Repository week

From 1st – 5th June is repository week when colleagues can come together to learn more about the repository and how it will contribute to the information infrastructure of the institution.

Projects that are supported by the repository include an Open Access research archive and research administration; reusable learning objects/Open Educational Resources and Personal Curriculum Creation and provision of distance learning.

The final programme of events is yet to be finalised but will be a series of learning lunches at Headingley and Old Broadcasting House. For more information or to register your interest please contact Nick Sheppard or Kirsty Maw.

A showcase of student work

Last week I was contacted by a colleague from my own faculty, Innovation North, about using the repository to develop an online “showcase” of student work. We are “the faculty of information and technology” and courses include Multimedia and Entertainment Technology, Computer Animation & Special Effects and Games Design. In addition, student work needs to be securely archived, searchable and easily retrievable.

To employ a dreadful management cliche, I have often found one of the biggest challenges in HE is “joined up thinking”. If such a thing even exists, an integrated information environment will surely be instrumental in achieving it; another crucial, and related, element is appropriate communication between the right people; to avoid the need to continually reinvent the wheel. Easier said than done (and other cliches).

So to the problem.

Final submissions in the faculty are made on DVD in a format that will auto-boot from a PC (also presumably a DVD player); I was given an example and asked if they could be archived in intraLibrary.

No they can’t. Not in a particularly useful manner anyway. These are big files (50 -100MB) which is not a problem in itself but intraLibrary is not designed to stream this kind of content and the only way the actual files themselves could be archived would be as .zip files that could presumably be downloaded and burned back on to a DVD. If we got hold of content in it’s original file format we may be able to do something with it but I’ve no idea how these things are produced; some of the content looks Flash based but could well be something more exotic. Can the finished product perhaps be exported in alternative formats, that can be viewed using client-side technologies for example?

I’ve also been told of some mysterious “Digital Asset Management system” that Innovation North has recently implemented but haven’t yet been able to track down any more information. Is it a server of some description? Is it capable of streaming files? Is there any metadata associated with resources? Is it networked?

In any case, what sort of metadata needs to be associated with this material? Even modest amounts of cataloguing information can add signicantly to the workflow and as a minimum we might need course, student, tutor, level, (degree) class, year…where is this information currently recorded/what administration systems are already in place?

Who needs access to the material? This depends very much on context – a “showcase” would presumably be openly accessible and would really need to stream whereas another potential use case is external examiners/moderators in which case a catalogued archive of .zip files might be adequate – I’m not certain if the current process is any more sophisticated than a cardboard box full of plastic DVD cases.

It would be nice to join some of this together – if not with intraLibrary then with other appropriate technology – and move ever close towards the utopia of an integrated information environment!