OER and the IE

The original Open Educational Resources Pilot Programme has recently ended. The involvement of the Information Environment team has been in managing the technical support of the project.

This has been mainly been two strands of work; communicating with the team at JISC-CETIS who are helping steer additional activity in more technical areas that have been raised by the project teams and supporting the launch and uptake of JorumOpen.

Currently JISC-CETIS are undertaking an additional three pieces of work beyond their initial commitment to the programme. These are taken from the CETIS proposal;

Feed Deposit

“There is a need for repository services related to the Academy/JISC OER Pilot Programme (notably Jorum Open) to provide a mechanism for depositors to upload multiple resources at a time with minimal human intervention per resource. One possible way to meet this requirement that has already identified by some projects is ‘feed deposit’. This approach is inspired by the way in which metadata and content is loaded onto user devices and applications in podcasting. The idea has been outlined and discussed in a CETIS blog post: in short, RSS and ATOM feeds are capable, in principle, of delivering the metadata required for deposit into a repository and in addition can provide either a pointer to the content or that content itself may be embedded into the feed.”

Aggregation of OERs

“There is interest in facilitating the provision of aggregations of resources representing the whole or a subset of the UKOER programme output (possibly along with resources from other sources). There have been some developments that implement partial solutions: Ensemble and Xpert, provide proof of concept for facilitating a search service based on aggregating RSS feeds; the UKOLN tagometer measures the number of resources on various sites that are tagged as relevant to the UKOER programme. Other approaches are possible, for example: (a) a Google custom search of sites known to be relevant; (b) querying relevant services and aggregation of the results through Yahoo pipes; and (c) querying relevant services through their APIs.”

Tracking and analysis of OER use

“Monitoring the release of resources through various channels, how those resources are used and reused and the comments and ratings associated with them, through technical means is highly relevant to evaluating the uptake of OERs. This type of monitoring is especially valuable where it can be related to the understanding and formative evaluation of business processes related to OERs or the desired outcome of a particular OER project.”

JISC-CETIS have also performed an audit of the technical tools and standards that the OER Pilot projects have used. These can be found on John Robertson’s blog. This audit gives a very useful picture of the technical landscape in the current UKOER community – it particularly demonstrates how diverse that landscape is and the fact there is far from any set approach to the creation, dissemination or preservation of OERs at the moment.

A unique element of the UKOER programme was the manner in which it encouraged that the resources were let loose in the wilds of the wider web as well as the security of JorumOpen. A number of projects embraced this while others were more comfortable with a combination of Institutional managementcombined with JorumOpen. What this does seem to have identified (though there is no work yet in this area) is that more advanced deposit tools will be required for OERs than currently exist. The ability to process an item once and for it to be deposited in multiple locations (i.e. to JorumOpen, Scribd and local ePrints server) would appear to be crucial if this distributed dissemination is to continue and be successful. Alongside the ongoing work around ‘Feed Deposit’ and the general, wider need for graceful bulk deposit it shows that tools for deposit in this area are likely to need further consideration.

A big focus of OERs is, not surprisingly, making them findable. After all it is all well and good releasing all this content but if noone can find it then it is not much use. That said Resource Discovery in this area is still very immature – the work JISC-CETIS are undertaking around both Aggregation and Tracking is a first step and there is some work being done elsewhere (particularly the the US) but none of it provides the depth of coverage to have a real impact yet. There is an opportunity for more work in this area (particularly aggregation around subjects/topics) in the OER Phase II call just released but there is much to do in this area and it would likely benefit from the knowledge and experience that the Information Environment could could bring to the problems. I am particularly interested in the DiscoverEd project from Creative Commons and its use of RDFa.

Despite the insistence on use of Creative Commons, licensing has remained a thorny issue throughout the programme. The ongoing lack of clarity around the exact definition of ‘Non-Commercial’ licensing and the multitude of CC options now available has meant a wide spread of licenses used plus consistent concerns about IPR issues. This does not seem to be an issue that will go away although a stronger steer from JISC to use the most open license possible (my preference would be CC Zero but I would imagine CC by Attribution would be most likely) would help clarify things.

There is also a possible role for Librarians in this space (as again outlined by John Robertson) in clearing IPR for resources – a role many are already well versed in due to the demands of Research focused repositories etc. Library staff do not seem to have engaged with the OER movement as much as one might expect at this point but there does seem to be a real role for their skillsets beyond managing IPR – particularly again around resource discovery.

JorumOpen launched to a great deal of positive feedback in January this year and despite a slow start is now showing good take-up (not surprisingly as it was a mandated condition of funding for UKOER projects!). It is based on a highly customised version of DSpace (and is beginning the process of contributing back to that community) and takes a lightweight view of mandatory metadata in an effort to encourage deposit. As mentioned earlier there has been some experimenting with ‘feed deposit’ in an effort to resolve the lack of a bulk deposit solution which has not been 100% successful but is starting to pat dividends and there have also been some identified usability issues (very well documented here ) but the Jorum team have been engaged in an open dialogue with the UKOER community around these issues and have been working with them to resolve them.

4 thoughts on “OER and the IE

  1. Andy Powell

    Two ‘gut’ reactions… (i.e. I haven’t thought about this very hard).

    Firstly, the whole notion of multiple deposit (bulk or otherwise) seems to me to be fundamentally broken and probably reflects a pretty serious flaw in the way we think about repositories. Your notion of “distributed dissemination” (i.e. putting stuff in more than one place) isn’t how things typically work on the web, is it? I mean, if I decide that I want people to find my blog posts I don’t start thinking about putting each entry in several different places/blogs. What I do is make sure that each existing blog post surfaces properly in Google and then find ways of encouraging people to link to it from as many places as possible…. but the stuff itself (the blog posts) stays in one place.

    Secondly, showing ‘good uptake’ because JISC have created a mandate for deposit isn’t necessarily a good measure of success! 😉

  2. Matt Jukes

    I agree 100% about point 2 about the deposit side – I thought that was implicit in the slightly sarky ! after the comment about mandates 🙂 I think they’ve done a great job with the software..

    As for the 1st point – I’m not sure – things like ping.fm allow you to update multiple social networks from one place pretty successfully…personally I try not to think about repositories at all so if I can help it so if there is any flaw it isn’t coming from that direction! It was just an observation of common practice in OER – people seem to be putting their content in multiple places on the web rather than one home and then linking it – I’m not going to speculate on the reasoning here but it is happening and I think it needs looking at. Happy to be wrong of course – wouldn’t be the first time..

  3. David Kernohan

    Thanks Matt, great post!

    Regarding multiple deposit, projects have been suggesting that different groups search for material in different places, so the combination of web2 plus Jorum plus open institutional repository is pretty common, as a uni seeks to get material (and attribution) in front of casual browsers, those interested in UK HE and directly in them. In such a world, multiple deposit is simply a labour saving device.

    CC0 is probably very unlikely for OER – we are finding marketing is a big driver for institutional interest in release. I’d love to see more CC-BY, but institutions do seem to have a lot of baggage around commercial usage.

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