It’s Good To Share: Creating open interactive content with Xerte

This post is the fourth in a series of blog posts for Open Education Week.

By Alison Christie, Learning Technologist, University of Edinburgh Business School

Since discovering Xerte Online Toolkits (XOT), or simply Xerte, on the JISC TechDis website back in 2011, I have championed this Open Source content creation tool because it doesn’t require a high level of technical ability to create engaging and interactive content for different pedagogical approaches. This makes content creation open to everyone, not just developers.

Xerte is no stranger to the OER community, having featured at several OER conferences over the years (OER11, OER12, OER13, OER15, OER16).  This short post will show you how easy it is to share content created in Xerte for a wider audience.

What is Xerte Online Toolkits?

Originally developed by the University of Nottingham ten years ago, Xerte provides content creators with the ability to create bite sized, multimedia rich learning objects for teaching, learning and assessment. Xerte is template driven (see Fig.1), meaning, users select a page template from a list of categories.

Fig. 1 Xerte Online Toolkit Editor

Each page template has default fields to fill in with an Optional Properties panel to extend the functionality further (see Fig. 2) .

Fig. 2 Optional Properties

The two examples below illustrate the Xerte Online Toolkit template (Fig.3 ) and Bootstrap templates (Fig.4) that users can build:

Fig. 3 Example of a Xerte Online Toolkits template

Fig. 4 Example of a Xerte Bootstrap template

University of Edinburgh Xerte Project

This isn’t the first time UoE have used Xerte, the Mantra Research Data Management Training course consists of several learning units designed using an earlier version of Xerte, but it’s the first time where the focus has been on encouraging staff and students to create interactive content.

The Xerte project at the University of Edinburgh aims to explore the functionality of Xerte for teaching, learning and assessment. Currently the project is led by the College of Health & Social Sciences with the following objectives:

  1. Working Xerte server
    • To date we have achieved a working production and test server in line with other University systems.
  2. Integration with Learn
    • We can easily integrate Xerte into our main institutional Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Blackboard Learn using a url, embed code or one of the export options available from the project properties export tab.
  3. Creation of Xerte learning objects for different pedagogical uses
    • Learning objects have been created for dissemination of good practice, flipped classroom and problem based learning. More learning objects continue to be created by the project participants.
  4. Embed the use of Xerte into courses for formative or summative assessment
    • The Law School, Business School and Usher Institute have embedded Xerte learning objects into on campus and fully online courses.

How to share Xerte learning objects

Fig. 5 Project Properties

Once you have created content in Xerte, there are several options available to you depending who your audience are. Highlight your content and click on Project Properties to access the different options for sharing (Fig.5).

If you want to give another Xerte user a copy of your learning object to allow them to re-use or re-purpose the design or content, use the Give this project option within Project Properties (Fig. 6). The copied learning object will appear in the other user’s Xerte workspace area.

Fig. 6 Give this project tab

To collaborate with other Xerte users within the UoE network, select the Shared setting option within Project Properties (Fig. 7). If a user has logged onto the Xerte service their name will appear when you begin typing in the search box. Once you add the user you want to share with, you can then select their access level: co-author, editor or read only.

Fig. 7 Shared Setting tab

Making your learning object an Open Educational Resource, available to other University of Edinburgh staff and student can be done from the Open Content tab within Project Properties (Fig. 8). A Creative Commons license and tagging can be applied to your learning object from this tab.

Fig. 8 Open Content tab

Sharing your Xerte learning objects out with the UoE network will require the use of one of the export options, available via the Export tab within Project Properties (Fig. 9).

Fig. 9 Export tab

There is enormous potential for Xerte at UoE as we already have a well-established OER community through Open.Ed. I hope that as more people begin to use Xerte to create interactive learning material, their resources can embody the principles of the UoE OER policy:

“The University encourages staff and students to use, create, and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, enhance the provision of learning opportunities for all, and improve teaching practices.”


UoE, 2016. OER Policy

Find out more

For University of Edinburgh staff and students, if you would like to know more about Xerte, please search for “Xerte” on the UoE Event booking site. Training will be provided by Alison Christie, Learning Technologist from the Business School.

Useful Resources

About the author

Alison Christie has been a Learning Technologist for the past eight years, with the last two years at the University of Edinburgh Business School. Prior to this, Alison spent fourteen years in the private sector providing software and hardware support and end user training. Considering this has been a completely different career path to the one Alison intended to pursue (museum sector), things have worked out well. Unsurprisingly, Alison is a big fan of all things creative. You can find Alison on LinkedIn and Twitter.