Digital infrastructure for learning materials: update July 2012

This is a summary of notable developments around work on technology issues around learning materials, mostly by JISC. It’s aimed at the technical and semi-technical and comments/additions are very welcome.

Update

Back in late May we ran our first Dev8ED. It was a great event, with developers supporting course data, curriculum design and delivery, distributed VLE and OER programmes coming together for two days of technical work and training.

There is a buzz of technical activity at Jorum. They are trialling the beta of their open usage statistics dashboard . To see the many reasons why open usage data is a good idea, see this post by Nick Sheppard. He and Brian Kelly (an advocate of open usage data) are both on the Jorum Steering Group and we’ve long been aware of the importance to users and contributors of being able to see how Jorum is being used. The Jorum team are also upgrading to dSpace 1.8 which will bring a raft of improvements including some clever search/browse interfaces. Its all part of a re-engineering process to make Jorum work better for institutions. UPDATE: Read more from Jorum.

Talking of usage, the JISC Learning Registry Node Experiment, JLeRN, is exploring how this emerging global architecture can work for the UK. It’s all about surfacing the “context with the content”, as Suzanne Hardy describes it. Think big data approaches for learning resources. So far we have learnt that the local “nodes” are fairly easy to set up and feed with data. The challenge is making use of it in this incubation stage: building tools and interfaces over variable data sets. This is exactly what we intended to explore, so the team is now working closely with some handpicked projects to work our way through the challenge. Some early work by the SPAWS project is making good progress, and it will be great to see the learning start to emerge from these pilots.

If you like the notion of “paradata” (social and contextual data derived about content and its use), then you’ll see how it fits well with the idea of Learning Analytics. JISC Cetis and others have been examining emerging practices and the issues around this concept. Paradata seems to be a bit of bridge between web content analytics and activity data, so those of us working with digital resources for teaching and learning would do well to catch up on these concepts.

My Open Educational Resources Rapid Innovation (OERRI) Projects are past the halfway mark now. These are all designed to enhance the digital infrastructure for open content in education. They are 15 projects, each with grants of £25k or less, and running for 4-6 months. Summaries follow (in my words, with some links to nutshell descriptions)

An honorable mention too for PublishOER, an OER Themes project rather than OERRI. It is working with JISC Collections and Publishers, and includes development of improved technical support for permission seeking and licensing requests.

Meanwhile, colleagues have been busy with the WW1 Discovery projects.
Sarah Fahmy worked with the British Library on an WW1 Editathon, nicely summed up in a quick video, and there was an interesting tweet experiment from WW1 Arras project too. On the more technical side, Andy McGregor updated me that King’s College did some research into what researchers want out of an online WW1 research collection and what are the valuable collections that could be aggregated into such a research collection. Building on this research, Mimas will develop an exemplar research aggregation of WW1 content. The King’s research discovered that not many of the most valuable collections have working APIs. Therefore Mimas will build APIs for a number of the collections identified then build a service that will aggregate these collections and enable people to build services that allow researchers to work with the aggregated content. The project is expected to deliver in November 2012.

July saw the Open Repositories conference in Edinburgh and there was a wealth of useful discussion and outputs as always. For those of us working with learning materials I’d particularly recommend looking at the reflective posts by Kathi Fletcher and Nick Sheppard. I’m keeping a close eye on developments around the digital infrastructure for open access to research. It’s interesting to see an increase in discussion about formats and licensing. Perhaps, as Laura Czerniewicz , Martin Weller and others have been saying, the next step forward is in more a more holistic view of building services to support open scholarship that incorporate teaching as well as research. My colleague Balviar Notay is leading JISC’s work on repositories and curation shared infrastructure and we are very mindful of the delicate balance between building for research use cases and risking scope creep by trying to be inclusive of other uses.

Friday 27th July saw 20 experts gathered together for an online meeting on schema.org and the Learning Resources Metadata initiative (LRMI) that Phil Barker is engaged with. The discussion was very rich, and my take home message was that over the years JISC and its services (especially CETIS, UKOLN and OSSWatch) have developed real expertise in standards development and adoption. Working with innovators and early adopters we have a deep understanding how technology develops, in the relationship between aspiration and implementation. UPDATE: Read a brief summary of the webinar.

On the horizon …

The OER IPR Team are currently producing a follow-up animation to Turning a Resource into an OER and this one will be about open licensing for your data. More about that when it is released!

Inspired by the booksprint session at Dev8ED, in August I will be working with Lorna Campbell, Phil Barker and Martin Hawskey on our ebook. Our working title is “Small Pieces Loosely Joined: technology stories from three years of the JISC/HEA OER Programme”. Or something like that. It will be our way of drawing out the lessons for future development in this area. We like a challenge.

The theme of ecosystems will inform my contribution to the UK Eduwiki conference in early September. I’ll be on a panel about openness in HE, and I hope to reflect the many varied ways that educators and learners can help develop the ecosystem around wikipedia.

Then I’ll be off to ALT-C where I’m running two sessions. One, with Paul Walk is on the role of the Strategic Developer in HE. I work with so many talented technologists who add great value to their institutions, this session is a chance to explore the benefits of investing in in-house development expertise. I’d love to hear from anyone in that sort of role who has been doing CMALT (please get in touch!) . The other session, with David Kernohan, is about the trajectory of open education, including some of the key concepts around badges, MOOCs and other hot topics. I’m particularly interested in how we can learn lessons from the route taken by open source and open data movements. I suspect ALT-C will be noisy with talk of MOOCs! From a technical perspective, JISC Cetis is keeping an eye on what platforms and tools people are using to deliver online courses. UPDATE: Read about what technologies people are using for some MOOCs!

Finally, I’m pleased to announce that I will be working with JISC Collections, JISC Digital Media and other experts led by Ken Chad, on guidance on the Challenge of eBooks. It will be the next step on from the forthcoming JISC Observatory report on ebooks: it will look at the creation, curation and consumption of digital books of all types, and the opportunities for institutions to respond coherently to the challenge. Watch this space for news of both!

With so much going on, I’m sure there are things I’ve missed in this update – do get in touch!

 

Amber Thomas

July 2012

 

Comments

Leave a Reply