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Best Practices

About Reusability, Interoperability and Clean Content

Why Consider Reusability and Interoperability?

SOL*R is a repository of shareable online learning resources. For a learning resource to be truly shareable it needs to be designed from the ground up for reusability, and developed using standards-compliant tools that package the resource in an interoperable format.

Reusability and interoperability are related, but deal with different aspects of learning resource development. Reusability addresses the instructional design of learning resources. Interoperability is more of a technical matter. Both should be addressed for online learning resources to provide optimum value to post-secondary institutions, whether the resources are shared openly (as in SOL*R) or not.


A learning resource is considered reusable if it can be used by multiple users on multiple occasions in different educational settings. To accomplish this, developers of online learning resources need to take into consideration the content, context, pedagogy, structure, and presentation of a learning resource. Each of these items can be thought of as a layer that should be separate from the others to enable a learning resource to be used in as many settings as possible. For example, contextual information about a course (such as course title or instructor) should be kept separate from the content in a course module. This improves reusability by allowing the module to be used in other courses.

For recommendations on websites, articles, and other reference materials that address reusability in online learning, see in the General Best Practices for Creating Learning Resources section in the Interoperability and Reusability Best Practices wiki .


Interoperability refers to the ability to plug and play a learning resource in as many different computing and learning delivery environments as possible. The increased use of digital technologies in education has brought about the development of numerous tools for creating learning resources, as well as systems for managing and delivering these resources. Since these technologies tend to be developed independent of each other, it is often difficult to support the interchange of content between them. Therefore, standards-compliant tools and portable formats should be used to enable interoperability of learning resources.

The Interoperability and Reusability Best Practices wiki provides general best practices for creating interoperable learning resources, as well as recommendations specific to the learning delivery environments in use within British Columbia.

How Does Clean Content Fit In?

Content that is free of contextual clutter and system-imposed constraints is considered clean. If best practices for reusability and interoperability are followed during the creation of online learning resources, the result is clean content.

Online learning resources containing clean content can be effectively shared and reused among different departments and faculties within an institution, or among different institutions. A further benefit of clean content is that learning resources can continue to be used, with minimal disruption, if an institution migrates to a different version of its learning delivery system or switches to another system.

By investing in reusability and interoperability up front, educational institutions can maximize their return on investment in online learning resource development and, in the process, facilitate sharing with the widest possible audience.