November 11, 2008 3 Comments
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.