A position paper for the ADL Repositories and Registries Summit by Lorna M. Campbell, Phil Barker and R. John Robertson
Between 2002 and 2010 the UK Joint information Systems Committee (JISC)1 funded a wide range of development programmes with the aim of improving access within the UK Further and Higher Education (F/HE) sector to content produced by F/HE institutions and to establish policies and technical infrastructure to facilitate its discovery and use. The Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards (CETIS)2 is a JISC innovation support centre that provides technical and strategic support and guidance to the JISC development programmes and F/HE sector. CETIS contributed to scoping the technical requirements of the programmes summarised here.
Programmes such as Exchange for Leaning (X4L, 2002 – 2006)3 focused on the creation of reusable learning resources and tools to facilitate their production and management while Re-purposing and Re-use of Digital University-level Content4 (RePRODUCE, 2008 – 2009) aimed to encourage the re-use of high quality externally produced materials and to facilitate the transfer of learning content between institutions. At the same time the Digital Repositories5 (2005 – 2007) and Repositories Preservation Programmes6 (2006 – 2009) focused on establishing technical infrastructure within institutions and across the sector.
These programmes were informed by a strategic and technical vision which was expressed through initiatives including the e-Learning Framework7, the e-Framework8, the Information Environment Technical Architecture9 and the Digital Repositories Roadmap10. The IE Architecture for example sought to “specify a set of standards and protocols intended to support the development and delivery of an integrated set of networked services that allowed the end-user to discover, access, use and publish digital and physical resources as part of their learning and research activities.”
These programmes and initiatives have met with varying degrees of success across the different sectors of the UK F/HE community. The rapid growth in the number of open access institutional repositories of scholarly works including both journal papers and e-theses may be attributed directly to the impact of JISC funding and policy. The number of open access institutional repositories has approximately doubled since 2007 to 17211 currently . Arguably there has been less success supporting and facilitating access to teaching and learning materials. Although the number of repositories of teaching and learning materials is growing slowly, few institutions have policies for managing these resources. Indeed one of the final conclusions of the Repositories and Preservation Programme Advisory Group, which advised the JISC repositories programmes, was that teaching and learning resources have not been served well by the debate about institutional repositories seeking to cover both open access to research outputs and management of teaching and learning materials as the issues relating to their use and management are fundamentally different12. The late Rachel Heery also commented that greater value may be derived from programmes that focus more on achieving strategic objectives (e.g. improving access to resources) and less on a specific technology to meet these objectives (e.g. repositories). In addition the findings of the RePRODUCE Programme13 suggested that projects had significantly underestimated the difficulty of finding high quality teaching and learning materials that were suitable for copyright clearance and reuse.
Rather than a radical shift in policy these conclusions should be regarded as reflecting a gradual development in policy, licensing and technology right across the web. This includes the advent of web 2.0, the appearance of media specific dissemination platforms such as slideshare, youtube, flickr, iTunesU, interaction through RESTful APIs, OpenID, OAuth and other web-wide technologies, increasing acceptance of Creative Commons licenses and the rise of the OER movement. As a result there has been a movement away from developing centralised education specific tools services and towards the integration of institutional systems with applications and services scattered across the web. Furthermore there has been growing awareness of the importance of the web itself as a technical architecture as opposed to a simple interface or delivery platform.
These developments are reflected in current JISC development programmes where the priority is less on using a particular technology (e.g. repositories) or implementing a particular standard but rather to get useful, useable content out to the UK F/HE community and beyond by what ever means possible. The JISC Higher Education Academy Open Educational Resources Pilot Programme14 (OER, 2009 – 2010) is a case in point. To illustrate how both strategic policy and technology have developed it is interesting to compare and contrast the 2002 X4L Programme and the current OER Pilot Programme
X4L Programme 2002 – 2006
The X4L programme aimed to explore the re-purposing of existing content suitable for use in learning. Part of this activity was to explore the process of integrating interoperable learning objects with VLEs. A small number of tools projects were funded to facilitate this task: an assessment management system (TOIA), a content packaging tool (Reload) and a learning object repository (Jorum). Projects were given a strong steer to use interoperability standards such as IMS QTI, IMS Content Packaging, ADL SCORM and IEEE LOM. A mandatory application profile of the IEEE LOM was developed for the programme and formal subject classification vocabularies identified including JACS and Dewey. Projects were strongly recommended to deposit their content in the Jorum repository and institutions were required to sign formal licence agreements before doing so. Access to content deposited content in Jorum was restricted to UK F/HE institutions only.
OER Pilot Programme 2009 – 2010
The aim of the OER Pilot Programme is to make a significant volume of existing teaching and learning resources freely available online and licensed in such a way to enable them to be reused worldwide. Projects may release any kind of content in any format and although projects are encouraged to use open standards where applicable proprietary formats are also acceptable. CETIS advised projects on the type of information they should record about their resources but not how to go about recording it. There is no programme specific metadata application profile and no formal metadata standard or vocabularies have been recommended. The only mandatory metadata that projects were directed to record was the programme tag #ukoer. Projects were given free rein to use any dissemination platform they chose provided that the content is freely available and under an open licence. In addition, projects must also represent their resources in JorumOpen either by linking or through direct deposit. All resources represented in JorumOpen are freely available worldwide and released under Creative Commons licences.
During the course of the OER Pilot Programme CETIS have interviewed all 29 projects to record their technical choices and the issues that have surfaced. This information has been recorded in the CETIS PROD15 system and has been synthesised in a series of blog posts16. CETIS is also undertaking additional exploratory work to investigate different methods of aggregating and tracking resources produced by the OER Programme. The contrast between the two programmes is marked and the success or otherwise of the technical approach adopted by the OER Pilot Programme remains to be seen. The programme concludes in April 2010 and a formal programme level synthesis and evaluation is already underway.
1. Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards, CETIS, http://www.cetis.ac.uk
2. Exchange for Learning Programme, X4L, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/x4l.aspx
3. Re-purposing and Re-use of Digital University-level Content Programme, RePRODUCE, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearningcapital/reproduce.aspx
4. Digital Repositories Programme, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/digitalrepositories2005.aspx
5. Repositories Preservation Programmes http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/reppres.aspx
6. E-Learning Framework, http://www.elframework.org/
7. E-Framework, http://www.e-framework.org/
8. JISC Information Environment Technical Architecture http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/themes/informationenvironment/iearchitecture.aspx
9. Digital Repositories Roadmap, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/themes/informationenvironment/reproadmaprev.aspx
10. The Directory of Open Access Repositories, OpenDOAR, http://www.opendoar.org/
11.Exclude Teaching and Learning Materials from the Open Access Repositories Debate. Discuss, http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/lmc/2008/10/27/exclude-teaching-and-learning-materials-from-the-open-access-repositories-debate-discuss/
12. RePRODUCE Programme Summary Report, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elreproduce/jisc_programme_summary_report_reproduce.doc
13. JISC Academy Open Educational Resources Pilot Progamme, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/oer.aspx
14. CETIS PROD, monitoring projects, software and standards, http://prod.cetis.ac.uk/query.php?theme=UKOER
15. John’s JISC CETIS Blog, http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/johnr/category/ukoer/
16. OER Synthesis and Evaluation Project, http://www.caledonianacademy.net/spaces/oer/