During the second half the JISC Persistent Identifiers Meeting participants split into five groups to discuss identifier requirements for the following resource types: research papers, research data, learning materials, cultural heritage, administrative information.
Phil Barker, Matt Jukes, Chris Awre and I composed the small group that discussed teaching and learning materials and these were our conclusions.
Much of the discourse of the day did not sit comfortably with the teaching and learning domain. There was an implicit assumption that resources reside in repositories of some kind and are accompanied by quality-controlled metadata.
In reality teaching and learning materials are stored in many different places that can not be regarded as repositories “no matter how big the quotation marks”. These resources tend to be unmanaged and are not persistent.
Learning materials have relationships to many other entities e.g. the concept being learned, educational activities, course instance, individual people and social networks. These entities are poorly understood and modelled and are difficult to identify.
There is still a “craft” view of the process and practice of teaching and consequently there is some resistance to formalising the management of resources and activities.
There is no clearly identifiable lifecycle for teaching and learning materials and frequently no formal mechanism for their management.
Learning materials are “made public” but they are not “published” in the formal sense and metadata is often poor or non existent.
Composite objects - learning materials are frequently composite objects that may be ordered in one or more ways. Identifiers need to be able to identify the component parts, specify the order and potentially also to recompose and reorder them.
Open educational resources - once resources are released under an open license there are likely to be multiple different copies, formats and versions all over the place. How do you express relationship between these multiple entities?
Resource / course relationship - what is the relationship between learning materials and concepts such as educational activity or educational activity? It is notoriously difficult to assign an educational level to a learning resources but it is often much easier to assign an educational level to a course. Is it possible to extrapolate from the course to the resource?
Institutions are beginning to recognise that learning materials are valuable for the core business of higher education, i.e. teaching and learning; and that it may be beneficial to manage them for quality and efficiency gains.
The OER movement may be a significant driver for futher work in this area.
What approaches are being used at present?
There is no clearly identifiable workflow behind the use of learning materials. The url of a learning resource tends to become its identifier and is dependant on where the resource is stored e.g. vle, repository, slideshare. Clearly however the url refers to a specific instantiation of a resource in a specific location.
There is very little in the way of established practice in terms of management and identification of teaching and learning materials. Everything in flux. In the terminology of the Repository Ecology report things are still a “mess.” A mess being:
“a complex issue that is not well formulated or defined”
Issues regarding sustainability and scalability
Do teaching and learning materials actually need to persist? There are usecases for persistence e.g. non-repudiation. Also teachers have to be confident that a resource will be there next time they need to use it.
Does it actually matter if resources are scattered all over the place with metadata that is poor to nonexistent?
…if you know the answer to that last question please comment below!