Musings on the developing OER infrastructure
March 23, 2011 5 Comments
I had an interesting conversation last week with two colleagues from the Faculty of Business and Law, both of whom are intimately involved with the delivery of Technology Enhanced learning. In a nutshell they were concerned that neither our institutional nor the national infrastructure currently comes close to meeting their requirements in terms of (subject specific) OER, especially in view of strategic drivers at Leeds Met around the use of OER in curriculum development.
One of the issues that arose and that has certainly been mentioned elsewhere, was that they would want additional metadata, about module and level for example. I emphasised that Unicycle – indeed all of the first phase of ukoer – were pilot projects and, as discussed on this blog during the project, a lightweight Application Profile in line with CETIS guidelines for the ukoer programme was used to ensure interoperability with Jorum. From an institutional or faculty perspective, I don’t think it would be technically difficult to, say, have a separate collection for FBL with any additional metadata that could be presented through a faculty specific portal; the resources could go in two collections so they would also sit in the main OER collection with a cut-down application profile from where they would be harvested by Jorum / Xpert etc. Workflows notwithstanding…I’ll get to that…
At risk of stating the bleeding obvious, I’m becoming increasingly determined that local, institutional OER infrastructures need to develop much more closely with the national infrastructure which needs to be able to manage whatever metadata we throw at it. My ideal scenario is pretty straightforward really, at least in principle, if not practice:
- We can manage OER in our repository with whatever metadata our users require; this would include everything currently in the Application Profile but may also include, for example, module/level or additional subject specific taxonomies
- The national service will harvest (all) metadata from our repository by OAI-PMH and ensure that it is *all* searchable from an open API allowing the development of bespoke / subject specific web-sites
- This approach will have the benefit of digital assets being preserved in one location (our own institutional repository) while providing several points of access (our repository interface, Jorum interface/widget, Xpert, multiple APIs)
- Our institutional repository and bespoke web-sites (using either our own API or that of the national service) will “piggyback” on Jorum’s Google pagerank thereby improving discoverability
I am aware that this particular scenario is perhaps oriented around my own requirements, nevertheless, it is based on well established repository technology and would be extensible to other institutional (OER) repositories.
Exposing OER content from @LeedsMetRepo to be reliably harvested by Jorum or Xpert is only part of the picture, however. My workflows, to be frank, are somewhat esoteric, mediated by me and one or two colleagues, not scalable and unlikely to pass the repository-manager-hit-by-a-bus test. There are several tools that I am interested in exploring in this context outlined below:
MEDEV open educational resources good practice risk assessment toolkit (development version)
This is a hybrid of several tools that began life as part of the OOER project under phase 1 of ukoer and allows you to upload a resource, add metadata via a web-form, apply an appropriate licence, run your resource through the MEDEV open educational resources risk assessment toolkit (beta) and (this is the good though yet to be implemented bit) syndicate the metadata (only?) to several locations including Jorum / Xpert (and a local repository?)
Sign up to have a go and help with testing at www.medev.ac.uk/oer/signup
SWORD / EasyDeposit
I must confess I have a minor obsession with SWORD and there is no doubt that it offers enormous potential for simplifying repository workflow. As part of the development work on ACErep and with a little help from its developer @stuartlewis, we have now tested EasyDeposit – http://easydeposit.swordapp.org/ – and successfully posted a METS package to the Jorum development server. We should also be able to configure the client to deposit to @LeedsMetRepo (though this will require us to write an IMS content packager for EasyDeposit – see here for more info)
Of course, I’m inclined to think that the best solution for us is to have the digital asset in @LeedsMetRepo with just a metadata record in Jorum…as outlined above, harvest may be the way to go but may it also be worth exploring a SWORD client that simultaneously pushes the full content package into @LeedsMetRepo and metadata only into Jorum?
Another issue, I think, is the difficulty folk have actually creating high-quality interactive OERs and the need for an institutionally-supported easy-to-use authoring tool which is where Xerte – http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xerte/ - might come in – “a server-based suite of tools for content authors. Elearning materials can be authored quickly and easily using browser-based tools, with no programming required. Xerte Online Toolkits is aimed at content authors, who will assemble content using simple wizards. Content authors can easily collaborate on projects. Xerte Online Toolkits can be extended by developers using Xerte.”
I’ve already approached our Info Technology service to enquire about having Xerte installed at Leeds Met and I hope to have a test implementation at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Would more sophisticated VLE integration help OER really take off? We currently have a “PowerLink” in BlackBoard which just comprises a simple search box for keyword or simple-string searching i.e. it’s not terribly useful unless you already know what it there. As well as much more sophisticated search of local and national repositories it would be great to be able to deposit back into a repository from a VLE as explored by the MrCute for Moodle projects (1 and 2) - http://www.learningobjectivity.com/mrcute/. I don’t know of any comparable work with BlackBoard…or whether the MrCute code could be implemented in that (commercial) environment.
The developmental overheads for all of these tools are considerable – there are no quick fixes I’m afraid. I was quite interested in some discussion at the JISC conference last week – session recording here – that there is evidence that open release acts to improve the quality of institutional teaching resources and ultimately what we should be aiming for is to promote institutional release via our repository and associated tools alongside discovery using aggregations like Jorum/Xpert