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

 

The JISC ebooks universe

My colleague Ben Showers has recently been looking across the work taking place around digital books in all their forms: open textbooks, digital monographs, epub, web-based books. For educational institutions the need to keep up with the content needs of learners and researchers is paramount but so much is happening at the moment, with hardware, content formats, the emergence of new authoring tools and rising user expectations, so where do you start?

We have pulled together some key information for decision-makers, with a distinct JISC flavour. Particular thanks to Caren Milloy from JISC Collections and Zak Mensah from JISC Digital Media for their help.

 

Legal (Licensing, IPR, DRM)

Business Models

 

Technology and Standards

 

User behaviour/Requirements

What have we missed?

Please let us know what resources you find most useful, from JISC and elsewhere, in meeting the challenge of ebooks in your institution.

 

Ben Showers and Amber Thomas, JISC Digital Infrastructure Team

May 2012

(last updated 28th May 2012)

Bridging the Divide: The role of libraries in the sciences

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikolski/3269902495/

While libraries come to terms with new forms of scholarly communication and the technological transformation of the academy, has one academic domain already drifted beyond reach?

Have the sciences already become self-sufficient in their information needs? Are libraries lacking in the services and information resources that scientists require?

In the first of three reports on Research Support Services for Scholars: Chemistry Project, a study being undertaken by Ithaka S+R on UK institutions, it is clear that within chemistry, and arguably the sciences more generally, a growing distance is developing between the everyday work of chemists and the library. As the report makes clear:

“This gap in mutual understanding prevents partnerships from developing between chemists and the library”

While the Chemistry Project is a researcher-centric approach to understanding the scholarly and information needs and requirements of Chemists, this first report update has taken the library and liaison services as a starting point.

The report is based on conversations with research support professionals (mostly liaison librarians) and has some very interesting headlines:

A few things strike me about the findings that have emerged so far from the library discussions:

How do you bridge the divide between the sciences and the services of the library? One potential answer might be that libraries shouldn’t – the relationship that currently exists works for chemists, and libraries need not expend resources on developing unnecessary and unused services.

Are graduate students the answer? There also seems to me to be an implication that something like a ‘hybrid’ researcher/librarian will develop. Is a convergence of subject knowledge and domain expertise going to be the future of library liaison?

Related to the above point is the idea of library services being embedded into the department. In the case of the group-model for chemistry departments and research this could be fruitful.

These interim findings should provide a nice complement (contrast) to the subsequent researcher based conversations and interviews, and it will be interesting to see if there are obvious opportunities for libraries and their engagement with the sciences.

Find out more about this project on the JISC webpages, and find out more about the role of libraries in the digital humanities in this recent post.

Developing our Creative Commons

Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting with Cathy Casserly (Chief Executive Officer) and Diane Cabell (Counsel and Corporate Secretary) of Creative Commons. Over a couple of days I had many conversations about open licensing, open education and the routes ahead.

I was a panel member for a CC Salon on OER Policies for Promotion. The panel was chaired by Joscelyn Upendran of CC UK, and comprised Cathy Casserly (CC), Patrick McAndrew (OU) and Victor Henning (Mendeley) and myself.

ccSalon London Panel: Victor Henning, Amber Thomas, Cathy Casserly, Patrick McAndrew, Joscelyn Upendran photo by David Percy

To prepare, I had mapped out some my thoughts on how to encourage open content approaches in education, and some ways that we could be thrown off track.

Preview below. View on Prezi.

screengrab of prezi

We talked about what funders and institutions can do to encourage open educational practices. As is often the case, discussion of open access research publishing and open educational resources often blended.

Some key points percolating from my discussions last week:

These thoughts, and more, will be framing my contribution to the Creative Commons consultation on v4 of the licences over the next month or so.

“Creative Commons staff, board and community have to date identified several goals for the next version of its core license suite tied to achieving CC’s goal and mission. These include:

Internationalization – further adapt the core suite of international licenses to operate globally, ensuring they are robust, enforceable and easily adopted worldwide;

Interoperability – maximize interoperability between CC licenses and other licenses to reduce friction within the commons, promote standards and stem license proliferation;

Long-lasting — anticipate new and changing adoption opportunities and legal challenges, allowing the new suite of licenses to endure for the foreseeable future;

Data/PSI/Science/Education — recognize and address impediments to adoption of CC by governments as well as other important, publicly-minded institutions in these and other critical arenas; and

Supporting Existing Adoption Models and Frameworks – remain mindful of and accommodate the needs of our existing community of adopters leveraging pre-4.0 licenses, including governments but also other important constituencies. “

Creative Commons has asked me to promote this consultation to you. They would love to hear from you, as providers, users and facilitators of openly licensed content.

Enhancing Digital Infrastructure to Support Open Content in Education: announcing 15 new projects

I am very pleased to announce fifteen new projects to enhance the digital infrastructure to support open content in education.

The Call for proposals was released in November 2011. We received 34 proposals, the competition was very tough. I’m grateful to all the expert reviewers who helped evaluate bids. Because of the high standard of proposals we were able to allocate more funding than anticipated to approximately £350,000 of HEA/JISC OER Programme funds.

These projects will be completed by November 2012, hence they are Rapid Innovation projects using open innovation methods: plenty of blogging, lots of user involvement, and they are driven by delivering new tools and functionality.

Here is a taste of what they cover

wordcloud_of_keywords

wordcloud created with the free tool wordle.net

OER Rapid Innovation Projects: the full list:

Attribute images Further developing a tool that allows users to upload images (singly or in bulk), select a Creative Commons licence and specify the name of the copyright holder, publication date and a URL. The tool will then embed a licence attribution statement in the image. It will have integration with Flickr. University of Nottingham
Bebop The main outcome of this work will be a WordPress plugin that can be used with BuddyPress to extend an individual’s profile to re-present resources that are held on disparate websites such as Slideshare, Jorum, etc. University of Lincoln
Breaking down barriers Developing open options for Landmap and geo-aware functionality in Jorum. To enable easier and richer sharing of geo-based resources. University of Manchester, MIMAS
CAMILOE This project reclaims and updates 1800 quality assured evidence informed reviews of education research, guidance and practice that were produced and updated between 2003 and 2010 and which are now archived and difficult to access. University of Canterbury Christchurch
Improving Accessibility to Mathematics Turn an existing research prototype into an assistive technology tool that will aid accessibility support officers in their task of preparing fully accessible teaching and assessment material in mathematical subjects by translating it into suitable markup. University of Birmingham
Linked data approaches to OERs Extending MIT’s Exhibit tool to allow users to construct bundles of OERs and other online content centred around playback of online video Liverpool John Moore’s University
Portfolio Commons Create a plugin for Mahara open source e-portfolio software that will enable users to select content from their portfolio and deposit it into Jorum and EdShare. University of the Arts London
RedFeather RedFeather aims to provide users with a lightweight Resource Exibition and Discovery platform for the annotation and distribution of teaching materials. University of Southampton
RIDLR Dynamic Learning Maps meets Learning Registry UK node (JLeRN) to harvest OERs for specific topics within curriculum and personal learning maps and share paradata. University of Newcastle
SPINDLE

This will be using cheap/free automatic transcription services to transform video to text to enable richer subject specific metadata for cataloguing purposes, using recognised standards and data formats. University of Oxford
SupOERGlue Will pilot the integration of Tatamae’s OER Glue with Dynamic Learning Maps, enabling teachers and learners to generate custom content by aggregating and sequencing OERs related to specific topics. University of Newcastle
SWAP sharing paradata across widget stores Using the Learning Registry infrastructure to share paradata about Widgets across multiple Widget Stores, improving the information available to users for selecting widgets and improving discovery by pooling usage information across stores. University of Bolton
synote mobile Creating a new HTML5 mobile version of Synote to will meet the important user need to make web-based OER recordings easier to access, search, manage, and exploit for learners, teachers and others. University of Southampton
TRACK OER OER in the wild can get lost. This project will add a tracer to find where they go for attribution, research and remix. Open University
Xenith Adding HTML5 as a delivery platform to Xerte Online Toolkits, allowing content to reach a much greater range of devices. University of Nottingham


See the JISC strand page for more detail.

Digital Infrastructure for Learning Content Update: February 2012

So much has been happening since my last update in November 2011, I thought it would be useful to round up the news around JISC work on digital infrastructure relating to learning content.

OER

The Call for OER Rapid Innovation Projects closed on Friday 27th January and I’m pleased to say we received 34 bids. Thank you all for your hard work! The bids are out for evaluation now, and in parallel we are looking at how to best present the collection of Use Cases. Bidders should hear back by early March. Note there is likely to be a big UKOER Programme Meeting on 26th March, venue tbc. So if you’ve bid to run an OER RI project, please pencil it in your diary. You should know a few weeks beforehand if you’re successful, so there will be time to make travel arrangements then.

Other news on the UK Open Educational Resources (UKOER) Programme:

OER beyond the UK OER Programme

Our sister strand in the eContent programme, OER digitisation is now underway, and the OER WW1 project will shortly be announced.

Open is a major theme for JISC in 2012. I blogged my individual take on openness in My Story of O(pen) but watch out for future JISC activities in Open, building on the Open Access section and case studies but taking it broader and deeper and drawing on the richness of JISC-supported work. This includes a study I’ll be managing on the Open Landscape (see below). I hope you saw the pieces in the current JISC Inform on  Joi Ito: education is at the core of creative commons and the Round up of what’s happening in open access publishing. There will be more about openness in the next issue.

Globally, March 2012 will see the very first Open Education Week , and April 2012 is the joint OCWC and OER conference, so expect to see more around the issues of supporting open content and open practice.

Developing supporting infrastructure: including two developer challenges!

The JISC Learning Registry Node Experiment (JLeRN)  is coming to life, see their introductory blog post. They ran a Hack Day on 23rd January for people to understand how they might work with these approaches. They are also sponsoring a Challenge for Dev8D

“Are you interested in capturing, sharing, mashing up or otherwise using paradata, AKA data about the use of open educational resources?

Are you thinking about exploring where and how teachers and learners are using resources, or sharing them via social media, or what they are saying about the resources?”

See The JLeRN Experiment Paradata Developers’ Challenge at Dev8D 2012

The Jorum team are doing so much at the moment its hard to know where to start. See their blog for an inside update. Highlights for me would be they are exploring how best to provide analytics to users, as part of that they are developing a dashboard approach. They are also running a Challenge for developers;

Are you interested in exploring new ways to extract, share, visualise, search, collate or mash up the thousands of open educational resources available in Jorum?

See The Jorum Developers’ Challenge 2012 at Dev8D: Releasing Open Educational Resources into the Wild

Pssst … If you’re a developer working on educational technologies, then I will whisper a rumour at you that it might be worth keeping 29th & 30th May pencilled in your diary for our very first DevEd event. Shhhh! We’ll tell you more as we plan it!

Meanwhile, the UKCoRR repository managers community ran a session on OERs on 27th January. The presentation from Phil Barker is a really useful whistlestop tour of different approaches to managing and disseminating OER

Funding opportunities for digital infrastructure work

There is currently a major Call for Proposals out from the Digital Infrastructure team . Most closely related to the area of digital infrastructure for learning resources, I would flag up the potential of Research Tools – Projects to Develop Sustainable and Open Vocabularies for Research and Information Management  , and also a Synthesis Project. Worth watching also will be the access and identity management projects arising from this Call.

Also due out very soon are a set of Invitations to Tender for a range of Reports on Digital Infrastructure Directions.  I’ll be managing a report on Embedded Licences: What, Why and How, and an Open Landscape study that focuses on how openness supports institutional objectives. Also requested will be a Report on the Advantages of APIs and one on Activity Data: Analytics and Metrics, one on business models around open source, and one on citation.

Sign up to JISC announce to get funding opportunity alerts via email.

Some hot topics

E-books, i-books and open books have been a big topic recently (E,I,E,I,O!). Apple caused a stir with their announcements. If you’re interested in ebooks, there is a wealth of technical material and guidance in the JISCPub Technical Monograph Landscape Study . JISC Digital Media are running a webinar on Getting Started with eBooks on 22nd February.

There is a growing interest in the role of libraries and librarians for OER. CETIS have been tracking this opportunity . A nice edtechpost sums up what this might mean all for emerging roles. Talking of libraries, my colleague Ben Shower’s post on the future of Library Management Systems, the Squeezed Middle has implications for how the role of content management within institutions might develop.

I had the pleasure of joining a NIACE workshop on open educational resources on 20th January. I gave a presentation on the benefits of content sharing and reuse . The big take home message of the day for me is that in HE we have a wealth of support, content and tools for both adult learners and the people to teach, tutor and support them. There is so much more we can do to promote open and free learning beyond HE, as highlighted in the soon-to-be-released OER Report on Open Practice across sectors .

JISC has been busy behind the scenes coordinating evidence and responses to Hargreaves review of copyright. That warrants a whole blog post which I won’t attempt here!

… (pause for breath) …

Coming soon …

Major reports due out soon which may be of particular interest :

I’ll be out and about a bit this month too. I’ll be running a session at Dev8D with CETIS’s Lorna Campbell about digital infrastructure directions for learning content, 2-4pm on Wednesday 15th Feb .  As well as attending the Learning Registry session at the CETIS Conference , I’ll be contributing ideas on the potential of social network analytics for education and research on 23rd February.

And thus endeth my update for February 2012.

Hope this update is useful! A lot of this work has involved my colleagues in the UK OER Programme, JISC CETIS and Mimas, as well as the many expert projects we are lucky enough to work with. Feedback on this update is very welcome.

Sharing Learning Resources: shifting perspectives on process and product

I’m working on a paper with my colleague David Kernohan on the context of the UK OER Programme and it occurs to me that people understand the sharing of learning resources in very different ways. Even over the past 15 years that I’ve been involved in the field, the emphasis has regularly shifted.

One way to look at is that each iteration of the concept of sharing learning resources foregrounds different aspects of activity.

Processes and Products

For the sake of simplicity, I am illustrating this as four main activity domains: designing learning, creating resources, sharing resources and using resources. This is activities from a resource-centric perspective rather than a curriculum design and delivery perspective or a software/platforms perspective. This blog post is deliberately couched in soft systems terminology rather than practice.

Diagram

(Paragraph clarified 2012/01/05 based on feedback!)

There are often multiple discourses in play at any one time – it’s not a linear or singular evolution. The diagram can just be used to describe the focus of a particular set of concerns/approaches. Sometimes the emphasis is on the process, with the product as secondary. For example, the late 90s to early 2000s emphasised the benefits of collaborative resource development. Later on, some advocates of Open Educational Resources (OER) brought to the fore the concept of content as by-product, exhaust, frictionless sharing. Simultaneously, the early 2000s saw a focus on reusable learning objects, with the transfer from resource creation process to resource use process being key. Towards the end of the decade that thread partially shifted into a discussion about the sharing process being key to open practices, a different angle again. There is currently an emphasis on making the learning resources themselves available to learners: a focus on access to product rather than improvement of process. Sometimes there is a new interest in eliciting a product/output from an existing process, for example, analytics brings to the fore the idea of usage data as a by-product of use. In parallel, approaches are maturing in designing learning, and an interest in how that design can be shared, directly as “a learning design”, implicitly as learning design built in to the resource creation process, and passively as contextual metadata to assist resource selection and use.  I could expand these examples to show more clearly what I mean.

Value

One of the benefits of looking at it this way is that we can see different models of value. Although deeply unfashionable to talk about academic practices in this way, looked at from a soft systems perspective there are variables of time, cost and quality. The discourse about why and how to share learning resources shifts its benefits model between these variables, and whether the value is in the process or the product.

TCQ Triangle

Examples:

A: PROCESS: Improving shared taught courses by using collaborative learning design

B: PRODUCT: Reducing time spent creating new resources by increasing the availability of existing resources

C: PROCESS: Promoting institutional subject expertise by sharing specialist learning resources

This was just a quick attempt to map the benefits. I found it easiest to think of examples where the driver is quality, though I seem to remember that the late 90s was more about saving time. We may be seeing a shift now to saving or making money (however indirectly). But the variables have always been there: the emphasis just shifts.

Infrastructure and Practice

I have a feeling that understanding where we are in terms of process and product will help us identify more accurately how technology can help. There is a history of sociotechnical engineering in the field of sharing learning materials that would be useful to tell. It’s not just a story of changing practices in pursuit of quality, it is also a story of government investment in a soft system, and a series of interventions (many of which I’ve been involved with), to support emerging good practices both processes and products. Maybe one day I’ll write a thesis on that!

For now though, I think it is salient to draw the conclusion that there is no reason to assume that today’s conception of the value of sharing learning resources will persist. This is a moving field. And that makes it very difficult to anticipate where public investment in supporting technologies should lie. Do we need specialist process based tools? Or generic platforms to share products/outputs/artefacts from each process?

Interim conclusions

There is more to be said about how this process and product model layers itself over individual, institutional, subject, national and global levels. There is also more to be said about how tools/services can get the balance between process-centric and product-centric models, and how this story plays out with VLEs, repositories and web2.0 tools.I found it useful to get my thoughts down on paper and hopefully some readers will be able to point me in a useful direction.

Digital Infrastructure to Support Open Content for Education

Background to this blog post

The OER Rapid Innovation Call for Proposals was announced in November 2011. It is open to HEFCE-funded institutions to bid.

I am very aware that the issues in scope for this Call are broader then the UK. It includes a snapshot of the digital infrastructure space at November 2011, it builds on the understanding and experiences of projects within the UKOER Programme and beyond, and is particularly informed by the expertise at JISC CETIS . It therefore seems useful to make the snapshot available as a blog post so that it is more accessible to people working in open content for education around the world.

The following is taken from Paragraphs 25-75 of the Call, but with added headings to enable easier reading online. Please read the full Call for further understanding of what the requirements are for projects.

The Global Picture

The OLnet initiative has recently identified Key Challenges for the OER Movement. These challenges include:

It is these global challenges that underpin this Call for projects to enhance the digital infrastructure to support open content.

The Story so Far

Through the JISC Digital Infrastructure Team, JISC  supports the creation and use of a layer of scholarly resources for education and research across the network. This includes the development of infrastructure, technology, practice and policy to support processes from creation and access to re-use of resources. Major activities include sharing and storing content, providing access to content (via licences and technologies), developing solutions for curation and delivering data and content resources via data centres and distributed solutions.

Through the OER Technology Support Project, the OER IPR Project, the evaluation and synthesis, and the experiences of funded projects, and aided particularly by JISC CETIS’s technology synthesis work,  JISC is developing a clearer understanding of the role of technologies and infrastructure in supporting open practice and open content.

In particular JISC has funded a number of elements that support the sharing of learning materials including Jorum, the Repositories Infokit,  previous rapid innovation funding for the Xpert search, the SWORD protocol, the CaPRet project and an OER Programme-funded prototype showcase of UKOER content that is currently under development.

Opportunities and Challenges

There are some key areas that JISC has identified where developments under this call are encouraged. What follows is a description of some of the opportunities and challenges that have been identified in this space. However this list is not exhaustive and bidders are welcome to submit proposals that address different areas if they fulfil the main aims of the call.


Open licensing is key to open content, and fertile ground for developing digital infrastructure. Tools built around Creative Commons licences may provide a useful backbone, so the Open Attribute tool and projects using those conventions, such as OERGlue and CaPRet are useful in that they provide benefits to users (easy attribution) rewarded by benefits to content providers (analytics). Tools such as Xpert Attribution Tool help the flow of rights. Implementation of Open Attribute into tools and services, and a set of services around embedded licenses are potential areas that proposals could tackle.

Improved resource description, both machine-readable and human-readable are important to enable content to be effectively found, shared and selected. CETIS have provided a summary of the key initiatives to track, namely Learning Resources Metadata Initiative which is a profile of the schema.org initiative for improving html markup. HTML5 may offer promise in this area. Including provenance and licensing information in the sharing of resources is important to digital literacies as well as meeting the requirements of attribution such as in the Creative Commons BY clause.

Aggregation and discovery is another area of interest for open content (see OER aggregation blog post). The OER Thematic Collections projects have explored a range of approaches. The Content Clustering and Sustaining Resources publication provides a good description of the approaches in this area generally. The Shuttleworth-funded OER Roadmap Project proposes an ecosystem of repositories and services, characterised by the use of APIs and shared protocols such as JISC-funded SWORD. The Discovery Initiative promotes an open metadata ecology to enable better use and aggregation of content. The Learning Registry approach explores the use of activity data to enhance the metadata and discovery of resources and the OER Programme is funding a UK experimental node. Solutions might be developed that build on these initiatives, specifically to enhance the digital infrastructure for open content in education.

Many sites hosting collections of educational materials keep logs of the search terms used by visitors to the site when searching for resources. There might be solutions that could be developed to aid the understanding of search activity. For example, a project could deliver a tool that facilitates the analysis of search logs to classify the search terms used with reference to the characteristics of a resource that may be described in the metadata. Such information should assist a collection manager in building their collection (e.g. by showing what resources were in demand) and in describing their resources in such a way that helps users find them. The analysis tool should be shown to work with search logs from a number of and should produce reports in a format that are readily understood, for example a breakdown of how many searches were for “subjects” and which were the most popular subjects searched for. A a degree of manual classification will be required, but if the system is capable of learning how to handle certain terms and that this learning would be shared between users: a user should not have to tell the system that “Biology” is a subject once they or any other user has done so. Further information on the sort of data that is available and what it might mean is outlined in CETIS’s blog post on Metadata Requirements from the Analysis of Search Logs. Solutions should be developed as open source software then made free to use or install without restriction, with full documentation. The tool proposed above is one way that we could improve the understanding of search, other suggested solutions are welcome.

Effective Search Engine Optimisation is key to open educational resources providing benefits of discoverability, reach reputation and marketing. Guidance on “improving your online presence” needs applying to the wide range of platforms and content types used for OER, as described in JISC CETIS’ UKOER technical synthesis. Projects have explored SEO in several ways, for example, the SCOOTER project has produced guidance on its chosen approach to search engine optimisation and the MMTV project experimented with Google AdWords to improve SEO. The variations in format types and platforms mean that it is exposed to web search in a variety of ways. A particular key issue is how “repositories” compare to “web 2.0 services” in terms of search engine optimisation. To answer that, we may need to go beyond theory into running a structured experiment. For example, a technical investigation/tool for the SEO of commons platforms and formats for OER would be very useful. This project would be a repeatable approach, using technical tools to run the SEO work and capture and present the findings in a useful way. The outputs of such an investigation would include the methodology, a findings report to JISC, and an accessible set of outputs aimed at OER projects. Other solutions to improving SEO for open content would also be very welcome.

Understanding use has been a major theme of the OER Programme Phase Two. The Value of Reuse report and the Literature Review of Learners Use of Open Educational Resources captured what is known about use of open educational resources. The Learning Registry is relevant here. The Listening for Impact study analysed the feedback and usage of some open content collections. Further useful resources are available from the Activity Data Programme. Analytics may be an important way to provide evidence of the benefits of open educational resources, so enhancing content and platforms to enable enhanced usage tracking, exploiting APIs of third party systems, exploring ways of capturing and visualising use, and providing dashboards to manage analytics data may be very useful.

Online profiles are becoming a part of academic identity and open content provides a significant opportunity for academics to enhance their profile, alongside managing and reflecting on their professional work. To this point many efforts at creating academic profiles building on institutional information and open content have focused exclusively on profiles of publications and the provision of open access to scholarly communications. However, other forms of open content can play a significant role in academic identity and professional development. A key opportunity is therefore linking a broader range of open content to academic profiles.This might involve fully/semi-automated integration of publication/release/record of multiple types of open content into academic staff profiles. This is not about creating new platforms but of using feeds and APIs to enhance existing systems that handle continuing professional development / CVs / ePortfolios etc. Examples of this sort of functionality can be found in Humbox’s profile on contributing authors which also allows users to embed that author’s content list elsewhere, and Rice Connexions offers author profiles. Services such Slideshare and Youtube host user-generated content are well used as platforms for open content.Proposals could demonstrate fully/semi-automated approaches that can flexible draw on multiple distributed sources of open access articles, OER, blog posts and so on. Proposals to address this opportunity are very welcome.

One mechanism that connects people to content is social recommendation. This includes favouriting, liking, bookmarking, reviewing, and social curation tools such as Scoopit, paper.li, zite, storify, pearltrees and so on.  Often this involves browser-based tools such as bookmarklets making it very easy for people to capture, share and store useful resources. There are two OER-specific bookmarking tools available that handle the licensing characteristics of open content: FavOERites developed at Newcastle University (as a UKOER funded project) and the OER Commons tool both of which have APIs and have open sourced their code. The implementation and enhancement of these tools to handle open content may be a useful area for projects to explore. For example, projects might develop solutions for making content “share-friendly” to these tools, how the tools can use automatically generated metadata about licences, the user and their context, and how shared tags and vocabularies might enable more effective sharing for educational purposes.

The growth in e-books and e-readers, both open and proprietary, is of interest to education. Books are a familiar format to use in teaching, but also digital technologies affording new ways of creating, sharing and using books. For example, the College Open Textbooks initiative states that “We have found that open textbooks should be:

In the UK, JISC Collections have been running the ebooks observatory and examining business models for etextbooks. Developments from the research world are emerging around Enhanced Publications which combine research text, date and rich media. There is a recently announced pressbooks platform. International initiatives such as the The Saylor Open Textbook Challenge the WA State open course library etextbook initiative and have raised the profile of open textbooks. JISC CETIS have described the use case for open e-textbooks. There is guidance on ebooks available from JISC digital media, and JISC has funded the #jiscpub R&D projects. Several campus-based publishing projects have piloted reusable approaches, including Epicure, CampusROAR, Larkin Press and another useful example to look at is “living books about life”.

Phases 1 and 2 of OER programme made use of a wide range of platforms, blogs, wikis, repositories and often made modifications to the software to fully support OER use cases. It is likely to mean improving ingest and expose mechanisms, handling licence information, addressing syndicated feeds, APIs, widgets and apps. An example of platform enhancement would be the work Oxford University and others have done with WordPress or the CUNY Academic Commons in a Box work. Proposals are welcome to enhance platforms for open content. Bidders may wish to create enhancements to existing release, aggregation and remix platforms to improve the transfer of open content for educational purposes. Projects may wish to combine existing tools to provide enhanced functionality. The outcomes of these projects should be a richer exchange of metadata between publishing platforms, aggregators and other services used in the sharing of openly licensed content.


The opportunities and challenges above are only indicative and not exhaustive.

Please read the full Call for further understanding of what the requirements are for projects.

Bidders are welcome to use the oer-discuss mailing list to refine ideas and identify potential collaborators. JISC will not provide a matchmaking service, but commercial and overseas experts are welcome to use the mailing list to express an interest in collaborating.


I hope you find this useful. Comments very welcome.


Amber Thomas

JISC Programme Manager: digital infrastructure for learning and teaching materials

Addendum

Enhancing platforms for open content: the project cited is from City University New York not State University New York (now corrected, thanks to Matthew Gold, CUNY for spotting the error)

OER Rapid Innovation Call

***THIS CALL FOR PROPOSALS CLOSED ON 27TH JANUARY 2012 and this blog post will no longer be updated***

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) invites institutions to submit funding proposals for projects to enhance digital infrastructure to support open content for education.

Read the Call for Proposals.

Supplementary Information

IMPORTANT!: AMENDMENT TO THE CALL DOCUMENT: BIDS SHOULD BE SUBMITTED TO OER@JISC.AC.UK (NOT OER@JISCMAIL.AC.UK AS IT SAID IN THE ORIGINAL CALL)

CLARIFICATION: Proposals can be up to 6 pages long, the coversheet does not count as part of the 6 pages and the Use Case does not count as part of the 6 pages either.

REMINDER: Bidders are strongly advised to ask a peer with “fresh eyes” to read through the Call and Proposal before submission.

An online briefing session was held on Friday 9th December 2011, 10:00-11:00.  A recording of the briefing and the Slides are available. I also ran a skype surgery on Wednesday 11th January 2012. Further queries are very welcome.

An extract of the Call is available: Digital Infrastructure to Support Open Content for Education

Further information on Use Case Requirement is available.

Summary of the Call

Eligible institutions (HEFCE capital) may request between £10,000 and £25,000 per project.  A total of £200,000 is available for this strand. Between 10 and 18 projects are likely to be funded.

I previewed the Call earlier in November 2011.

wordcloud of scope of the Call

www.wordle.net of OER RI Call

The OLnet initiative has recently identified Key Challenges for the OER Movement. These challenges include:

It is these global challenges that underpin this Call for projects to enhance the digital infrastructure to support open content. The Call outlines some of the opportunities and challenges that have been identified in this space, proposals are welcome that meets these, or more generally the main aims of the Call.

Intended benefits of these projects are:

These are Rapid Innovation projects.  In keeping with the size of the grants and short duration of the projects, the bidding process is lightweight and the reporting process will be blog-based.

Bidders are welcome to use the oer-discuss mailing list to refine ideas and identify potential collaborators. JISC will not provide a matchmaking service, but commercial and overseas experts are welcome to use the mailing list to express an interest in collaborating.

The outputs of these projects will be made available open access and open source.

Key Dates

Please do post questions as comments to this blog post, join oer-discuss, or contact me direct.

Amber Thomas

JISC Programme Manager: digital infrastructure for learning and teaching materials (CONTACT INFO)

OER Rapid Innovation Call: Preview

Released later this month, with a deadline of mid January, this Call will be for short (max 6 month) projects to develop solutions to enhance the digital infrastructure to support the use of open content in education.

Eligible institutions (HEFCE capital) can bid for between £10,000 and £25,000. Technical staff should already be in place. Existing partnerships with commercial and overseas organisations is welcome. Proposals should be focussed on a clear use case and have user involvement build it. In keeping with the relatively small grants and tight timeframe, there will be a lightweight reporting process based on blog posts.

Open Education, open academic practice, open scholarship and open content all need digital infrastructure to thrive. The emphasis in this Call is on making use of existing tools, services and standards, to meet clearly articulated use cases.

Areas to bid to will include:

A: Open content and academic profiles

B: Enhancing platforms for open content

C: Enhancing tools and services for open e-books

D: Search log analysis

E: SEO of common platforms and format types for OER

F: Open Call, including:

As you can see, the scope is broad. It includes discovery, analytics, social web and platform work, so don’t be put off if you haven’t been involved in the OER Programme so far. Read my latest programme update, join oer-discuss mailing list, follow #ukoer on twitter, check out the work of the programme and start making connections. Bidders are welcome to use the oer-discuss mailing list to refine ideas and identify potential collaborators. JISC will not provide a matchmaking service, but commercial and overseas experts are welcome to use the mailing list to express an interest in collaborating.

We have high hopes for the technical outputs of his strand. The CETIS OER mini projects call, which this supersedes, funded the CaPRet project for £10k, which may now become a core part of Creative Commons licensing technology. The SWORD protocol was originally funded in this way, and is now used all over the world. Great solutions can come from humble beginnings.

Get your thinking caps on and watch this space!

Amber Thomas

Programme Manager, JISC

@ambrouk

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