Aug 052011

CETIS teaching and learning repositories workshop (Phil Barker/Lorna Campbell)

The full programme is available on the JISC CETIS webpage.

Phil Barker introduced the day by talking about how we are thinking about repositories today: as places to put stuff but not necasssarily as stict

John Robertson is the warm up!

Many of you will be here because of your background in repositories but perhaps not in learning and teaching materials so we are going to be thinking about learning and teaching resources and what might be special about them.

What is distinctice about Teaching and Learning?

  • Type of content
  • source of content
  • value of content
  • system functions
  • expected users and use

Two scenarios: collection of openly licensed materials connected to teaching and learning; a set of high stakes (final exam) assessement itsems (questions, answers, rubrics).

For exam material – far more management challenges for ingest around quality, around checks and balances. Open material is a more open process. I suggest that the management issues the exams materials goes through all those processes already, the open material is more challenging

For each of these we need to think about the key management considerations. What are the key discovery routes.metadata and what does the user want to do with that content.

So we are splitting into groups of about 6 people. I’m with Sheila from CETIS who is playing devils advocate on behalf of users; Dan, technical architect for the Learning Repository and we are interested in discovery, effective learning content, and effective learning teaching materials and how to ; Yogesh Patel of Mimas who works on Jorum; Nicola of EDINA, also MSc in eLearning student and previously worked with Jorum; Lisa is a cataloguer working on the DELORES project assessing; Peter of Intrallect who make Intralibrary.

We are now spending 8 minutes thinking about management issues, discovery routes, what is the expected uses for both types of materials for Open Teaching and Learning stuff, and for exam stuff.

Open teaching and learning materials and exam materials – SQA have been pulling those materials in the same repository. The two types of materials sit in the same place but have totally different business cases. What kinds of exams are we talking about – there are the static materials – past papers etc. and there are those that are online assessments. But we are assuming both of those are fairly static – you could be generating personal assessments per person. But there are scenarios where you generate questions from a bank – the question as an object and the metadata about how they can be use, how questions are performing and feedback on those.

Discovery – most people focus on Google. When they get into exams they are very much concerned with how content aligns with curricula standards. Pops up right away rather than in other materials. Experience is that the exam materials often have more and better metadata to allow algorithms to draw on them. But metadata could be seen as political in some ways.

And we are back to report…

Group 1: We thought about whether students can contribute and whether you can use external content. In terms of exam papers the lecturers decide what to expose in terms of marking schemas so can have different approaches. Should the statistics for cohort performance be available? Should it be shared internally? Externally? What does it tell you about how a course is doing is one cohort performs unexpectedly.

Group 2 (my group): We talked about formal and informal processes. In some cases you can be dealing with one final copy but the metadata may be more complex. For open materials there may be more management issues re: clearing copyright etc. Google but also trusted sources. High stakes assessment can include some metadata you might not be able to share for various political reasons. We did talk about the difference of live exams versus past papers. We also talked about dynamic exam creation where the question is the object and knowing how it performs will help you develop your exams in the future.

Group 3: In an open teaching and learning environemnt how do you surface good stuff – do you want students to see everything, how do you assign quality marks. In discovery Google matters but without guidance how do you find relavant content. How do you index that all? How do you find what is useful? Expected use – enhance the teaching and learning process. Finding material around your subject. Enhance your learning through this content.

Group 4: Management issue s- we got bogged down and sidetracked. We mentioned the word metadata and it all went crazy from there. How much do you need, how much would actually be good enough, what’s realistic? Discovery – social networks particularly discipline networks for relevant content. And we talked about being able to search for content, news, etc.

Group 5: We talked about management issues including policy control – should you control what does up? Should material be within the institution or shared more widely. In terms of exams security is an issue – particularly if distance learning students have a deadline for instance. There may be 3rd party rights issues over content etc. Expect access through institutions, virtual learning environments but also through Google perhaps. In terms of exams would we be just focusing on our own assessments or sharing those globally.

Back to John: hopefully seeing these different responses will give you pause to think about why those responses vary and think about those different perspectives on learning and teaching in this context.

  • Community Engagement in Teaching and Learning Repositories: ePrints, HumBox and OER – Patrick McSweeny, University of Southampton

How many of us have a learning and teaching repository in their institution? Ok by show of hands

HumBox is a digital humanities teaching repository, it’s community led with some 1400 resources (units of teaching as defined by the uploader) including rich media content (video, high quality images, sound). It is run by the HEA subject centre, based at Southampton, and has built a hugely productive community around the resources.

CRIG – Common Repositories Interfaces Group – came out of a hackday and looked at the Repository 2.0. Looking to discover why web 2.0 worked. Not just a mimic but an understanding of how to use techniques.

The EdShare team runs around 8 to 10 repositories now. We have community, project and institutional repositories but they are united by being about teaching materials. We’ve learned things about motivation:

From an institutional point of view the main reason for having a repository is to distribute the content in a way that raises the profile of the organisation. People do worry that people won’t join an institution, they’ll just use the materials at home. But the inverse is true. Textbooks already contain much course content but we still come to university – it’s an experience, it’s an engaging process, it’s about interactions with other people – that’s what makes that course. Your teaching materials are therefore the low value thing. Students pay to hear you talk, to talk to others, to share their thoughts.

So if lectures and teachers can upload their content there are some easy wins – no need to worry if a hard disc fails, if a staff member leaves etc. And it enables a more flexible teaching approach and include richer content in teaching. A few years back there weren’t a great number of appropriate options to share rich content.

Library managers find repositories much more fun to manage, and a more engaging atmosphere to manage.

After building lots of repositories we’ve built up a process:

  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Rich personas – you name these, you build your repository with strong use cases in mind
  • Validated by the community – you get them to tell you if those personas and ideas match that community
  • Firm foundation to move forward – so when you develop functionality or documentation you can call back upon those personas and think about how relevant your action is here.

We found that people generally want community tools in some way – see Humbox for example – there is no mandate so you need to enable people to deposit material. Users needed a focus for their work in the repository, they wants to feel it was important for their content. And they wanted mechanicms to interact with other users – you need more than star ratings. To maintain integrity this is important. And these materials can be reused in so many ways that you need subtle understandings of why a resource is/is not useful.

We used MePrints to enable this community – you have profile, a published items, your most viewed items, bookmarks and collections. There are two faces to this – one for you, one that is a public facing profile. Some content will sit in both versions, some only appears in your personal space. The photo of the academic was an important inclusion here but there is also commenting, email via the system, alerts to bookmarking and remixing etc. All important.

So how do we do it? How do we build a community? We did flop before we got this right! We got academics from across the UK into a room and discussed the issues with their teaching, issues with their community. They were interested in discussing ways to improve and share learning and teaching materials. The ability to share adbice and meet each other in person is hugely valuable. Pictures on profiles are so important as they allow continuity between meeting someone in person and the materials and work profile of that person. Allows you to make the most of those connections.

So you need a tight community and that is very powerful. So for Humbox we had 50 people along who engaged with workshops and got properly into it. It was a bit like a street team (think punk music) who evangelised the project to their colleagues and peers. They give rick feedback but it also makes the project fun! They also keep momentum up even after funding comes to an end.

We’ve done some follow up work on the impact of Humbox around survey and stats. We surveyed 55 Humbox users, examined usage logs, looked for patterns of use as wel as just statistics. It’s anout understanding how people use the repository and what their path through materials was and how behaviour changed.

Many people began as a way of distributing content. The VLE doesn’t facilitate sharing – even with colleagues – so uploading to HumBox made sharing easy and quick. People often shared existing materials – which did mean they were high quality.

An astonishing amount of users told us that they’d gone back and changed teaching resources as a result of sharing resources on HumBox. Some made minor revisions, some changed minor elements. Look for the paper online with more detail.

The other thing we found was that remixing and repurposing was going on. Over 50% of reusers modify or augment the material and make it suit their own needs. Or just taking inspiration from each other. Not reusing slides or video but I will use a video and having seen your use and spoken to you has helped me believe this could work for me. So there was real change to teaching practice. Some 66.7% of those reusing anothe rpersons resource said they had changed their teaching practice as a result. At the time we surveyed we didn’t specifically enable this reuse but we’ve added it since and I think it will be very popular.

Repositories about teaching content are NOT about teching content but about the people that create and contribute to teaching content – and that does include students on occasion. Actually the problems around repositories are almost always social. Being appreciated for your work is hugely valuable to people. Complete the loop, keep people engaged and they will come back and continue.

So to build Humbox: 3 years; 8 JISC projects; 5 developers; 4 interns; 4 SVN trees (and Pat’s had 2 desks).

The software is online and free (GPL). You can get the papers, project reports, advice, materials in the EPrints community etc. All you need to do is find the community that needs this


Q1) Did your participamts have an established pattern of building online profiles before?

A1) Not really, the group was scared of YouTube, Flickr, etc. Those workshops let people voice their concerns and worries about inappropriate reuse of content, comments from the wrong communities. We were able to

Q2) The title suggest humanities but was there cross disciplinary approach?

A2) Humanities was defined very widely here but there was a critical mass of engagement in several different areas. But comparing styles of teaching across those diverse materials was really helpful.

Q2 again) Do you think the same pattern might translate to sciences?

A2) We just started Bloodhound online looking at engineering materials for teaching so it will be interesting to see how that works in comparison to Humbox

Q3) in terms of feeling exposed where are you now – where are we at about sharing beyond institutions

A3) Loro the OU repository for languages is really interesting. They made all that content Creative Commons licenced. But their definitoin of repositories changed in that process. They didm’t just want public access but also comments and feedback. Really interesting. But generally people are keen to be open

A3 – Yvonne) We very much made sure that by doing rich stakeholder analysis and rich personas we really understood our users, what they were comfortable and how to make these things accessibe to them. These skeptical set of people have moved on to really rich engagement now.

And we are back with Phil Barker:

I like very much what Patrick was saying about changes to teaching practice there. And now, for a break….

We are back!

First up is Chris Awre standing in for John Casey from the University of the Arts who is unwell and unable to make it today.

Hydra, Fedora and learning materials at University of Hull – Chris Awre

I am aware that our repository is for the whole instiution, not just learning and teaching materials but including those.

We will be talking about what we have done, our learning materials activity at Hull. Then I will talk about Fedora, then the Hydra projec and what we would like to do in the next year or so.

We have had our repository live since 2008 and we have thought about how it can be used for learning materials at various points but we haven’t particularly focused on this. We have focused on lower hanging fruit, and more immediate university priority. But it slightly changed when th eUK Physical Science Centre Subject Centre  (based at Hull until last week) got one of the OER phase 1 projects “Skills for Scientist” to generate resources for the physical sciences – chemistry, physics and forensic science being the particular focus. All those materials were placed in JORUM but they were also to be stored locally as a back up and further access point.

This collection appeas in a fairly basic way. It’s hierachichal in it’s construction but it’s quite easy to move through. That collection now sits alongside an archive of the website for that subject centre as it is now closing down.

So having said that we have other teaching materials in the repository and we are keen to expand that. However there are other materials also used for teaching though not perhaps presented that way. Several data sets used by the Departement of History function in this way as well. There are also digitised books and poems where lecturers have requested this – where the items were out of copyright this has been easy and very effective to do. And we also have some permissions from copyright holders to use materials for teaching. And we also have audio and video recordings for a particular creative writing ciurse. We also hold the exam papers though departments decide whether or not to deposit these. We also have CLS digitised materials in use at the university but these are NOT in the repository at present but we’d like to if we can overcome rights issues/complexities in some practical way.

In terms of using Fedora we needed something with a scalable solution – nothing with an upper limit on content storage. We wanted something standards based and open source where possible in order to future proof our repository to some extent. We wanted to be content agnostic – we don’t know what content will come along.

And we were also interested in Content semantics so that er could record the relationshiops between projects and materials and how this changes over time.

Fedora (Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture) tries to live up to it’s name – it’s an architecture on which to build a repository solution. It’s fairly well formed out of the box but has huge amounts of customisation. It also has a powerful digital object model and user interface flexibility according the needs of particular content.

That digital object model lets you define a digital object identifer, you can associate reserved datastreams for key metadata, you can associate datastreams – content or metadata of any type, and disseminators – tools for reuse etc. The system doesn’t mind what is packaged under that object identifier and that is very powerful.

The development of Fedora has been overseen by DuraSpace since July 09 and it is a parent non-profit body for Fedora, DSpaces, Mulgara, Akubra and DuraCloud. It is now at version 3.5 (coming soon) but there is also a roadmap for future development outlines. There is a core developement team but thre are also lots of community based committers that drive software development in conjunction with community input. The user group is active and really helpful. There is a UK community that meets every year so there is great support available here.

Current areas of activity for the Hull repository include:

Theses, Dissertations, Exam papers, Committee Papers, University Policies Procedures and Regulations, HR documentation, E-Prints/journal articles (and there will be more activity as we connect to the CRIS), Images, skull scan images, audio recordings, lectures (particularly inaugeral lectures), digitised content, LTSU documents, student handbooks, and open educational resources.

Given that we have that repository why would we need anything else? Well partle because our interface to Fedora, Muradora, ceased development when it’s funding ceased. There wasn’t a critical mass of users to take Muradora forward. It was in need of major reengineering as only ever a serious proof of concept. Essentially that interface made Fedora act like a Dublin Core registry with files attached. We wanted to take advantage of richness of Fedora’s model. But based on experience of MuraDora we needed to be part of a larger sustainable community connected to our interface.

We presented on the REMAP/RepoMMan project at OR2008. This was a JISC projects looking at how repositories could be incorporated into the digitisation life cycle and how Fedora could be improved. As a result of this we made contact with partners and the grouping of Hull, the Unievrsity of Virginia, Stanford University, Fedora Commons/DuraSpace and MEdiaShelf LLC got together as an unfunded Hydra project to allow us to build a flexible multi-institutional interface solution for Fedora. We needed to work together adn collaborate to build a community of developers and adopters to extend and enhance the core – where technology and community were tightly connected.

So we wanted 4 key capabilities

  • Support for any kind of record or metadata
  • Object-specific behaviours – for books, images, music, video, manuscripts, finding aids, learning objects etc.
  • Tailored views for domain or discipline specific materials
  • Tailored for local needs and views

We looked to build a semi-legal basis for contribution and partnership around Hydra to make this work well, And we have enabled others to join the project on these terms if they want. One of the Fedora dilemmas is that it is so flexible you need to have focus for what you actually want to build. So here is an overview of wat we use. We have Fedora with Hydra Rails Plugin (CUD), we use Solr, Blacklight (R) and Solarizer and we use Ruby gens to enable ActiveFedora, opinionated metadata etc.

In 2011/12 we are implementing Hydra in Hull. We will switch off our current repository (eDocs) when everything has migrated over. Implementations are also going live in the US this year – Virginia’s is already up and running. It will provide an end-user UI with graded levels of access and create adn manage functiuonality for particular users and groups. And this will connect with tools including SharePoint so that the repository can be used to store materials created elsewhere.

How can we apply Hydra/Fedora to learning materials? Well the object model lets us structure and describe learning objects within the repository. Hydra provides a way of delivering this through CRUD interfaces. Two possible approaches – a learning onjects Hydra head with specific workflows etc. Or including learning objects in an IR head. We are going that latter route to further develop a broad approach to th eprovision of a repository for Hull, based on MODS metadata.But we could always alter this in the future, Hydra enables this flexibility.

We have OER pilots scheduled for 2012 (via FLEX elearning peer support group):

  • Building on Skills for Scientissts and local RLO project
  • OER phase 3 funding?
  • University of Hull projects
  • And building the ability to view the repository from the VLE, SAKAI


Q1 – Mahendra) Can you tell us about your strategy for getting content?

A1) To date it has to not tell anyone we have a repository and wait until they come to us – as we have plenty to be getting on with. We’ve sort of dealt with content when we are asked for content solutions. So when the Physical Science Centre got their OER project we were able to tie that to the repository, etc. We are concious that we have to officially launch it at some point. We are slightly wary of this as we need to be able to deal with queries and resource any future development. But our strategy is to support the needs of the university, and that won’t change. In theory we can take any content or format but we do take some practical decisions – for instance for dissemination theses are required to be in PDF format at the moment.

Q2) You talked about these different views on material – how have you used these and what is the key thing that you need to do with objects when depositing to allow you to package them well in the repository? How do disciplinary views get created and how do they change?

A2) At the moment the different views are based on materials we know we are providing. We are not clear on demand for new views but we know that if others request a new view we can develop it for them – and we will need to go out and ask people what they want in these ways. The repository is flexible but you need to describe the materials at ingest to give an idea of how the content should be displayed. So if you ingest a journal article you could associate a journal article content model with that – that would present the abstract and publication information say. You could also associate that article with a learning object and viewing that might display the article differently.

We use the Solr index to create tailored views of the repository. You can create subset indexes viewing the whole content to enable specific views but that depends on an indication of how that content could be used. So you could create a subset of medical materials. But the generic materials view is always there. The issue of peripheral views or interests is a persistent issue for any sort of subject view of materials.

Social Networking for Metadata: The Federal Learning Registry Initiative, Dan Rehak, ADL

The word registry can be confusing to some people. It’s not what libraries think of as a registry for instance. We have the tagline that we are Social Networking for Metadata! Find us on Twitter here: @learningreg / #learningreg and online here:

I had hoped to show you a video of Anish Chopra, chief technologist to the US based at the White House. He spoke a few weeks ago about the importance of learning technology to the adminstration. We call ourselves the Learning Registry as we want to be global, we want to be relevant to broad audiences. Lets start with an emotive example:

NASA is the biggest STEM digital materials producer in the US. They announce a physics video… it goes into PBS Discovers and shares it, NSDL discovers and posts link, used in a course in Moodle, OER Commons incorporates into site. This use ecosystem of usage. There’s no one place for that resource, it sits all over the place. You search on Google and all that reuse doesn’t translate into pagerank,. And then there are further aggregations. We want to change how people think about this material and metadata.

We want to create a Twitter-style public timeline of metadata, which acts as a central spine of knowledge about the usage of these materials. And we ask the users of these resources to put back in the usage information to feed into knowledge about that item. We pull in where the resource has been used, how, etc. We can put this information into recommendations systems and create really great information about context and usage for other sites, other portals etc. We expect this “para data” to be more useful that formally structured metadata. We think it will superceed metadata for this material.

We don’t know what content really well. We have a lot. We don’t share it very well. We have ost data exhaust. There is so much analytical data that Google sees but when you copy material to your silo that information you lose that connection aorund usage etc.

Learning Registry sounds confusing… what is it?

  • a concept
  • a research project
  • a community project
  • a codebase
  • a public social metadata distribution network

We are not creating portals or user interfaces. We are creating an enabling infrastructure that others can use as they like. We think they will do interesting things with it. We had an interoperability workshop a few months ago and Pat Lockley did a quick thing but it was a great example of what you might do with the data.

So the Approach of the Learning Registry is to be enabling. We want to provide capabiliies not solutions; anyone can participate; no default winners; no single point of failre or control – and once you switch it on you can’t switch it off; anyone can provide information on anything; idenity and trust exist and are really important; re-aggregation and sharing is natural; usage/utility is shared; as simple as possible.

We want to look at all the ways in which learning resources, services, applications, communities all interact and connect, how material is discovered, described, recommended, how feedback improves the system.

We are resource agnostic – they can be open resources, they can be federal resources, they can be commercial resources, they can be your resources. Anything is welcome. There are common APIs and Resource Network to ingest aterial. Then there are aggregators, publishers, amplifiers, app builders, curators, governments, organisations, businesses that use that material and lead to learning and discovery. The Learning Registry is that mixture of APIs and Resource Network. The model is a fast distributed model, there is no preferred place to find information. Consumers can access any node in the system. If you’ve been around the internet a long time this is NNTP reimagined.

Learning Registry Resource Data:

  • Resource Locator (resource identity: URL)
  • Who’s providing the data (identity: submitter, owner, curator)
  • Terms of Service (URL, optional)
  • Digital Signature (OpenPGP, for trust)
  • Hashtags (recommended)
  • Formal metadta (optional, any schema)
  • Workflow stuff (message IDs, versions, times, transit notes – assertions)
  • Weight (Confidence)

All of this is in JSON, Document-orientated, schema-free database

We have APIs to publish; SWORD (1.3, 2.0), 3rd party OAI-PMH (we don’t harvest(

Acesss (pull to get data): obtain (by ID, reord, URL); Harvest (JSON, or OAI-PMH – we have extended OAI to get information by URL); Slide (subset of identity, schema, keyword) – this is in place of a query API which we are not going to do (e.g. use Elastic Search).

Distribute (node-to-node with regex “filtering”) – this is an internal API really.

Admin (Status, discovery, etc…)

We have this idea of nodes, nodes form networks, networks form communities. And we have nodes that connect networks together. We partition th espace to some extent. Policies are common to particular networks or communities. We have instances where people want to be private: we run 3 communities: production; tech; development. No way to accidently propogate one community with another – so our development version doesn’t accidently creep into production system. This is important at the Dept of Defence co-funded this research and they need one way gateways to take in materials only. See forthcoming image for infrastructure in use across the Registry.

We are in prototype implementation (version 0.3). We use RESTful APIs; data driven policies adn descriptions; we use CouchDB (NoSQL) storage and master master replication – as used by the BBC and the LHC; Map-Reduce views; Python Apps layer which abstracts Coch. We have test and development network, we have a public production network hosted by Amazon EC2 – easiest cheapest solution.

So in terms of looking at the data you can see the interface Jim Klo built at DevCSI this week – more on their blog. If you look at the Ariadne Federated Search Engine and see how their system connects up you can see why they have had concerns about distributing documentation about collections. We can do this easily via nodes in the Learning Registry. We will be issuing assertions that a node will harvest/when they will harvest/alerts to harvest to balance the work across the nodes – the load can be distributed easily.

Pat Lockley’s Plugin (as mentioned earlier). It looks like a normal site search in Google. Can do the normal stuff. BUT he added a button that pulls up the Educational details from Learning Registry. Actually what you want is not those results on Googles but you want a site for users to request use of the plugin and then that will allow them to display that data on site. Exposes a wealth of information from other sources on materials they are sharing.

All tools shown have used the same basic open API. Go ahead and do this yourself!

We are all about openess, mashups etc. We believe in open processes, open data, open products, open standards. We let poeple put in propriatary data BUT we let nodes choose whether or not to look at proprietary data. We make everything except detailed finances open to all who are interested.

Anyone can join the community. You can be a provider of learning resources, metadata, paradata, analytic data etc. you can make your own stuff, you can use the data etc.

We started in June 2010. We had 6 week Agile developement sprints from Oct 1 2010. Production version 0.5 Sept 30th 211. Formal partner integration from October 2011.

Learning Registry Plugfest 2, Dec 12-15, Boulder CO USA

We are working with a huge range of partners. We have spoken to JISC and the BBC – Mo mentioned Digital Public Space and there will be Para data through this. We are working with Open Nottingham as well for instance. Australian partners as well.

Everything is on the website – presentations, documentation, github has the code. Anybody can join and participate.



Q1) Could what you describe be used beyond just learning and educational materials?

A1) It could be used for lots of different things. Nodes can control what they do/don’t interact with. You know this structure could even be a porn network – that’s up to those nodes to do that. But we are seeding with learning stuff.

Q2 – Phil Barker for the audience) What would you do once the Learning Registry is build. How could CETIS and JISC help you do that?

A2 – audience member) We’d like to use it to reenforce the supporting community in the life sciences, particularly in the biological sciences. I’d need some technical support – looks like great material but a steep learning curve.

A2 – Dan) Our goal is that you should be able to understand anything in 2 hours and implement it in 6 hours… otherwise we’ve failed.

Phil: we are really supportive and actively engaged in this project and we have been encouraging people go to Plugfest!

Q3) I like the idea of used materials rise to the top. How can you increase the amplification of those resources?

A3) Two things: more and more people put in data and amplify it themself. We think that someone will write a recommendation system using trust to help decide priority of options.

And now we are off to lunch…

We are back and starting a little early as the sunshine beckons! First up we have:

Getting Bioscience Open Educational resources into ‘Academic Orbit’. Tales from the OeRBITAL launchpad – Terry McAndrew, University of Leeds

I am going to tell you about the OeRBITAl project which myself and Chris Taylor have been working on. We are doing some Fringe touches today… they’ll be some hyped claims! some risks, some leaps of faih and imagination. There will be audience participation opportunities, some death defying PowerPoint… and an Ice Breaker!

Discuss and Declare the BEST OER you have (a) seen and (b) used with your adjacent colleague.

And what was “best” about it, so things like:

  • What qualities did it have?
  • Who did you tell?
  • Did it improve from your collaboration?
  • What happened to it?

So some of those mentioned…

  • Landmap geographical teaching resources
  • Online brain atlas in 3D
  • Video of Silly Putty
  • Virtual Dutch Timeline – moved location causing 404 errors that undermined the resource.
  • YouTube, Flickr gets mention

The biosciences domain is rich for content, many disciplines. Great potential for broad learning objects at UG level but less and less flexible higher up the learning chain.

The Interactive Laboratory and Fieldwork manual for the Biosciences. a large release project of £250k. 10 project partners, over 140 records in Jorum and 200+ resources.

We developer STEM OER Guidance Wiki but at the same time JSIC OER InfoKit appeared. OERs were still completely new to our audience at the time but we did find realistic profiles of academic habits to help us find workflows for creating OERs.

The problem OERs have to tackle is to make resources more effective, reduce duplication of effort, sharing is costly but reinvention more so, but IPR clearance, tagging, branding discovery all challenges to deal with in getting material out there. resources should also raise profile of UK educational sector.

But OERs don’t fall into naturally accomodation culture  be realistic, not niav. Discovery – tryst is important to establish early on (copyright, pedigree, date). Google is an expected route to finding. “any other solution is often more trouble than it’s worth”. And timing is crucial as at certain points in the academic year it’s not realistic to get OERs shared.

Big OER is difficult fit to existing courses. It is a significant thing to bring materials in to your courses that are large objects as it takes away fromyour own teaching content time. Senior staff don’t like junior staff using others’ materials too much. Funded work gets prioritised – staff move onto new funded projects afterwards. Is the academic role the key OER stakeholder? Are there other roles that can boost OERs more?

We ran 10 projects within the consortia with Bioscience. Various approaches here – web applications can be OERs if we trust that they will be maintained (e.g. Oxford iCases). Some of the key issues and outcomes were that:

Starting from scratch is still seen as preferred route for various reasons

Repositories are not “core” practice according to our survey. We have to keep selling their use

Learning Technologists role unclear

OER awareness raised in community

OER approach established

For phase 2 we decided to work on Collections strand (under 75k) and look at geting value for money project to identify, collect and promote collections of OER on the Bioscience Learning and TEaching theme. And we sought to establish an OER cycle – get some velocity around reuse.

We wanted to expose the interface and relate the stories around a Wiki. We recruited 8-10 Discipline Consultants (under 180 hours in total) with network connections hrough Learned Societies, Subject Association. They investigated Ipen repositories and many other source/projets. Highlight best of breed. Identify enahancements using existing OERs and we wanted to do this work with Learning Technologiests. We were concerned to deliver on the needs of our subject areas.

We used the OeRBITAL wiki and encouraged supporting blogs. Mediawiki was used because of broad familiarity with Wikipeia. The wiki allowed collaboration but also encouraging competition to produce work.

We identified individuals and supporting information on topic specialty. We supported our group with information about how to use the wiki, space to comment, space for issues raised. We’ve even spawned an issues raised page and discussion around these. We could grab the whole dialogue and people can investigate the process, the way in which resources were found – these are important to understanding the use of the Wiki in the future.

We found that the Learned Societies are not “gearing up” for OER. The small ones are under resources. here can be monolythic behaviour and there are some ageing resources outthere. There are network ownership and identities new via web 2.0. Not likely to be a primary network. Difficult for other roles to attach and boost support for OERs. Potential to provide content to Learning Registry.

We hope that the gains here will be better teaching, feedback, reputation. The importance was accessibility of resources – see Techdis alter-ego on this. SWOT will be done for found resources but we found that reward and recognition is still a major concern for all looking at OER. Are we expecting the Academic culture to change too much here? Does it have too much gravity – harms sustainable orbit. Should we launch (additionally) from a moon instead – Learning Technologists (R&R) perhaps. Students as Producers, Academics as mentors may be a great low risk approach for creating resources.



A1) Some sort of Bogwart. There are so many disciplines within biosciences and the approaches vary hugely!

Q2) Have all contributed equally?

A2) No, but there are patterns and we can learn from that and feedback to repository provider. And you have have to work with the attitude of the “academic in a hurry” – if you put them off they will not come back and tell others!

Q3) How sustainable is this approach

A3) I think very sustainable especially through something like Learning Registry. If your profile is boosted by OER, or reviewing OER materials. We like Humbox’s profile approach but really that should be on their own spaces – you don’t want loads of diluted efforts across different profiles.

Next up is:

Intralibrary and Item Banking – Charles Duncan, Intrallect Ltd.

We have worked with repositories for some ten years or so, mainly through Intralibrary which we run. We will be looking at Interoperability and Integration both generally and through various specific examples.

Intralibrary as a digital repository now has a different variant: Intralibrary Plus which includes third party tools so that Plus is interoperability. Interoperability and integration lead to certain situations/opportunities/limitations.

if you have low interoperability, low integrations then combining resources involves lots of effort, much unproductive, requires lots of technical skills. Low interoperability but high integration leads to proprietary systems and a high degree of lock in. High interoperability and low integration we are probably quite used to: flexible maships are possible, but technical skills are required and you need to understand interoperbaility. But High interoperability and high integration makes the level of skill and understanding needed to get the best out of combining materials much less and the process more productive. Standards and metadata standards make both interoperability and integration possible.

The high integration and high interoperability model enables exchange of materials in many directions, redeposit etc. Workflows are crucial here. You may want to ensure both a technical and a quality assurance sign off before deposit perhaps. Perhaps the metadata may need signoff as well. And there may be review and revision of your materials as well – connected or separate from the deposit workflow.

So a specific example using MathAssessEngine. This is integrated into intralibrary plus as a special workflow that enables additional buttons – you can use algorithms to build assessment around particular problems, questions, themes. You can create a question for a collection in the system using another tool on another server. Lots of interoperable elements combining here. The create a question tool lets you add any number of differently formatted content – these can be included or excluded depending on the workflow one needs (so maths assessments may not have an essay question option). So lets try an example – a find Edinburgh on the map question that uses hotspots in the map. We can classify the question according to curricula options in the system. And we can save and publish that item.

We can use SVG images as well as traditional images in the system here. You can also assign quality marks to materials and elements here to make content more relevant and useful to others.

So now I will demo how a question within the system can be used in another space. So we just add a question on another site and use that question – and stats about it. So we link together the Create a Question, the Interlibrary and the MassAssessEngine tools all connected together.


Q1) This is sharable across multiple institutions yes? So how do we motivate teaching staff to create materials for others?

A1) The incentive is to share and reduce effort locally but it can also be useful in the same institution for staff to share materials between them. You can also edit the material – being editable makes it updatable and reusable.

Q1 again) It’s getting them to take that approach though, we struggle with that.

And so, with a brief pause for coffee, it’s into our final presentation of the day…

WordPress for hosting and describing learning resources: Reflections from UKOER Delores and other projects – Phil Barker

The thing about speaking at your own event is that no-one introduces you! But I will be talking about a non CETIS project here. I will be talking about a project that was in the same strand as Terry’s and I’ll be talking about assessing OERs using WordPress.

Delores is: Delivering Open Educational Resources for Engineering Design.

We have static and dynamic collections of university level OERs and other openly available resources relevant to Engineering Design. A static collection may include dynamic resources but the collection itself is static. Dynamic collections can have new materials added or taken away or developed.

ICBL, School of mathematical and computer sciences, Heriot-Watt University and the University of Bath worked together on this project, funded by HEA and JISC under OER Phase 2.

We used WordPress to gather resources collected by experts in design engineering as being of high quality and usefulness for the collection. We aimed for about 100 objects in that collection of materials. The dynamic collection is everything underneath that. We use a tool called Sux0r which does Bayesian filtering of content – this is how Spam filtering works. We are using that idea the other way around – filtering out the useful information to detect likely design engineering materials. Then we put material through a tool designed by Bath called Waypoint which enables faceted searching. Anything they can build a search for, that will do this classification, can be passed to the interface. Because Sux0r pulls RSS feeds from collections we know of, those feeds are continually updated and the Waypoint continues to grow the collection that is made available to users. I am going to focus on WordPress but I mention this context to point out that the hard technical stuff, the effort, the hard thinking wasn’t really in the bit I am talking about.

So, starting off… what do we think we need in order to have this static collection? What are the needs for describing these OERs? First up you may not want to hold an actual copy of the resources. We decided we didn’t want to hold a copy of the resource, these were pre-existing resources. What metadata do we need? Title, description, authors, origin, date, subject, classification of some sort, licence, and probably something about the resource type. Users want that information, not neccassarily locked up in an xml file. We want to embed a preview. We may or may not want to allow comments – but we don’t want to have to manage and spam filter those long terms. We want something with a good web presence (and findable by Google) and something that has good participation (links in many direction, embedded material, widgets etc. We want it to take part in the web). We want RSS feeds – great for pushing metadata around, we want embedded metadata (thinking RDFa, microformats etc), we want flexibility, want something easy to use and maintain (perhaps familiar), and exportable metadata?

he idea that we had was to use WordPress. One blog post per resources – if required you can attach resources that are single files. Gives basic description and good web presences. WP handles author, date, tite, and tags and topics ofr classification. Also extensions for metadata and additional functionality (a big developer community there).

We weren’t the first people with this idea…

  • Oxford’s Triton Project are running the Politics In Spires blog. They are creating OERs within WordPress – describe and comment on current affairs and other items. They have focused on add ons around that blog.
  • Edinburgh University have an initiative called OpenMed
  • CETIS has been exploring the use of WordPress to disseminate our publications. We see a sneak preview and should note that resources are attached to posts and looks nothing like a blog
  • Scriblio (formally WPopac) – WordPress theme to create an OPAC using WordPress

How were our goals met? Well most of what we wanted was possible. What I like about WordPress is Trackbacks – you can see when you’ve been blogged or linked to – people can write about you and you can then aggregate those comments on your post. You do get RSS feeds but some questions to mention that. It’s easy to use and maintain and familiar – though the more flexibility you use, the harder it is to maintain. All those question marks are where WordPress gives you information about the author but not the originator of the resource.

So some customisation…

We used WordPress’s custom fields and we adapted the theme so that these are displayed. And we will have either a Plugin or theme written so that the right metadata goes into the RSS feed. So lets have a look in the system for bridges…

We can find a description and preview of the resource, links to it etc. Looking at the admin screen you can see we are using custom fields to include metadata about the object and we have set up categories that fit the curriculum. Lisa in the audience here wrote all of the resource description – she is a trained librarian and that has really been helpful here.

And connected to that we will be hearing from:

OpenMed – Ross Reed, Edinburgh University

OpenMed is being used in a very similar way. We are using the same format of a blogpost as a reference to a resource. All th ebackend is written for you – with a few plugins to use. This was a spin off project from another bigger project. We wanted to cherry pick good resources and get away from the Google type discovery process for trying to find good resources. Resources are represented by posts. Categories and tags are in use. We have four people who are looking at their specialties here. Our key aim was how can each resource be entered in in 30 seconds if neccassary. We really trimmed down the editor view to make it very focused. The added value we have to the normal resources is they are peer rated. And we’ve used Pages to create rough curricula areas. This is to cater for those who wish to browse. We noticed when we started that repositories are super if you know what you are looking for but we are trying to push people to things for their curriculum in easier ways. We’ve gone for utilising WordPress to add value to the materials we point to.

The benefits was that it saved Ross time – he’s started writing a repository system at huge time cost but future proofing that was a bit of a nightmare. WordPress was far quicker and easier to implement. It had to be easy to author and edit and add on as we only have funding for limited time so if we can build up a good community it should be easy to update and maintain – someone yesterday said that you wouldn’t use Facebook if you needed to be trained to use it and that’s why we’ve tried to make it easy.

If you click on a resource you see ratings (stars for quality, A/B/C/C+ indicate level of teaching) and brief information. We hope to include more of the resource itself as well. We try to autocomplete as much as possible so although we don’t use metadata schema as such but we do collect some metadata in standard forms.

WordPress had RSS and security all built in. The search tools are also pretty good in WordPress – and there are lots of plugins to let you customise it further – additional filers for instance.

But we soon realised that the WordPress

WordPress SEO is quite good. It’s only been live for a few weeks and there are 170 resources over 4 subject areas.

Advantages: quick, good support from the community and from wordpress plugin (almost immediately requests followed up), it’s opened my eyes to the benefits of the open source community, easy to edit, it’s fairly customisable for the future as well, the academics contributing to it have been very keen to contribute to it themselves.We also want to make it as easy as possible to find, to link to, to link up to other resources etc.

We have switched off comments as we build it up but we may well be adding those. And there is the possibility of user rating not withstanding what Pat said this morning about


Q1) How much time did it take to go from start to finish with WordPress to live OpenMed system?

A1 – Ross) Probably 2 months calendar times, 2 days/week developer time. I use 6 plugins and only had to customise one of these. My issue was with curriculum pages – importing lists of resources into a page.

A1 – Phil) In terms of which language WordPress is written in PHP and CSS stylesheets. But nost of the time is trying out different plugins rather than develop them.

A1 – Ross) Yes, lots of trial error. But plugins can cause headaches with maintenance.Remember to delete those you

Q2) When you seek a resource do you look at where else that resource is used? FInding communities of use can help support the use?

A2 – Ross) I’m a bit detached from that part of the process but it would be intresting to look for. But would be interesting to capture that process of finding and selecting the resources. Largely talking to colleagues, Google, contacts etc. We’ve not had a protocol for finding these. We’ve just asked for good resources in use already

A2 – Phil) I’m waiting for Dan/Learning Registry to do that for me!

A2 – Ross) It would be great to be able to get a Plugin for Learning Registry…

A2 – Dan) Speak to Pat, he’s already working on one!

Phil is rounding off the day with thanks to all attendees, all the speakers, to the organisers of Repository Fringe who made this easy to set up and thanks to all who have been tweeting, engaging online, etc.

The page on the CETIS wiki with the programme information will have the links to presentations etc. in the next week or so.



 August 5, 2011  Posted by at 9:32 am Live Blog Tagged with: , ,

  3 Responses to “LiveBlog: JISC Cetis Workshop”

  1. Hi Nicola

    Thanks for such great notes – this is now my official “memory” of the day.


  2. […] presentation I used and the (lightly editted) notes taken by Nicola Osborne’s in her live blog of the event. WordPress for hosting and describing learning resources View more presentations […]

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