Learning Repositories: the view from the UK
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Learning Repositories: the view from the UK Dai Griffiths The Institute for Educational Cybernetics / CETIS The University of Bolton This presentation will provide An overview of relevant JISC programmes in the UK, and other institutions

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Learning Repositories: the view from the UK

Dai Griffiths

The Institute for Educational Cybernetics / CETIS

The University of Bolton

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This presentation will provide

  • An overview of relevant JISC programmes in the UK, and other institutions

  • Some projects that you might like to look into, with links

  • Assessment of where we are now

  • Identification of three broad challenges in the changing environment

  • Some current initiatives that address the challenges

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1. Overview of funding agencies and programmes in the UK

  • In the UK a lot of money has been put into development in the area of repositories and learning objects

  • Depending on how you count, maybe 100s relevant projects, and around 50-100 directly on repositories and contents

  • Too many projects to go into detail, so I provide links to programmes

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JISC is a key institution

  • “Joint Information Systems Committee” for Higher Education in the UK, established 1993

  • “Top sliced” funding, currently around £66m p.a.

  • Roughly half to run the JANET network

  • In 2004 £90 million additional funding for the Capital programme

  • This is a lot of money (though UK Research Councils spend £2.8 billion p.a.)

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JISC Projects

  • Funds projects, with a focus on creation and use of technical infrastructure for education

  • Intended to be useful, not pure research

  • Typically smaller and shorter than European projects

  • One of 8 current focus areas is “e-Resources — digital information and e-content”

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The Capital programme and eLearning

  • e-Learning Programme is one of four main strands

    • e-Learning pedagogy

    • e-Learning framework and tools

    • Innovations in e-learning

    • Distributed e-learning

  • 140 projects funded so far (6 months to 3 years)

  • Budget has risen to £10m per year

    www.elearning.ac.uk and www.jisc.ac.uk

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Examples of JISC programmes: FAIR

  • Focus on Access to Institutional Resources

  • 2002 – 2005, budget 2 million pounds

  • 14 projects

  • Building on Open Archives initiative, set out to increase digital materials produced by HE/FE, and make more accessible. 


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Examples of JISC programmes: X4L

  • X4L (Exchange For Learning)

    • 2002 - 2006

    • 31 projects (including Reload)

    • Focus on learning activity – what the learner does – and on intended learning outcomes. Emphasis on working with current and/or intended users of the learning objects.


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Examples of JISC programmes: Digital libraries in the classroom

  • Four projects, all with partners in USA

  • The Spoken Word (digital audio in the humanities)

  • DialogPlus (Geography) http://www.dialogplus.org/

    • Developed learning activity toolkit

  • DIDET (Design engineering)

  • DART (Anthropology)

  • Innovative approaches to teaching and learning in geography


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Examples of JISC programmes: Digital Repositories classroom

  • 2005 – 2007

  • Brings together people and practices from across various domains (research, learning, information services, institutional policy, management and administration, records management, and so on) to ensure the maximum degree of coordination in the development of digital repositories, in terms of their technical and social (including business) aspects.

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Digital Repository Programme classroom

  • Feeds into eFramework

  • 35 projects

    • General (promoting and understanding use): 7

    • Research papers repositories: 4

    • E-Theses: 3

    • Research data: 6

    • E-Learning: 9

    • Images: 2

    • Studies: 2 http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/programme_digital_repositories.aspx

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This work continues… classroom

  • Repositories and Preservation programme

    • 2006-2009

  • Digital Repositories programme

    • 2007-2008

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Examples of JISC Programmes: The e-Framework classroom

  • An ambitious attempt to model the whole of higher education as a set of distributed services

  • Services are technical components from which applications can be built

  • The vision is to reuse services flexibly in a range of institutions, and reduce costs

  • Advocates open standards based specifications

  • Many Capital Programme projects


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eFramework is built on reference models classroom

  • Reference models articulate needs, requirements, workflows and processes in a number of domains, checked against a wide number of users and stakeholders in each domain, together with a mapping of each process to underlying technical services.

  • Olivier, B, Roberts, T, Blinco, K (July 2005) The e-Framework for Education and Research: an Overview

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Reference models and repositories classroom

  • Evaluation of OAIS


  • JISC IE Discovery to Delivery (D2D) Reference Model

    Examining “the process by which an end-user moves from identifying a need to obtaining a resource that they can use to address that need”


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Repositories research team classroom

  • There is also a JISC funded Repositories Research Team, led by UKOLN and CETIS



  • Special Interest Group


  • and a newsletter


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Other key institutions classroom : BECTA

  • British Educational Communications and Technology Agency

  • Agency of Department for Education and Skills in the UK. Oversees procurement of all ICT equipment and eLearning strategy for schools

  • Funded the National Learning Network

  • BECTA also participate in JORUM

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Other key institutions: CETIS (a service funded by JISC) classroom

  • 1998 – 2007 and still going strong

  • Advises JISC on the key role of interoperability standards and eLearning developments

  • Represents JISC and the UK HE/FE community on international efforts to specify standards for eLearning

  • Works with the UK HE/FE community to engage in and benefit from the standardization effort

  • Supports JISC programmes and funded projects in implementation and dissemination

  • 12 full time employees, events, conference…


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The Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are the main vehicle classroom

  • Meet other people working on similar projects / dealing with similar issues / using the same educational technology specifications

  • Learn from the experience of other people who have worked on similar projects / issues / specs

  • Develop useful collaborations with others trying to do similar things in their institutions / organizations

  • Keep aware of news, events and developments in the area

  • Present their work to others

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CETIS / IEC also runs projects classroom

  • CETIS is a service run by the Institute for Educational Cybernetics (IEC) of the University of Bolton (formerly a university department also called CETIS)

  • The IEC also bids for other projects, e.g.

    • Reload suite of IMS editors www.reload.ac.uk

    • Personal Learning Environment

    • FeedForward

    • Pedagogical Vocabularies

    • and many more…

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JORUM links

  • JISC Online Repository for [Learning and Teaching] Materials

  • A major initiative: a repository service for all Further and Higher Education Institutions in the United Kingdom (UK)

  • Built by Intrallect with their 'intraLibrary Learning-Object Management System'

  • Established 2005

  • Free content, made available by institutions


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The statistics for JORUM are not encouraging links

  • 2387 resources

  • 3565 users


  • 388 institutions

    (JORUM Web site, 19 September 2007)

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Why is JORUM not used more? links

  • 1) It is possible that teachers in Higher Education feel that sharing undermines their role, and is not rewarded

  • 2) To guarantee free and legal resources are posted, JORUM is a walled garden

  • Membership is by institution, which means legal issues regarding copyright (the institution takes the risk)


  • The institutional lawyers don’t like this, and the problems may seem to outweigh the advantage

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NLN Materials for further education links

  • Funded by the Learning and Skills Council and BECTA

  • Substantial amounts of materials were commissioned

  • A walled garden, only open to teachers in registered institutions

  • The effort has not been maintained, and use seems to have been below what had been anticipated


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Pedagogical vocabularies project links

  • E-Learning pedagogy programme, managed by CETIS

  • Feeding into eFramework

  • Three reports

    • Pedagogical Vocabularies Review

    • Vocabulary Management Technologies Review

    • Priorities, Issues and Recommendations to JISC


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ePrints, a successful repository links

  • Principally a success because it has identified a need.

  • Not a Learning Object repository, focus on research papers and dissemination

  • No walled garden

  • 234 known archives are running EPrints worldwide

    e.g. http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/

  • Total records in known archives: 339592

  • Any search can be RSS feed, GoogleScholar support, thumbnails, closed access management

  • http://www.eprints.org/

  • http://www.eprints.org/software/v3/EPrintsv3Presentation_small.pdf

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Open University OpenLearn links

  • Free access to learning materials from the Open University of the UK

  • Following the lead of MIT OpenCourseWare

  • At present well over 200 units (each of which is quite substantial) and growing

  • Customisable XML format, Creative Commons, RSS…


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Institutional and personal commitment are key factors links

  • JORUM requires a commitment from institutions which they are hesitant about

  • Teachers do not seem convinced of the benefits to them of sharing teaching materials in H.E. today

  • But there is institutional and personal commitment to publishing research

  • The OU has an institutional strategy for OpenLearn, and professional course development, so teachers are not threatened

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ROAR: Registry for Open Access Repositories links

  • At Southampton University (home of ePrints)

  • Uses hostnames to look for repositories that may be run by an institution

  • Interesting to compare countries


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At the moment in the UK… links

  • The ROAR statistics indicate that there has been substantial investment made in repositories for learning materials

  • But levels of use by teachers and institutions has not been as high as expected

  • Limiting factors we have mentioned include

    • Lack of coherent institutional commitment

    • Poor return on sharing learning resources

  • Repositories for research papers and dissemination materials are more successful (ePrints, DSpace)

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Challenges from the changing technological environment links

  • Two related issues

    1. The web as a repository

    2. Distributed webs and services

  • and

    3.The expectations raised by social software

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Challenge 1. The Web as a repository links

  • Google turns the net into a kind of repository, and makes it available to other developers via API

  • Others have persuaded users to do make indexes

    • In repositories of resources (Flickr, YouTube…)

    • In repositories of descriptions of resources (Del.icio.us)

  • Tagging and social bookmarking sites have vast numbers of resources posted. These are the successful repositories

  • Classical metadata systems are expensive, and their advantages are less significant than the scale of Web resources available

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Challenge 2. Distributed Webs and services links

  • “Which server am I on” used to be a meaningful question

  • But the web site is no longer a unit

  • RSS and Web services allow web sites to suck in information from other sources and represent it

  • What does this mean for the idea of a repository?

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FeedForward: meet the challenge with a personal integrating tool

  • JISC funded, IEC developed, finishes 2008

  • Java desktop tool to bring together user-created and curated content within a simple workflow

  • Unify & organise information management in personal contexts

  • An RSS aggregator, discovery of new sources using IESR, access ePrints servers and institutional repositories

  • Access to learning object repositories such as Jorum via SRU search

  • Blog post editor, publishing to repositories…

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DCAM: meet the challenge by updating the metadata approach tool

  • Work in CETIS metadata SIG to develop Dublin Core Abstract Model, strongly linked to RDF

  • Not just “a set of 15 elements” plus additions

  • Not limited to “simple” “flat” “atomic” descriptions

  • Describes

    • Components and constructs that make up an information structure (“DC description set”)

    • How that information structure is to be interpreted

      http://wiki.cetis.ac.uk/uploads/5/5a/2007-04-16-dcam.ppt Pete Johnston, Eduserv Foundation

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Dublin Core Abstract Model tool

  • a framework (the DCAM)

    • which describes how to use certain types of terms

    • ... to make statements...

    • ... that form descriptions (of resources)

    • … that can be grouped together as description sets

  • a set of specifications for encoding description sets using various formats

  • a managed vocabulary of widely useful terms

    • which can be referenced in statements

  • support for defining additional vocabularies of terms

    • which can be referenced in statements

  • support for defining DC application profiles

    • which describe how to construct description sets for some particular set of requirements

  • extensibility, modularity, compatibility with Semantic Web

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Challenge 3. Social Software adapted to learning tool

  • Social software is a mass phenomenon for students

  • Facebook intensively used by UK education professionals

  • This creates expectations among users

  • Elgg (for example) can apply social softwre to education. http://elgg.org/

  • But is it an ePortfolio?

    • http://eduspace.dearbornschools.org/

  • Or a community?

    • http://community.brighton.ac.uk/

  • Could it be a repository?

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There are lots of different types of communities tool

  • Practice (we are working with IMS QTI and want to learn from each others practice…)

  • Interest (We want to know more about IMS LD)

  • Action (organise SPDECE 2007)

  • Purpose (build this metadata editor)

  • Circumstance (this is a boring presentation, but lets talk over coffee)

  • Position (we are all responsible for the use of technology in our institutions)

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Applying this to H.E. tool

Slide copied from Scott Wilson, 2006, with thanks

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This is a complex environment tool

  • Communities are flexible and over-lapping

  • If we want to engage with people used to social networking, then we have to enable them to represent this complexity

  • It will not enough to put a forum on a repository

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OpenDocument.net: easy for groups to use/set up repositories tool

  • Supports publication and comment by small groups/institutions

  • LAMP application, installs on remote Web space (no permission needed from an institution)

  • Federated

  • Accessible through API, like Google maps

  • Upacks and constructs Zip files on the fly

  • XML parser answers queries with data from a manifest

  • http://designshare.opendocument.net/

  • http://www.opendockproject.org/

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Pedestal: a social front end tool

  • Proposes motivation for use comes from

    • reward (e.g. kudos, local or international recognition, or financial)

    • overcoming fears of loss of control in centralised deposits, supported by rights protection

  • Has socially oriented front end: groups, special interests, like minded colleagues…

  • http://rightsandrewards.lboro.ac.uk/

  • http://pedestal.lboro.ac.uk/

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All this suggests that… tool

  • The classical vision of LO repositories has not been widely adopted, and may not be in future

  • Niche role for Classical Learning Object repositories (e.g. SCORM in military training)

  • There is a developing role for research repositories (ePrints, etc.)

  • Main developments will be

    • Invisible infrastructure (e.g. DSpace RSS feeds)

    • Agile lightweight systems (e.g. OpenDock)

    • Groups and communities (e.g. Pedestal)

    • Exploration of metadata approaches (e.g. DCAM)

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Thanks tool

Please feel free to contact me if you would like me to put you in contact with any of the projects I have mentioned

Talk to me here, or mail me on

[email protected]