you get involved with Open.Michigan?

I first learned about Open.Michigan at an Enriching Scholarship workshop in the spring of 2011.  Enriching Scholarship is an annual week-long event that provides technology training and learning opportunities to the U of M campus.  After learning about Open.Michigan’s work, I thought, “why doesn’t everyone know about this?!”  The topic and goals seem relevant for everyone in the higher educational setting (students, staff, faculty) who produce information as well as those outside of the academy who can benefit from the information that is being shared.  I remember thinking that open educational resources (OER) seemed even more relevant as copyright laws blur and evolve with the creation of so much digital work.  I continued my education of OER by meeting with Emily Puckett Rodgers, Open.Michigan’s Open Education Coordinator, about how as a student I could license by blog or other online work, and then by attending a conference (e-Cornucopia) at Oakland University on the issues of copyright and OER.  Open.Michigan also held a training on copyright at North Quad, in which I participated.  I’ve found that there is always more to learn on this topic and that the variety of events that Open.Michigan hosts is extremely useful in expanding my education on the topic so that I can share this information with others.

Why do you think it is important for libraries to be involved in sharing adaptable resources?

Libraries are in a unique position where it is their goal and mission to share information with anyone who walks in the door (though licensing for borrowing and access to online databases is limited).  Libraries not only house information but produce it.  Librarians conduct workshops on plagiarism, database and catalog searching, technology use and many other topics which could be useful to others at colleges and universities, as well as community members and citizens around the world.  As libraries work to adapt to the changing digital environment, it seems even more important that their work is accessible to those within the academy and outside of it.  Libraries can lead the movement in OER and U of M’s library is doing just this by advocating for open access to materials such as the orphan works and pushing copyright boundaries that are increasingly complicated.  Libraries are extremely important as the field of OER progresses.

What is your favorite part about contributing to the creation of open content?

My favorite part of contributing to the creation of open content is just that – producing material that is available to everyone with an Internet connection.  It’s very humbling to be a part of a movement that is so inclusive and that has been created from the ground up.  Working with Open.Michigan is something about which I’m passionate and I feel grateful to have knowledge of OER so that I can use it to “spread the word” and increase the amount of open content that is available.  Additionally, it’s wonderful to collaborate with such amazing people on these projects, including the Open.Michigan staff and the faculty who are excited to be involved in this work.

What do you hope to see Open.Michigan doing in five years?

It will be amazing to see how the Open.Michigan movement both broadens and narrows its work in the future.  In five years, it would be great to see Open.Michigan as a part of every classroom and department at U of M so that our institution becomes a leader in producing and sharing open content.  Internally, it would be wonderful if Open.Michigan created a system by which dScribing was a part of every course, and externally it would be fantastic to see an outreach plan for various community organizations who could directly benefit from the sharing of specific information.  Because of the great people involved, it seems possible that Open.Michigan can push the boundaries of OER and continue to be a leader in the field.  Kudos to all involved – now and in the future!

It’s Good to have Friends: OER Publishing in the U-M School of Dentistry

Since our start in 2007, Open.Michigan has been fortunate to have the support of the U-M School of Dentistry. The School has published several of their courses and resources in Open Michigan’s OER collection. All their YouTube videos are openly-licensed and their channel is one of the most popular in all of higher education, with 6.5 million upload views. Because they are openly-licensed, these videos have a global reach and are making an impact in many areas, including one project initiated by the U.S. Navy that is raising the level of dental care for the Afghani people.

One of our OER allies in the School of Dentistry is Emily Springfield, instructional designer, who helps faculty and researchers design and develop educational modules and tools. When she receives such a request, she asks right at the start if the faculty member or researcher would be willing to share their work openly on the Internet for others to use and build on. If they agree, she discusses options for licensing and sharing their materials.

Once faculty and researchers select an open license, Springfield advises them on various OER publication options. Springfield explains, “MedEdPORTAL is a ‘carrot’ for faculty because it is peer-reviewed and therefore counts as a publication.” To assist faculty with their submissions, Springfield prints out the MedEdPORTAL requirements and helps faculty complete the fields (outlining the goals for the module, describing the educational content, etc.). The faculty ultimately do the online submission themselves (a third party cannot do it for them). The MedEdPORTAL peer review process takes a month or two, which is faster than many other repositories.

In addition to completing the MedEdPORTAL submission, Springfield encourages faculty to share their work in other OER repositories, including Open.Michigan.  Examples of School of Dentistry resources that were published in MedEdPORTAL, and are now available on Open.Michigan, include HEALth—Health Education through Active Learning and Hanau Articulator Training.

Open.Michigan has other strong allies in the School of Dentistry, with the Dean, Peter Polverini, and the Director of Dental Informatics, Lynn Johnson, also serving as OER advocates. Johnson explains, “I feel that the most important thing faculty can do is to discover and share knowledge. OER removes the barriers of knowledge sharing and in so doing furthers the ability of people around the world to improve society through discovery and sharing of further knowledge. In short OER can accelerate societal transformation.”

Springfield concludes, “Teaching is an important part of our faculty members’ review process. So publishing about the scholarship of teaching counts as a publication toward promotion.” Nice to know that the School of Dentistry values these faculty publications and assesses their merit along with research and clinical publications. Even nicer when these resources can be openly shared with others.

Exploring the Kenya Open Data Portal

To date our international partnerships such as the African Health OER Network have focused mainly on openly licensed teaching materials. In general, Open.Michigan strives to partner with and in some cases build upon other open health initiatives. These could include openly licensed academic journals, open source software (such as for content development, electronic medical records), open standards for equipment or software, or open data (from surveys or evaluations, auto-generated from software platforms).

In July 2011, Kenya made headlines as the first African country to release national government datasets without any restrictions on use or access. The fanfare around the launch has already inspired Open Gov Tanzania and now South Africa, Ghana, and Liberia are also making country commitments for the Open Government Partnership.

So what’s all the excitement about? With the launch of its open data portal, the Kenyan government shared over 160 government data sets (now up to 390 as of November 2011) from recent census data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics as well as government expenditures. The governing agency the Kenya ICT Board explains the motivation for the portal, “Public information from all countries and international institutions is part of the common heritage of humanity. Maximizing access to this information promotes human knowledge, welfare and progress.” If you’re interested in learning more about the political and policy process that lead to the Kenya Open Data portal, refer to the Open Development Technology Alliance at the World Bank 45 page case study released last month, which explores the driving factors, objectives, and evolution of the initiative.

When my Open.Michigan colleagues and I speak about “open”, we look not only at the technical issues of access and licensing, but we’re also interested in social dimensions of open such as transparency, participatory, and collaborative processes. I am glad that the Kenya Open Data portal not only shares data (transparency), but also includes a option for anyone to suggest a topic for a new dataset (participatory) as well as rate or comment on those suggestions, share back visualizations or other end uses of the data, join the developer community, or add to the collection of community apps (collaborative).

So what kind of data is in this portal, and what can you do with it? The dataset categories are diverse and represent education, health sector, finance, agriculture, migration, and energy, among others. Within health, there are 16 datasets to date, which focus mainly on macro-level characteristics of access to healthcare (facilities) and personal health (e.g. illness, immunization), most of which is aggregated geographically by district or county. Let’s look at one of their most popular sets, the Respiratory Illnesses vs Use of Fuel Wood, as an example. There are a couple views of the data that you can navigate online. You can export the data as CSV, XLS, or other static formats or choose to embed it in another webpage. Additionally, there’s a discussion thread where you can leave comments or rate existing comments (though that feature seems to have been rarely used to date). You can also generate your own visualizations from a variety of chart and map options, as well as save your view for others to see. Here’s a couple simple visualizations:

(There’s a much more visually striking chart for a different data set, the 2010-11 national government budget, which shows just how much is spent on public debt and education in relation to other expenses.)

There’s much to praise about the Kenya Open Data portal, but there was some information that I found lacking:

  • Anyone can suggest a topic for a dataset, but at the moment it doesn’t seem like there’s a mapping of the suggestions to the addition of new data sets yet. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell.
  • The data is not in raw form. For example, in the dataset above, I can view the percentage of people in the country who are principally using firewood, as well as the percent who report respiratory illness. What was the sample size and population for each county?
  • How was the data collected? In the fuel wood example above, was it face-to-face household surveys? Was respiratory illness self-reported or was it determined by a health professional? In the “about” section for this particular data set, there’s a link back to the dataset provider – Kenya National Bureau of Statistics – but only to their main page. After doing a few cursory searches, I couldn’t find the same data on their website, just similar data from an older survey summed in a long report.

All in all, I applaud the Kenya ICT board and other involved government agencies for sharing their data and for inspiring other countries to follow suit.  Open data repositories such as the Kenya Open Data Portal, the World Bank Data Portal, or Google Public Data Explorer can be valuable for class assignments or as part of a literature review for academic research. As a policy wonk wannabe and graph junkie, I’m glad to have more fun dynamic tools and stats at hand.

2011 in Review

Did you get our 2011 in Review newsletter? If you didn’t, here’s a brief recap of the stats. We’ve also got some great things lined up for 2012! Check out our new events page (with two upcoming events!) or our calendar to stay up to date. We also have a mailing list so get in touch if you want to subscribe.

2011 in Review

Happy New Year from the Open.Michigan team! As we begin the winter 2012 term, the Open.Michigan team would like to share some of our highlights from 2011 and let you know what we’ve got planned for the coming months. As always, we grow with your support. Thank you all for your contributions and commitment to fostering a culture of sharing at the University of Michigan!

 Some Highlights

  • Open.Michigan received the ACE award for Technical Innovation from the OpenCourseWare Consortium for the launch of OERbit, our Drupal-based open courseware platform.
  • Dr. Paul Conway (School of Information) became the first faculty member to publish all his courses as OER on Open.Michigan.
  • Pieter Kleymeer and Emily Puckett Rodgers presented our badging project at OpenEd 2011 in October.
  • David Malicke was hired full time to be Open.Michigan’s operations and publications specialist. Dave joined the Open.Michigan team first as a dScribe, then as an intern, working his way into our hearts and becoming indispensable.
  • We hosted several successful events in 2011, one of which was a “Learn Arduino!” workshop, facilitated by Nathan Oostendorp of Ingenuitas and Alexander Honkala of All Hands Active.

Some Projects

  • Open.Michigan is beginning to pilot a badging system, focusing on acknowledging the growing community of sharing at the University of Michigan. Students, faculty and staff can earn badges for coming to Open.Michigan hosted events, publishing content on Open.Michigan, or advocating for the use of open licenses or sharing.
  • Open.Michigan is involved in the MELO 3D project, an LSA ITC grant funded project, in partnership with the U-M chapter of MERLOT. MELO 3D will help faculty create openly licensed, interactive learning modules to support student success in U-M gateway courses.
  • Open.Michigan and the African Health OER Network have added several resources to the Espresso Book Machine local catalog and these items will soon be available in a print-friendly format for local on-demand printing.

Stats on Our Collection

This summer we started using an analytics dashboard to measure content use and activities across our many platforms, including Google, YouTube, Facebook, and SlideShare. With this status board, we’re able to track and measure our impact in the community across time, giving us a better sense of when to publish, what is popular, and our overall trends.


  • 185 courses and resources published
  • 1,650 individual materials
  • 13 participating U-M schools and colleges
  • 360 contributors

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Open Content: It’s Not Just for Teaching and Learning

As you know from our blog and website, we like to expound on the many wonderful uses of open content for teaching, learning, and personal enrichment. But, did you know that openly-licensed content is a terrific resource for marketing and communications types as well?

Here’s a scenario any marketing person can relate to (hint: I’m talking about me). Your organization is about to launch a new website. You’ve got about 25 pages that require some kind of visual. You’ll need images that represent abstract concepts (“cyberinfrastructure” anyone?). But, you don’t have the budget to hire a photographer or graphic designer. So, where can you find images you can legally use, modify, and redistribute on your website?

Open Content to the Rescue!

Many photographers, illustrators, and other content creators add open licenses to their work. By using open licenses, these content creators retain the copyright for their work—but give permission to others to use it under the conditions they specify—as long as others using their work attribute it to the original source. Content creators are openly licensing their work on Flickr, Google Images, WikiMedia, and the many other repositories that host and support open content, including images, videos, and music.

“Flickr,” you gasp, “That’s no place for a marketing professional! There’s so much junk there!”  True there can be a lot of clutter on some of these sites. But if you know how to look, and think a bit creatively about how to use what is available, there’s a lot to be found. And, luckily, sites such as Flickr and Google Images allow you to restrict your search to openly licensed content (use the “advanced search” feature to find content that suits your need and is licensed for you to reuse). So, when you find an image you like, you’ll know that you can legally reuse it according to the terms outlined by the license.

For even easier searching for content you can reuse, you can start with The Commons (a photography archive featuring public domain content) or Creative Commons (a collection featuring content that uses Creative Commons licenses). In addition to images, there are collections of openly-licensed video, audio, and much more. Here’s a link to a collection of open content repositories we share on Open.Michigan.

Here are some examples of images I’ve found that have been helpful to me.

And, notice that each of these examples credits the creator, provides the URL back to the original image, and indicates the license (so others can find out to what extent the creator allows reuse). There are examples of how to do proper citations and attributions on the Open.Michigan website.

I also use openly-licensed images throughout our printed materials. By licensing our own graphics and marketing materials we welcome others to reuse them—promoting Open.Michigan and giving us visibility by doing so!

As marketing and communications professionals, think about what you might be able to share. You never know when your vacation or conference photos could be useful to someone else’s website, presentation, or print materials. And, as you learned today, you could be helping your fellow marketeers and promoting your organization at the same time.