Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI)

The Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) was a collaborative, multi-institutional project that aimed to create an open architecture for educational software applications. Launched in 2001 and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, OKI brought together researchers, educators, and technologists from several leading universities to develop a set of open-source, modular software tools and frameworks that could be easily integrated into various educational systems and applications.

Purpose and Role: The primary purpose of the Open Knowledge Initiative was to address the challenges of integrating disparate educational software applications and creating interoperable, flexible solutions that could be easily adapted to different educational contexts. The project sought to develop a set of open standards, software components, and development tools that would enable institutions to create, customize, and share educational applications more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Components: Key components of the Open Knowledge Initiative included:

  1. Open Service Interface Definitions (OSIDs): These were a set of open, modular interfaces that defined how different software components should interact with each other in an educational context, facilitating interoperability and flexibility.
  2. Open-source software components: OKI developed a range of open-source software components that implemented the OSID interfaces, enabling developers to build and customize educational applications more easily.
  3. Development tools and resources: OKI provided various development tools, documentation, and support resources to help institutions and developers create and deploy educational applications based on the OKI architecture.

Importance: The Open Knowledge Initiative was important because it sought to address the challenges of integrating and customizing educational software applications, which often required significant time, effort, and resources. By developing a set of open standards and modular components, OKI aimed to make it easier for institutions to create, customize, and share educational applications, ultimately enhancing the quality and accessibility of educational resources.


  1. Interoperability: OKI's open standards and interfaces facilitated interoperability between different educational software applications, making it easier for institutions to integrate and customize their systems.
  2. Flexibility: The modular architecture promoted by OKI allowed institutions to adapt and customize educational applications to meet their specific needs and requirements.
  3. Collaboration and knowledge sharing: OKI's open-source approach encouraged collaboration and knowledge sharing among institutions, promoting the development of more effective and innovative educational solutions.

Pros and Cons: Pros:

  1. Promoted interoperability and flexibility in educational software applications
  2. Facilitated collaboration and knowledge sharing among institutions
  3. Reduced development and customization costs for educational institutions


  1. The project's impact was limited by the adoption and implementation of its standards and components
  2. Managing and maintaining open-source components and resources required effort and resources from participating institutions

Examples to illustrate key concepts:

  1. MIT's OpenCourseWare project, which used OKI's architecture and components to build a platform for sharing educational materials and resources online.
  2. The Sakai project, an open-source learning management system, adopted some of the OKI principles and components to create a flexible, modular platform for educational institutions.

Although the Open Knowledge Initiative is no longer active, its principles and ideas have influenced other educational technology projects, contributing to the development of more open, flexible, and interoperable educational software solutions.

See Also