Discovering ukoer at Leeds Metropolitan

Recently I blogged over at http://leedsmetlibrary.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/discovering-the-leeds-metropolitan-university-repository/ about integrating the repository with the EBSCO Discovery Service and I just wanted to expand a little, specifically in the context of OER and the (perpetually) developing infrastructure that I hope will ultimately result in OER from across the sector being discoverable from EDS…

…a long term objective is also to ensure that the repository is well embedded in the institutional infrastructure and that relevant resources are easily discoverable, both within and without, by our own students and staff as well as scholars in the wider world, whatever discovery tools they may use and whatever their level of information literacy.

The EBSCO Discovery Service provides a mechanism, a one-stop-shop or library search engine, to explore a wide range of Library resources including the Library catalogue and electronic databases and we have been able to liaise with EBSCO to add the repository as a searchable target.

Currently the repository includes just ukoer released by staff at Leeds Metropolitan; the most recent version of intraLibrary, however, developed as part of the PORSCHE project, and due by the end of the month, includes the facility to harvest metadata from other OER repositories, particularly Jorum, so that we can search from our local search interface and from EDS:Multiple routes to discovery including the “library search engine” EBSCO Discovery Service

Plugged-in for OER

As mentioned in this recent post I’ve been experimenting with WordPress for presenting OER and have been testing a pre-release version of a WordPress plug-in, developed by the Triton project at the University of Oxford to facilitate a dynamic collection of OER in a WordPress blog.

Developer @patlockley describes the overall functionality of the plug-in here and also covers some of the limitations posed by the broader OER infrastructure here emphasising that “no standard API exists across repositories so as to facilitate a single approach to aggregation for an aggregation creator” - as well as a seperate post here considering limitations of the WordPress platform itself used in this context and associated technical considerations.

In summary the plug-in searches Xpert, Merlot and OER Commons (via their API) as well as Wikipedia, Wikibooks and Wikiversity for openly licensed material; Mendeley for journals and with options to add RSS feeds for blogs and podcasts.

Here I’ll briefly describe my experiences of using the plug-in – fairly candid in the hope that it will be useful feedback to Pat and Triton albeit with the initial caveat that any issues I’ve encountered are just as likely to be associated with my limited experience of WordPress and my shambrarian status (I simply haven’t had time to hone the search terms as carefully as I would like) as with the plug-in itself (which of course is pre-release.)

Once installed, famously straightforward in WordPress even prior to release (via FTP), you get a new “Dynamic Collection” tab in the dashboard where I can add a new collection…pretty much at random, I chose an undergraduate course from Leeds Met – Civil Engineering - around which to build my dynamic collection – it’s then just a matter of adding title and search terms, updating the feeds from the three source repositories and publishing:

This admittedly unsophisticated search returned 9 results:

Obviously the plug-in is only as effective as the keyword data / api / source repository(ies) that it is using and the fifth link here actually points at an entirely different resource (in Jorum) with no relevance to Civil Engineering, presumably due to an error at some point along it’s, er, conjugation - as the plug-in does not search Jorum directly this must have come via Xpert which does harvest Jorum. While experimenting with the plug-in I’ve also had instances where links have returned 404s or been otherwise broken so one requirement I think would be the option to remove links from the collection that are incorrect, broken…or simply less relevant; to allow the WordPress administrator fuller control of the collection.

In order to add a blog or podcast under the Settings tab, the plug-in has installed several new tabs (I don’t think the Feed management / Collection statistics / Collection tabs are yet fully functional in the version I am testing):

Under the Dynamic Collection Options there are fields to add rss feeds from blogs or podcasts:

I’ve experienced a few teething troubles adding blogs not least because I don’t know much about Civil Engineering! As I understand, it should search blog title and description for the dynamic collection keywords…I added a feed from http://www.civilengineering.co.uk/feed/ which returned this single (most recent) post - http://www.civilengineering.co.uk/2010/09/civil-engineering-issues/ (the blog, in fact, only appears to comprise 2 posts so presumably would update should any new posts be added?)

I’m very optimistic about the potential of this approach to allow WordPressing course leaders, perhaps with support from learning technologists, to quickly and easily assemble a dynamic collection of OER for their students and look forward to the formal release of the finished product* – in the meantime, in true Blue Peter stylee, here are a number of collections that Pat made earlier to give a sense of what should be possible:

http://politicsinspires.org/dynamic_collection/political-theory/

http://politicsinspires.org/dynamic_collection/comparative-government/

http://politicsinspires.org/dynamic_collection/international-relations/

http://politicsinspires.org/dynamic_collection/european-politics-and-society/

* The only caveat from my perspective is that my own institution does not formally support the use of WordPress, nevertheless, there is certainly a requirement, explicitly identified by senior stakeholders,  to develop tools to cross-search Open Educational Resources and, in this context, I think we can learn a lot from the Triton project.

N.B. Such a mechanism, however implemented via the proliferation of OER repositories and their APIs, also put me in mind of this post from Suzanne Hardy (@glittrgirl) of MEDEV and the PORSCHE project - Branding, repositories, OER and awareness raising: some thoughts on embedding OERs

See also: Delores OER – WordPress for hosting and describing learning resources (University of Bath and Heriot-Watt)

Testing the VLE PowerLink

To be honest, PowerLink is probably overstating it a bit but it is a link that allows us to search intraLibrary from the VLE and it does work. Sort of. But it’s not very powerful.

The main issue is the very basic nature of the search facility – just a simple search box with no way to perform a more advanced search:

PowerLink

So it’s not a great deal of use unless you know what you’re looking for.

The search functionality does support Boolean operators; the term ukoer, for example, will return the 13 items that I currently have identified with that tag in the keyword field:

PowerLink1

Whereas ukoer AND decision will return the single record “Decision Making” (ukoer OR decision of course, will still return all 13 records) – there is no automatic Boolean however and ukoer decision will return no results at all rather than, say, doing an OR search by default.

Search is also a little crude in that it will find adjacent words in the metadata but only if they are entered in quotation marks. So decision making without quotes will not return any results though “decision making” does return the expected result:

PowerLink2

An additional issue is that, as we are using intralibrary to manage research material as well as learning and teaching material, at the very least we will want to differentiate between these two categories. It is possible to configure the PowerLink to filter by collection and we are currently filtering on Open Educational Resources (and Learning Objects though that collection is not currently searchable externally until we have further developed Leeds Met Open search and configured that interface to differentiate between research & learning and teaching material). It will be useful, however, to also search for full text research papers that may not be available elsewhere but without an advanced search the only way to do this would be to switch off all filtering and allow the PowerLink to return everything….unless we can install two separate instances of the PowerLink in Blackboard and configure them to search different collections. This would be a quick and dirty solution and a bit clunky but, failing technical development of the PowerLink itself, might be the only option – of course, the two instances would need to be clearly named to identify the respective content they would return. We don’t even know if it’s possible yet though and my colleagues in the VLE team are looking in to it as we speak.

So not perhaps a full solution, not as sophisticated as MrCute for Moodle, for example, which, as well as more advanced search functionality also supports searching multiple repositories and depositing from the VLE back into a repository (it was supposed to include Jorum though was disabled last I heard and not sure what the status quo is with ongoing development to JorumOpen).  Limitations notwithstanding, I’ll certainly be testing with teaching staff as is, as something is better than nothing and experience has shown that I’d be ill advised to wait for the perfect solution!

If any of the Keele crowd should pass by these parts I’d be very interested to know if they have done any work refining/extending the functionality of the PowerLink or plan to do so – like us Keele are running intraLibrary 3.0 and Blackboard Vista. I’d also be keen to learn of anybody adapting MrCute for Blackboard.

Repositories for research and teaching/learning material: The debate continues at #rpmeet

reprog

Last week I attended the JISC Repository and Preservation end of programme meeting in Birmingham. I recall being very nervous at my first JISC event in November 2007 but feel much more at ease now and enjoyed the event immensely; the programme has certainly been successful in fostering a sense of community though it’s an unusual social experience to meet people face to face, often for the very first time, when one feels you already know them from reading their blog and following them on Twitter.

During one of the breakout sessions on the first day I made a bee-line for a discussion about repositories for learning and teaching materials – as opposed to OA research repositories. I use the word “opposed” advisedly as there is certainly some strong sentiment around the issue, particularly with respect to using a common software platform. As a representative of a project that is adapting a learning object repository to also serve as an effective Open Access research repository I’m finding it a little difficult to understand the vehemence of some of this opposition, though I would be the first to acknowledge a steep learning curve and recognise that we have required extensive development, not of intraLibrary itself perhaps, but of an appropriate web infrastructure surrounding it. And yes, we would certainly have been able to implement a functioning OA research repository more quickly using EPrints or DSpace however, from the outset, it was vital that our repository had the the capacity to fulfil its broader potential – in the words of Clifford Lynch “[A] mature and fully realised institutional repository will contain the intellectual works of faculty and students – both research and teaching materials – and also documentation of the activities of the institution itself in the form of records of events and performance and of the ongoing intellectual life of the institution.”  [Lynch, Clifford. A “Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital AgeARL Bimonthly Report 226 (2003).]

It’s also important to be pragmatic.  Historically, Leeds Metropolitan University is a polytechnic that gained chartered university status in 1992; its heritage is very much in teaching and learning rather than research with, arguably, a more vocational than academic flavour.  In recent years, the research profile has steadily increased, culminating in unprecedented success in the 2008 RAE and the university is naturally keen to capitalise on this success, enhance its research profile further whilst also continuing to emphasise its student focussed teaching and learning credentials. The implementation of an integrated repository to support both research outputs and learning objects reflects this dual focus.  Clifford Lynch’s article suggests that the concept of a central system to manage disparate resources in this way has been implicit within the sector for some years, however, the technology has tended to focus on Open Access to research, with the two most widely used software platforms being EPrints, developed at the University of Southampton in 2000, and DSpace, developed at MIT in 2002; early versions of both platforms were primarily designed to manage text based resources (though subsequent versions of EPrints and DSpace can manage a wide range of digital file formats.)  

NB.  In an extended discussion on this issue on JISC-REPOSITORIES (archive hereRepositoryMan Les Carr of EPrints refers to the fact that he still comes across the firmly held (and spurious) belief that because EPrints is used for Open Access it can’t be used for multimedia files or scientific data.

The session was chaired by Amber Thomas of JISC and I asked a somewhat blunt, perhaps naive, question about JISC’s perspectives on combined repositories of research and teaching materials.  Amber suggested that JISC have been deliberately neutral on the issue which is also perhaps emphasised by the diagramatic representation of the programme structure reproduced above.  

Some of the commentators last Wednesday were adamant that though it may well be possible to manage different types of resources with a single system it was far from desirable with one colleague making the pithy analogous observation that you can write letters in Excel but that doesn’t make it right.  Phil Barker of CETIS was also at the discussion and in a recent blog post on the “question of whether research outputs and learning materials should stored in the same repository” is “inclined to think the answer is no, the purpose of the repository is different, a learning material isn’t an output, sharing means something different for the two resource types.”  Phil goes on to say that ” If you think a repository is a database and a bit-store then you may come to a different conclusion, but I think a repository is a service offered to people and your choice of starting point in offering that service will affect how easy your journey is.”  (Full post here)

I’d certainly concede that our journey hasn’t been an easy one and I also agree that a repository is a service offered to people and with our repository start-up, and also Streamline and PERSoNA, that is certainly the approach we have tried to take; with intraLibrary and the SRU interface we now have an incipient infrastructure to manage both research material and learning objects; the discrete types of material can be managed entirely separately, however, there is also potential for the ongoing development of a holistic approach to the management of the full range of digital resources produced by a modern university and as we develop our infrastructure further I hope we can utilise appropriate web-technology around a central management system (intraLibrary) to achieve decentralised resource discovery – through appropriate interfaces, widgets and environments – the VLE for example.

JISc-meeting09-poster

Then of course there is the small matter of persuading academics to part with their resources, not to mention IPR, copyright and quality control issues…

Open Access to research is an evolving paradigm and represents a considerable shift in the established academic publishing process; Open Access to a broader range of educational resources still more so. Any paradigm shift is likely to take time to evolve and Open Access, to research and other materials, is no exception, especially given that academia, perhaps, tends to subscribe rather strongly to established tradition!

JISC’s current OER programme should go some way to addressing many of these issues but infrastructure is the foundation. The perfect system almost certainly doesn’t exist and it’s surely important to be pragmatic when implementing and developing appropriate system. Here’s to ongoing discussion, debate and development.

OER project: Unicycle

As mentioned in a previous post, colleagues at Leeds Met have recently been successful in the recent JISC call for the Open Educational Resources programme.  Simon Thomson, the project manager for Unicycle, has given me an overview of the project and how the repository will contribute to project deliverables.  In essence we need to make 360 credits worth of content locally and publically available – both via our own repository and JORUM Open.  This will equate to approximately 3600 hours of material and Simon already has some ideas of where this will come from – CETL workshops for example – Unicycle will explicitely repurpose / share existing material; it will not create new material.

Simon hopes to assemble an “editorial” team comprising  an academic representative and a learning technologist from each of the 6 Leeds Met faculties; Simon and I will also be members of this team that will convene every month to assess / quality check potential content.  My job will be to ensure material is in an suitable format for ingest and appropriately tagged with metadata; to get stuff IN, ensure that it is discoverable and can be got back OUT!   In the first instance I anticipate cataloguing resources against the JACS system and using the JORUM metadata template already in place; this would seem sensible in view of the fact that the same resources will also be stored in JORUM Open and it will certainly be desirable to liaise with that service throughout the project.

N.B.  Rather than dual deposit in this way, might JORUM explore harvesting open content from our repository / other repositories of Open Educational Resources?

Another crucial area, of course, is the licencing issue; both Simon and I anticipate using some flavour of Creative Commons and again this is an area that will benefit from liaison with JORUM – especially in view of their evolving 3 licence model.

On a more technical note I will also be very interested to see how JORUM will be facilitating open search functionality.  Currently there are a series of RSS subject feeds at http://www.jorum.ac.uk/support/rssfeeds.html#subjectfeeds but these still need authentication to access the resources; presumably they will need to implement some sort of portal based on OAI-PMH or SRU – might they also look at searching other repositories (like ours!) using OAI-PMH for example?

Lack of incentive for sharing is recognised as a problem in the context of reusable learning objects and another crucial element of the project will be to identify / implement reward and recognition policies though cultural change with respect to OERs will no doubt be a long term process both institutionally and within HE as a whole.

Having the craic in Belfast, a busman’s holiday

With project deadlines looming and two final reports due on JISC’s desk in a matter of weeks, some might consider a visit to our Regional University Network partner in the Emerald Isle to be, well, a bit late in the day. As a RUN partner with whom we enjoy close links, Belfast Met was identified as a potential evaluation environment early in the project. My only regret is that it has taken us until the 11th hour to finally get there – although we almost didn’t make it at all, grounded by a technical problem on a prop plane that had us stranded for 4 hours at Leeds Bradford airport.

Belfast Met is an FE college with an innovative culture of technology enhanced learning from which Leeds Met and, I suspect, UK HE as a whole, could learn a great deal.

I have been to Ireland once before (well twice but I’m not counting a lost stag weekend in Dublin) and can categorically say that céad míle fáilte is not just a marketing slogan dreamt up by the Gaelic tourist board along with shamrocks on Guinness and fluffy leprechaun headgear; the people really do make you feel welcome and display an openness that puts the English to shame. When the plane finally takes off I’m immediately engaged in conversation by Seamus who works for British Heritage – and, incidentally, studied Fine Art at Leeds Polytechnic – we have the craic until well inside the terminal building, covering, amongst other things, Cathedral building in the middle ages (and their contemporary restoration), authentic thatching materials and, finally, the geography of Northern Ireland as we come in to land over the famously green coast-line with Bangor away to the South. Seamus has even shown a genuine interest in repositories and has experience of distance learning in the context of traditional building practices.

Pat and Paul, who we have already met by video link, are waiting to greet us at George Best airport. I would be the first to admit that my knowledge of the Troubles is limited and I’m fascinated by Paul’s potted history as he drives us through the streets of Belfast pointing out the old military viewpoints atop residential high-rise flats where British soldiers watched for snipers. We arrive at the Dirty Duck and enjoy a steaming bowl of seafood chowder before heading to the college to meet Joe, the boss, who makes us feel even more welcome and is keen to show us round the old Belfast Institute, an extraordinary building that celebrated its centenary in 2006. Our hosts’ enthusiasm, for their city and their building (not to mention technology enhanced learning – more on that in a minute!) is contagious and we are given a guided tour including the clanking steam engine that still powers the central heating – no doubt a learning object in its own right for generations of engineers – though the information that the Institute is where the draftsmen were trained that worked on the Titanic probably isn’t its best advertisement! We are shown the stained glass windows in the main hall – each of them dedicated to a different field of learning with names and dates of intellectual luminaries and apposite quotes; daylight through tinted panes colours great names from Literature, Art, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences, the latter illustrated by a quote from Emerson that our hosts have evidently taken to heart: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

Then it’s down to business and Pat and Paul give us an overview of TEL support at Belfast Met. The VLE is Blackboard and the general message is that teachers in FE simply do not have the time to develop sophisticated digital learning objects – no surprise there of course, nor do lecturers in HE, but with up to 26 contact hours per week for an FE teacher and potentially less well motivated students than their HE counterparts this is an issue that is being tackled here in a particular way; similar to the minimum expectation policy for the use of X-stream at Leeds Met, there is a requirement for teachers to use the VLE – in practice, of course, some use it much more effectively than others for whom it is little more than a digital filing cabinet – once again, sounds familiar. Training, therefore, initially focuses on getting staff to really think about using interactive digital materials with a quiz designed to highlight different learning styles. Though not diagnostic in the way that the Honey & Mumford learning style questionnaire is designed to be, it promotes discussion about differences in individual learning styles – text and PowerPoint slides are  most effective for those with a more visual learning style, but what about auditory or tactile learners? Now follows a demonstration of some more sophisticated learning objects tailored to the audience, so for maths teachers, perhaps, a wild west game, whereby the player is asked to convert a number, say 27, to binary code by positioning a catapult to fire a stone at one of five bottles – hitting a bottle showing a 0 changes it to a 1 and vice versa. An embarrassingly slow 4 stone volley gets me to the right answer 11011. Next question. 18, um, 10010. Quicker this time, but slowed down by hitting two bottles at once. 24. 11000.

Play the game here (Note:  Copyright Belfast Metropolitan College)

OK, it’s hardly Halo 3 but it’s a hell of a lot more fun than ploughing through a textual resource dutifully filling in 1s and 0s!

Though we didn’t get to see Pat and Paul in action delivering their training to staff, they led us through each stage of their process to the point where, hopefully, their audience have become convinced of the benefit of more sophisticated digital learning objects and to appreciate that there are alternatives to static PowerPoint slides; though we also learned that, in the right hands, even PowerPoint can be used to create engaging interactive teaching resources in the form of quiz templates based on the TV shows Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and A Question of Sport. The templates look exactly like the real thing and are extremely easy to use, allowing staff to create an entertaining, interactive quiz on any subject in minutes.

(Note:  Copyright Belfast Metropolitan College – BMC have indicated that third parties may reuse these resources free of charge as long as appropriate acknowledgement is made.)

So far so good but, if he can tear himself away from firing stones at virtual bottles, the teacher might reasonably ask where he can find such resources; the stumbling block that Pat and Paul have clearly identified and gone some way to overcoming, is that, despite increasingly sophisticated tools and technology that facilitate digital creativity with unprecedented ease (relatively speaking), the simple fact is that most of us do not have the artistic or creative flair to produce learning resources to anything like the standard of these examples, much less the time to invest whatever modest skills we may possess into reinventing and refining the wheel. Their solution is several fold:

• Resource banks:

o FENC – http://www.fenc.org.uk/ – In order to use FENC, an FE college must pay a fairly substantial subscription fee but it contains all manner of learning objects that are rated bronze, silver and gold. As I understand it, FENC started life as a repository of paper based resources which were subsequently digitised – not terribly interactive, these are the bronze resources. Silver and gold, however, are professionally developed interactive resources using Flash, audio and video; when they have identified a suitable resource, the teacher can simply drop the URL into Blackboard.

o NLN – http://www.nln.ac.uk/ – Anyone can browse the site to find NLN Materials, but to view or download them – as well as many other functions – you will need to register and log-in. Registration is available to most practitioners of Post-16 education in the UK.  Apparently.  Though the only university that I have been able to find registered in Yorkshire is Huddersfield.

o GOAL – http://www.belfastmet.ac.uk/goal/ - GOAL (Generating Online Adult Learning) is an innovative Grundtvig Project, led by BMC; it is a broadly based European Partnership representing the formal, non-formal and informal education and training sectors.  It has developed numerous e-learning resources that are freely available to all.

These are all fantastic resource banks that I don’t think really have an equivalent in HE – though we are certainly moving in the right direction with Jorum.

• In house development and resource audit:

Later in the week we met Roisin, the artist and wizz kid behind the Flash based binary bottle game, the interactive PowerPoint templates and some of the GOAL materials (which actually comprise some of Roisin’s templates).  Roisin’s role is to work with teaching staff to help them produce high quality resources.  However, a request for support first goes through Pat and Paul who perform a resource audit of FENC, NLN, GOAL and the wider web in order to source an appropriate resource.  If they are unable to find anything to fulfil the particular requirement then Roisin is commissioned to produce a bespoke learning object.

We also met Robert, the Multimedia Services Manager and Paula, the Senior Video Production Officer who led us through the process of developing video and multimedia resources.  Staff are trained and encouraged to produce their own video podcasts using Flip and Robert and Paula are available to develop more sophisticated multimedia which can include broadcast quality video.  Paula is also working on interractive resources, for example putting html rollovers into web based video to create interractive video quizzes.  Once again resources go directly into a Blackboard course.

• Wimba Create (formerly Course Genie):

All staff are also trained in the use of Wimba Create which facilitates conversion of Microsoft Word documents into content for online courses.  From one Word document you can generate a set of webpages that includes navigation and interactive features that are easily uploaded to a course in Blackboard.

What No Metadata?

The purpose of our visit was to undertake  formal analysis for  Streamline and PERSoNA.  It soon became apparent, however, that metadata is not a priority at BMC and resources simply go directly into a course in the VLE.  My interpretation is that this is currently viable for a number of reasons:

• The process (workflow) that has been adopted is well supported by specialised staff.

• Unlike LeedsMet the VLE is focussed on courses rather than individual staff sites which makes it relatively easy to manage (a feature of FE as opposed to HE perhaps?)

• There are not (yet) enough resources to make it impractical.

Having said this, we did discuss the potential benefits of collecting resources in a centralised and searchable repository with appropriate metadata and will certainly be exploring the possibility of working closely with BMC in the future.

We spent a morning with senior library staff and Dawn demonstrated the automatic metadata generator; they were interested in its potential but we did not have as much time with them as we would have liked.  We would also have liked the opportunity to speak with front line library staff to get their perspectives but simply didn’t have time.  Nevertheless, I think Dawn has been able to develop some use-cases; I’m sure she will have some interesting perspectives and I expect she will post to Streamline News in due course.

With respect to PERSoNA, systemic lock-down in an FE environment means that social networking isn’t terribly high on the agenda, nevertheless, we had some productive discussion around widget technology and I’ve been thinking more about how personalised environments might facilitate an individual workflow both in respect to resource discovery/deposit and social networking.  Currently gestating; I’m still waiting for that spontanious insight to flash across my cerebellum when I’m in the bath.


By way of a post-script, a public “thank you” to Joe, Pat, Paul and all the staff at Belfast Met who made us so welcome during our stay.  The extra-curricula highlight of our week, though no less educational, was Joe’s historical tour of Belfast which took us off the tourist trail to Shankhill and the Falls road – the Berlin-wall-like peace line and beautiful protest murals given extra poignancy by recent events in Ulster.

Repository Day

Yesterday we ran several workshops designed to introduce the Leeds Met Repository (comprising PERSoNA and Streamline) as an integrated system-in-development and to have colleagues engage with some of the tools that will eventually (soon!) be incorporated into a complementary infrastructure surrounding the repository and facilitating easy and intuitive deposit, discovery and sharing of a myriad of different scholarly resources amongst academic colleagues bent on distributing their wares far and wide.

Note to self – might there be a trade off betwixt ambitious concept and project deliverable?

The plan was to deliver a short introductory presentation that contextualised the three projects before allowing participants to sit at a lap-top and interract with the tools we have made accessible from our new blog (see PERSoNA News for more info and link).

In retrospect I think that I was missing a crucial slide that might have more clearly illustrated how intraLibrary might fit within this infrastructure.  Also, it is not at all easy to succinctly describe the dual aim of our project (an Open Access research archive/Repository of RLOs) along with their respective issues and challenges when, frankly, many of the details are still to be worked out, but then that is where the end user comes in of course!

When let loose on a lap top, many made a bee line for intraLibrary itself.  Perfectly understandable, of course, and perfectly OK within the context of our workshop but it did throw into relief that the undoubted sophistication and flexibility of intraLibrary also equates to complexity and I found myself faced with a cohort of beginners at the bottom of a steep learning curve that I myself have only partly ascended.  Some of the questions led Dawn to wonder whether people had misunderstood and thought that we were responsible for developing the interface to intraLibrary itself – see Streamline News – and I’ll certainly be clearer next time (I’ll try to post that missing slide soon but might it look something like an evolved version of this?)

Having said this, people were definitely engaged and interested during and after the presentation with many keen to explore the potential of the system with me, especially with respect to RLOs and I wonder if it is now wise to disentangle the different types of content in order to more accurately target relevant groups of stakeholders – I just think the issues are too disparate and the fact that intraLibrary is the common underlying technology for storing and making them both available in the appropriate way is really irrelevant to the end user.

Janet made the point that, in the case of RLOs, we are perhaps confronted more by issues of changing academic culture; the arguments in favour of Open Access to research are relatively well established and most researchers would agree that they would like their published research to be as widely available, read and cited as possible.  For a number of reasons, this is not necessarily the case with Learning Objects – for a discussion of some of them see this EdSpace blog post by Hugh Davis of Southampton University.

I started each workshop by emphasising that the ultimate goal of the three projects is to facilitate engagement with the repository in as fluid and flexible manner as possible – not to impose another monolithic tool on people and expect them to use it (‘cos they won’t!).  Towards the end of the final workshop, one colleague expressed the view that his own conception of The Repository was perhaps ‘blinkered’ though he could see how it would be useful for a very particular need of his own!!  I siezed upon this as precisely the type of thing we are looking for – tell me what you want to do, let’s see if we can do it, then we can show and tell others how useful it is!  I hope that if we are able to build some real use cases and exemplars we can start to build some inertia and that ongoing developments to our repository infrastructure will be informed by what people actually use and want and that we can approach a realisation of our goals – for now, I was encouraged by the enthusiasm of many of the participants and intend to engage with them as much as possible over the coming months.

Access to Learning Objects

The Edspace projec at Southampton asking similar questions to us about who will have access to RLOs:

http://blog.lsl.ecs.soton.ac.uk/edspace/2008/11/07/who-can-see-what/

PC3 Project

On Monday I attended the launch of Leeds Met’s most recent JISC finded project headed by Janet Finlay; PC3 – Personalised Curricullum Creation through Coaching – and was very excited by the fact that The Repository will be an integral component:

In a nutshell the project focuses on new markets of part-time work-based learners and the idea that traditional curriculum design, with its focus on institutionally-defined content, will not necessarily meet the specific requirements of such learners, who need provision that can be rapidly adapted to their particular and changing requirements. Instead, learners need to be able to design their own curricula and access provision at the level and within the time frame they need.

As illustrated by the diagram above this will be facilitated, in part, by a “Learning Bank” which will provide remote access to resources and will build on our 3 ongoing repository projects.

For more information visit the PC3 project blog.

JISC Event

My first attempt at a live blog post from a beautiful setting on the banks of the river Severn in Worcester. Not sure if I’ll end up with anything more interesting than a few random records/thoughts and a bunch of links to follow…

I’m at a JISC event hosted by the University of Worcester: “Using Repositories for Teaching and Learning: Can we find a Recipe for Success?”

This is a crucial question for the LeedsMet Repository and now that the software for the repository has been selected (more on that VERY soon) our three discrete projects (LeedsMet Repository; Streamline and PERSoNA) are beginning to adopt a more integrated approach that should go some way to identifying some of the necessary ingredients.

We’ve had quick fire presentations from Julian Beckton from the University of Lincoln’s LIROLEM project and Steve Burholt from Oxford Brookes University’s CIRCLE project – which I have a particular interest in for reasons that should become apparent over the next week or so. Also from Sarah Hayes and Andrew Rothery from the projects of our hosts, the University of Worcester (DRAW and WRaP)

Helen Westmancoat from Yorks St John has just delivered 10 minutes on their DigiRep project which it is good to hear is experiencing a steady uptake – this in contrast to some of the other stories we’ve heard about the relatively low uptake of this type of repository.

Now Phil Barker from CETIS – Metadata and Repository Coordinator – is here to ask us:

1. What is the Model?

(What are repositories for?) Sharing/Dissemination; Gathering; Managing

(Architecture: how do they fit in with…) …other institutional systems?/…other similar repositories?/What is exchanged: metadata or object.

2. How do you know you’ve found a reliable resource?

(Quality assurance: peer review etc)

One of the main issues that has been flagged up throughout this morning as one of the crucial differences between an Open Access research archive and a repository of other Learning and Teaching objects and that needs to be borne in mind when developing a common platform (as we are) for both types of object is the lack of formal quality control of learning and teaching objects in comparison with the well established traditions associated with published research outputs (peer review etc); this was emphasised in the first presentation of the morning by Andrew Rothery (along with a raft of the other main differences as he sees them).

Currently listening to David Millard from the faroes project – not gonna try and take notes here as it’s really hard to concentrate (!) but some very interesting stuff that may be relevant to PERSoNA N.B. PuffinShare – a novel approach to a repository – rebranded as PuffinShare (pdf) – with the emphasis on using and sharing resources rather than just storing them in a “dusty old repository”: research repositories archive things/do teachers want to archive teaching materials (as such)?

pm (after lunch!): EdShare at the University of Southampton.

Summary: Andrew Rothery is asking what you would tell someone just starting to develop their learning and teaching repository! (That’s us!) We split into 3 groups to brainstorm before coming back together for a final discussion.

For the record our group came up with 6 bullet points:

  • What is it for? Identify the needs of the people actually using the system – not those that have commissioned it!
  • Look at successful implementations.
  • Support existing workflows.
  • Search engine optimisation (possible trade off; static/dynamic content?)
  • Quality control of LOs? (Don’t obsess about the peer review model as applied to academic publications)
  • Seed the repository with high quality material.

Random items from the other groups:

  • Third party issues; policies/procedures.
  • Audit of academic staff – what do they already do?
  • IPR – clear procedures.
  • Audience – know who they are.
  • Access decisions (OA/federated)
  • Start with a small, manageable collection
  • Solve problems for the user community – use case scenarios
  • Make sure it works – first time use
  • Interface and integration; VLE/library catalogue/portal/intranets/open web
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