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.

MrCute for Moodle

I really haven’t had chance to think about our VLE PowerLink which is languishing at the moment, with minimum functionality (ie. a lowly search box), on the X-stream (aka Blackboard Vista) development server.  Any sort of extensive development work really isn’t viable before the end of March or within the remit of the current project, nevertheless I am very interested in MrCute for Moodle which looks like it will offer much of the functionality that we should be aspiring to including full blown content package creation from multiple files and subsequent repository deposit (to multiple repositories including JORUM – Q.  Does it use SWORD?).

The search facility for a local repository appears to be more sophisticated than a simple search box and allows a search to be restricted by category.  In due course it will also be possible to search JORUM as well.

PowerLink to X-stream and CLA copies

One of the selling points of intraLibrary was the PowerLink to X-stream (Blackboard Vista) which, as I understand it, will enable a tutor to link directly to an object stored in the repository without the need to upload it to the X-stream module.

We hope to be able to use the repository to store and make available digitised books in line with the CLA licence. Our copyright officer has outlined her ideal requirements from the combined system as follows:

• Closed, secure storage space for digitised files (“Digital Copies”)
• Tutor is provided with a link to a Digital Copy stored within the repository
• The link can be added to an X-stream module (to connect between VLE & Intralibrary)
• Student doesn’t need to login to access Digital Copy when already logged into X-stream
• The Digital Copy remains within the repository
• Library maintains control over the Digital Copies; the Digital Copies can be removed after end of course

She points out that there may well be copyright implications associated with using the repository in this way:

The CLA licence states:

Digital Copies may not be stored, or systematically indexed, with the intention of creating an electronic library or similar educational learning resource

On the face of it this seems to preclude the use of a repository but might it be allowed if the storage is entirely secure i.e. it cannot be accessed by students (or unauthorised staff) without a PowerLink to the VLE which will only make the digital copy available in accordance with the licence – that is, as though it had simply been uploaded to the VLE?

I suppose it would be an indexed, electronic library of sorts but purely for archival purposes – for authorised library staff to have a centralised, searchable store of digital copies that can be linked to directly from X-stream without needing to email the actual resource to an individual tutor so he can upload it to X-stream. Given the flexible nature of intraLibrary (another selling point) it should be straightforward to federate access to a particular collection (digitised books) and a particular user group (librarians) in this way but is the PowerLink secure? Will staff be able to share the link (which is ok but only if we know about it and can record it)? Will tutors just be linking to the resource and not actually copying the file from the repository into X-stream?

I need to learn more about how the PowerLink actually works – and X-stream itself for that matter. Not to mention the CLA licence and copyright!