Article on Open Educational Resources in Times Higher Education

Get it out in the open by Rebecca Attwood (24th September 2009)

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:


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:


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:


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.