I have been teaching for 10 years. During this time I have also been developing and contributing to open source software. The collaborative nature of open source projects and scientific research has contrasted strongly with my experience of teaching. People publish their research results in journals for peer review and they post their source on GitHub and other online repositories for review and collaboration, but there seems to be a dearth of collaboration on the development of good teaching materials and assessment. Am I overlooking a community somewhere where there is good peer review of teaching materials with a focus on current pedagogy?

I would like to be able to upload the pictures, notes and so on that I have developed to explain a particular concept and have other people critique it and make it better. Further, I would like to be able to contribute a question which assesses a particular skill and have it reviewed by peers and improved. This way we could build a repository of high quality materials and spread the load of development of new questions.

My specific field is chemical engineering process dynamics and control, but I would be interested in knowing if there is such a community somewhere in any tertiary education field.

  • Try Software Carpentry (software-carpentry.org) for computing. I've also heard about Course Source (coursesource.org) for biology, but don't know any more about it.
    – Ian
    Nov 24, 2015 at 8:13
  • I think the computing part is well covered. I'm specifically interested in resources which don't look like code, like an excellent picture or slide to explain some concept, or a good exam question or concept test. Nov 24, 2015 at 8:19
  • 1
    Good startup/nonprofit idea!
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 24, 2015 at 8:45
  • Course Source appears to be exactly the kind of thing I've been looking for. Unfortunately it appears as though there aren't similar things for my field of study. Nov 24, 2015 at 9:49
  • I agree with @Ian -- Software Carpentry has done a lot to promote software development in academia. I'm not familiar with Course Source...
    – Inon
    Nov 24, 2015 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


It's a wonderful idea.

In the spirit of start somewhere, how about:

  • Publish these teaching materials (pictures, notes and so on that you have developed to explain a particular concept) on a website of your own, and open it up to moderated comments. Invite others to contribute guest posts. You might want to include something like this: "You are free to use these materials in your own teaching, as long as you acknowledge the source."

  • Borrow liberally from this and create one or more Wikipedia articles.

  • Consider asking your university to videotape your lectures.

  • Write up a more scholarly version for publication in a journal.

  • My initial class notes, developed as IPython notebooks are up on GitHub. I suspect that one would need a bit of a community to start getting contributions, though. I also think that you'd need more than just comments. I plan to apply for a grant to build something for the South African scene and this was part of my preliminary research to ensure that I'm not reinventing the wheel. Nov 25, 2015 at 14:54
  • Sounds very exciting. Nov 25, 2015 at 19:34
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    Regarding copyright: I would strongly recommend choosing a Creative Commons license, rather than developing your own, in order to ensure compatibility with other licensing.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 27, 2015 at 13:22
  • @jakebeal - Sounds like useful advice. Could you flesh this out? If you need more space, perhaps you could come up with a Question, and then provide an Answer. Thanks. Nov 27, 2015 at 13:26
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    @aparente001 There are basically three independent choices to make: 1) allow modification? 2) allow commercial use? 3) require people using the work to share using the same license? For collaborative development, you clearly want to allow modification. The other two could go either way, depending on the philosophies of the site. Personally, I would go with CC-BY to be the least restrictive, but others might choose differently (e.g., this site enforces ShareAlike).
    – jakebeal
    Nov 27, 2015 at 14:00

There are several possibilities to do so. However, there seems to be a lack of a single resource being really strongly used. I just came to this question because I was looking for a single service similar to the arXiv, but for teaching materials.


Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning. We invite teachers, students, and researchers to join us in creating open educational resources and collaborative learning communities.

Source: en.wikiversity.org



Just like Wikiversity and Wikipedia, this is a subproject of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Wikibooks is a Wikimedia project for collaboratively writing open-content textbooks that anyone, including you, can edit right now by clicking on the edit link that appears near the top of each Wikibooks page. Wikibooks has two sub-projects; Wikijunior which is aimed at children and the Cookbook which is our collection of recipes and culinary topics. Contributors maintain the property rights to their contributions, while the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License and the GNU Free Documentation License makes sure that the submitted version and its derivative works will always remain freely distributable and reproducible.



You can put your material on GitHub. I did so with a book I wrote about an introduction in Geometry and Topology (see MartinThoma/LaTeX-examples/tree/master/documents/GeoTopo). All source files as well as the compiled PDF are there for download. You can use the "Issues" to give others the possibility to give you feedback / note what you want to change. Forks make it possible that others fix typos directly by themselfes, just making a pull request instead of writing an e-mail.


People seem to upload lecture notes to the arXiv, too:


  • arXiv has a good reputation in mathematics and computer science (I guess in physics, too). However, it seems not to be usable for non-physics related chemistry. However, there might be plans to extend it for chemistry (see Tweet). I would definitely use it for publishing lecture notes. arXiv guarantees that the content will be available, makes it citable and gives a relatively central point to look for new content in the field
  • GitHub is great for collaboration with arbitrary structures / content. However, your collaborators need to know how to use git and the lack of structure might also be a disadvantage.
  • Wikiversity and Wikibooks ... well. They exist for quite a while and some content seems to be pretty good, but I've never used it myself. To me, it seems like a negative compromise between a website, a Wiki-system and slides. I just think it doesn't look good. On the positive side, one has to say that using it is really easy and the materials you create are available for everybody. Especially for images (see my images for mathematics, for example) it is very nice if people add their content on Wikipedia Commons.

What I would like

A web service where people could create accounts, upload arbitrary stuff (especially PDFs, probably also LaTeX which gets automatically compiled, images).

  • There should be a possibility to describe the content, tag it.
  • With the description and the tags, it should be possible to search for it.
  • People should be able to make comments
  • There should be a StackExchange like privilege / reward system to prevent bad content / comments.
  • People should have the possibility to make them identifiable (e.g. post a link to their profile on their university website which gets automatically checked or receiving a code to an .edu e-mail address).

I would like to discuss ideas about such a web service. As this seems to be the wrong place for such a discussion, I've created a GitHub repository and an Issue: What do we want? #1

  • I really like these ideas and will keep you posted on the progress of our project as well. Dec 10, 2015 at 17:30

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