This blog post is a supplement to the requirement in the Call for Proposals for OER Rapid Innovation: enhancing digital infrastructure to support open content in education.
Paragraph 24 states that bidders must submit a Use Case.
“24. Bidders should note the requirement detailed in the Bid Form to produce a Use Case to accompany the proposal. These use cases must be made available as Creative Commons BY SA. Please see examples of Use Cases. “
As the definition on Wikipedia definition shows, “Use Case” has a range of meanings. Depending on the context it can mean explaining what something is for (using a key to open a lock), through to a specification of a problem and description of the solution, through to a specified methodology as part of a software development approach such as agile .
In software engineering, a use case is a technique for capturing the potential requirements of a new system or software change. Each use case provides one or more scenarios that convey how the system should interact with the end user or another system to achieve a specific business goal. Use cases typically avoid technical jargon, preferring instead the language of the end user or domain expert.
It is always about describing how a solution will solve a problem. It always has measures of success defined with in it: if the key breaks in the lock, it doesn’t meet the use case. There are other terms such as user stories or scenarios that can also be used to describe issues that are being tackled, in some contexts they are used interchangeably with use case.
In terms of the OER Rapid Innovation Call, then, this is what I mean by “Use Case”
- What is it that users want to be able to do and currently can’t?
- What will you change to make it possible for them to do it?
- How will you know if you have succeeded?
This is NOT a job to be done AFTER you have written your proposal: this is a key task in scoping your project. If you can’t articulate a clear use case at the point you are granted project funding, you will struggle to deliver useful technical solutions within 6 months. To increase the quality of bids and resulting outputs, it is a requirement of this Call that a use case submitted with every proposal (as part of it or as a link).
The use case should be made available as Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY). This is to ensure that the thinking done by bidders does not go to waste. It is possible that bidders may identify a crucial use case but not have the technical or skills requirements to solve it. I therefore want to be able to share the use cases and make them available to others who may be able to create the technical solutions. Digital infrastructure for open content is global and distributed, there are experts all around the world that we could collaborate on solutions with. (Feedback on this approach is welcome, I recognise it is unusual).
There is no template provided for the Use Case. It is for bidders to identify the best way to structure and describe the problem the project will tackle. As a rough guide for this Call, aim for one page of text / diagrams.
Useful links given in the Call:
In addition, here are some further examples of useful approaches:
- British History Online ‘‘There are no shortcuts within a source other than to the volumes therein’
- Rescript at the IHR ‘There is no method for users to initiate queries using statistical tools’
- An extensive list of repository use cases from 2007, many of which have since been addressed.
ALUIAR Project working through an issues list
Rave in Context open innovation blog
Readers of this blog will know of good guidance and examples of Use Cases – comments and links would be very welcome, please do suggest further reading!
JISC Programme Manager: digital infrastructure for learning and teaching materials