Just a short note to record that in the last week, I’ve been informed that both our recent bids to JISC will be funded. The projects start on February 1st, just as Total ReCal is formally closing. As you can imagine, we’re all extremely pleased to be able to undertake this work over the next few months and are grateful for the backing that the funding provides.
Here are summaries of the project bids. You can read the full bid documents by clicking on the links.
Like most other HEIs, Lincoln’s web presence has grown ‘organically’ over the years, utilising a range of authoring and content management technologies to satisfy long-term business requirements while meeting the short-term demands of staff and students. We recognise the value of our .ac.uk domain as an integral part of our ‘Learning Landscape’ and, building on recent innovations in our Online Services Team, intend to re-evaluate the overall underlying architecture of our websites with a range of stakeholders and engage with others in the sector around the structure, persistence and use of the open data we publish on the web. Some preliminary work has already been undertaken in this area and we wish to use this opportunity to consolidate what we have learned as well as inform our own work through a series of wider consultations and engagement with the JISC community.
Jerome began in the summer of 2010, as an informal ‘un-project’, with the aim of radically integrating data available to the University of Lincoln’s library services and offering a uniquely personalised service to staff and students through the use of new APIs, open data and machine learning. Jerome addresses many of the challenges highlighted in the Resource Discovery Taskforce report, including the need to develop scale at the data and user levels, the use of third-party data and services and a better understanding of ‘user journeys’. Here, we propose to formalise Jerome as a project, consolidating the lessons we have learned over the last few months by developing a sustainable, institutional service for open bibliographic metadata, complemented with well documented APIs and an ‘intelligent’, personalised interface for library users.
UPDATE (01/02/2011): This idea is now developing into an autonomous Social Science Centre. Click here for the website.
The university has a staff suggestion scheme that rewards good ideas from staff. I’ve just submitted a proposal to the university for help in setting up a Social Science Centre. This is based loosely on an unsuccessful bid to HEFCE that we made a couple of months ago to develop an ‘academic commons’ of sustainable, co-operatively run centres for higher education, somewhat based on the Social Centre model. Initially, as you’ll see below, we’re proposing that courses are run in existing public spaces, with a view to buying or renting a city-centre property further down the line. Attached to this (preferably on the premises) would be some kind of co-operatively run business (I like the idea of a decent bakery – you can’t buy real bread in Lincoln), which would bring in an income to help cover running costs and act as a way to connect with local residents apart from and beyond the educational provision of the Centre.
Anyway, here’s a brief overview of the idea which we’re keen to develop over the next year. If you’re interested and in Lincoln, then a few of us are meeting In Lincoln at 5pm on the 25th September to discuss the practicalities of this idea further. Members of the Cowley Club and Sumac Centre will be there to talk about their experience setting up their respective Social Centres. Email me for more details.
The proposal is that the university support the development of an independent Social Science Centre in Lincoln. The Social Science Centre will offer credit bearing courses in Sociology, Politics and Philosophy, programmes not currently available as part of the University of Lincoln’s portfolio. A key aspect of the Centre is that students would not pay any tuition fees. The Centre would be community based, utilising already existing public spaces in Lincoln, e.g., libraries, museums, schools, community centres. The Centre will be ran as a co-operative, involving local people in the managing and governance of this provision. The courses will be provided by academic members of the co-operative on a voluntary basis. The role of the university will be to provide accreditation for the programmes and an advisory role in establishing the centre as well as an ongoing supportive input. There will be no direct ongoing costs for which the university will be liable. An important principle for the Centre is that it is sustainable and, for that reason, the number of students will not exceed twenty in any academic year. It is intended that this model of sustainable, co-operatively run centres for higher education will act as a catalyst for the creation of other centres for higher education.
CERD‘s Student as Producer project has been awarded funding by the HEA! The whole department is really looking forward to working on this institution-wide project. Here’s the executive summary of our proposal.
The drive to connect research and undergraduate teaching to create a productive and progressive pedagogical framework has become one of the most significant areas for academic development in higher education.
The Student as Producer project develops this connection by re-engineering the relationship between research and teaching. This involves a reappraisal of the relationship between academics and students, with students becoming part of the academic project of universities rather than consumers of knowledge.
Key to this process of re-engineering is to establish research-engaged teaching and learning as an institutional priority at the University of Lincoln, making it the dominant paradigm for all aspects of curriculum design and delivery, and the central pedagogical principle that informs other aspects of the University’s strategic planning.
Research-engaged teaching and learning is defined as: ‘A fundamental principle of curriculum design whereby students learn primarily by engagement in real research projects, or projects which replicate the process of research in their discipline. Engagement is created through active collaboration amongst and between students and academics’.
Although focussed on one institution the project will engage fully with other higher educational institutions, at the local, national and international level, so as to ensure maximum impact across the sector.
Just a few slides I threw together that might save someone else the effort. The links on the penultimate slide are a useful quick reference to JISC’s work on VREs. Useful if you’re trying to introduce the idea in your university. It’s interesting to see VREs described as ‘socio-technical systems’ and the emphasis that is put on community in a bottom-up approach to building a VRE.
One of the conclusions I’ve come to over the course of the ChemistryFM project is that sharing doesn’t need institutionalising. I don’t think we need to develop policy and processes for sharing the work we do. I’ve been drafting the final report for the ChemistryFM project this week and have written that “the overall approach taken throughout the project was to not treat it as a project.” Basically, despite being Project Manager, I’ve just let the teachers and students get on with the work we said we’d do and prompted them simply to remind them of obligations we have to finishing the project on time.
The idea of formalising the process of sharing teaching and learning materials is something I’ve found myself increasingly resisting throughout the project. Academics don’t need more constraints on their working practices, they need less. They need more freedom to share and a hand in doing so when they’re hesitant about how best to share their work; they need support when they’re unclear about how to license their resources.
I’ve been reminded of a paper by David Noble where he argues that universities are responsible for “the systematic conversion of intellectual activity into intellectual capital and, hence, intellectual property.” He goes on to bemoan
the commoditization of the educational function of the university, transforming courses into courseware, the activity of instruction itself into commercially viable proprietary products that can be owned and bought and sold in the market. In the first phase the universities became the site of production and sale of patents and exclusive licenses. In the second, they are becoming the site of production of — as well as the chief market for — copyrighted videos, courseware, CD–ROMs, and Web sites.
Of course, the OER movement is in part a reaction to this very commoditisation of education and an effort to counter the transformation of courses into commercial courseware.
I worry though that by institutionalising OERs, we’re producing constraints that go against sharing. Scaling up the production of OERs to an institutional level where sharing is considered in terms of an IP Policy, business case, marketing and ‘best practice’ will kill the potential that already exists to share. We have the Internet, we have the licenses, we have an abundance of resources to share. We don’t even need to measure success in terms of resources shared. Rather, we should be measuring the success of the OER movement by our willingness to resist the systematic conversion of intellectual activity into intellectual capital. To justify OERs in terms of a business case is just another way of creating capital out of immaterial labour.
In terms of our contribution to the academic commons we’ve already argued that the teacher-student relationship needs to be defined by an alternative organising principle where the student is a co-producer in the construction of mass intellectuality.
this requires academics and students to do more than simply redesign their curricula, but go further and redesign the organizing principle, (i.e. private property and wage labour), through which academic knowledge is currently being produced… creating a teaching, learning and research environment which promotes the values of openness and creativity, engenders equity among academics and students and thereby offers an opportunity to reconstruct the student as producer and academic as collaborator. In an environment where knowledge is free, the roles of the educator and the institution necessarily change. The educator is no longer a delivery vehicle and the institution becomes a landscape for the production and construction of a mass intellect in commons.
When there’s equity between teacher and student, then sharing will come naturally, it will be unstoppable and grow exponentially. When teaching and learning materials are evaluated, packaged, branded, standardised and archived, they’re turned into learning objects consumed by objectified ‘learners’. That is, if they ever get as far as becoming learning objects as each step in their production is another barrier to sharing.
Scott Leslie has got it right when he says, “if you want to share, you will”. If we help create a desire, (a compulsion is what I feel), to share in both teacher and student academics, then any existing barriers will be irrelevant. We do that, not by institutionalising sharing, but by showing the humanity in sharing; the joy of giving and receiving; the immaterial wealth of knowledge that already exists and the pleasure of creating social relations that resist the organising principle of private property and wage labour.
There’s no emphasis on technology or networks or even the conscious act of sharing. The emphasis is on grounding education in the reality of our social relations, the struggle of daily life, the hierarchical relations between institutions and people, and between academics and students. The desire for autonomy is also a desire to re-instate the commons, to break the enclosures that currently inhibit sharing. The conscious act of sharing is both a move to resist oppression and a drive towards autonomy. After all, we share our work in education so that one-day we might become free through education, don’t we?
The title of this post is ‘towards a manifesto for sharing’. If we were to write such a manifesto, what would it contain? Feel free to start writing it in the comment box below. Thanks.
Yesterday, I submitted a proposal to Talis under their Incubator fund. If successful, I would have the pleasure of working with Paul Stainthorp, E-Resources Librarian at the University of Lincoln, and Casey Bisson, Information Architect at Plymouth State University. The bid is to develop an idea which I’ve posted about before, based on Casey’s work on Scriblio and our adventures with WordPress MU, in particular, JISCPress.
Anyway, rather than re-iterating the bid here. You can read it in full by clicking here.
Comments are very welcome. Thanks.
UPDATE: We made it into the second round of judging but were unsuccessful in the end. Here’s the useful and fair feedback we received.
like the idea and how, like the Moodle repository, it can help open up existing content through data sharing. The same question as for others remains of how and why institutions would subscribe to the service.
I like this but I think it significantly underestimates the IP issues around library catalogue records which has been a major stumbling block for other activities in this area. That said, I think it is worth taking forward at this stage. The team looks very strong.
Ambitious in scope and technology, but /feels/ right for the innovative approach of this fund.
“Imagine that a significant number of UK universities and colleges… chose to make use of such a platform.” This type of language frightens me, indicating that they have no partnerships established, where other proposals already do. The point on issues with catalog records (above) should not be overlooked.
The use cases won me over. Not without risks ( as they say) and some major challenges
this one strikes me as particularly promising, because it has such strong ties to UK institutions and could connect to things Talis does
In my previous job as Audiovisual Archivist, I spent a lot of time examining various metadata standards in detail; hours spent pouring over PBCore, METS, MODS, MIX, EXIF and IPTC/XMP, because we were designing a content model for an in-house Digital Asset Management system. I thought I had put it all behind me yet here I am staring at Phil Barker’s informative post about ‘metadata and resource description’ and it’s all coming back to me… Arrghhh 🙂
Workpackage six of the Chemistry.fm project aims to:
Plan the storage, delivery and marketing of the course.
Choose a metadata standard
Evaluate third-party hosting such as Flickr, Slideshare and YouTube as well as JORUM and the IR.
Ah, if only life were as simple as a series of bullet points!
As I was creating the project poster yesterday, I was reminded about the various ways that our project OERs could be ‘broadcast’. Although collaboration with our community radio station SirenFM, is core to the approach of our project, we all know that there are many ways for anyone to be a broadcaster on the web and part of the fun of this project for me, is being able to explore the different ways that educational content can be pulled and pushed between subscribing students and members of the public.
My plan at the moment is to use our Institutional Repository as the ‘canonical reference’ for the OERs. During our JISC-funded LIROLEM project, we developed EPrints to better accommodate multimedia resources and it makes sense to use a versioned digital archive that supports embedded media enriched by copious amounts of metadata. (I know it’s a requirement to use JORUM, too, but at the first Programme Meeting, it became clear that JORUM can be used simply as a directory where we can register URIs of existing OERs, so that’s what I’ll be doing).
Anyway, Archivists, have you ever feasted your eyes on the source code of an EPrint? Of course you have. Here’s a reminder.
Now, we could choose to lump all the OERs that we create into one single EPrint, but that doesn’t give us much flexibility and remember that EPrints is serving as the canonical reference for the OERs, not necessarily the final presentation layer that people will actually be using to browse, download and use the resources from. So if we were to group the OERs into sets of items that constituted an EPrint and then relate those EPrints to each other, using the “DC.isPartOf” property, from the point of view of metadata, we’ll be creating a consistent whole, but giving ourselves some flexibility in how we ‘broadcast’ the content of the course.
If we consider the course MindMap that we knocked up a while back, we might decide to create a single EPrint for each of the five major ‘nodes’ of the course. Doing this, would then give us an RSS 1.0 (RDF), RSS 2.0 and Atom feed for the course where each node was an item.
Before I move on with this, look at the export formats that EPrints offers for a query. Imagine that the course could be exported in each of these ways:
The zip export allows you to download the entire query and all it’s resources at once. The HTML citation format allows you to produce some HTML you could copy and paste into any web page. It could just as easily be dropped into Blackboard as it could on any other (and anybody’s) web page. BibTex would allow you to browse the course via your preferred reference management software and JSON… I still don’t completely get it, but it’s pretty fancy, I know that much.
Anyway, If each of the mindmap nodes is an ‘item’ in the RSS feed, then perhaps we can use that to feed a WordPress site, using the FeedWordPress plugin? Nope. It doesn’t seem to work. FeedWordPress recognises the feed but doesn’t import anything. Testing it with another feed based on keywords does work, but the information included in the feed is sparse, so that’s no good. By the way, the EPrints RSS 2.0 feed does include the xmlns:media=”http://search.yahoo.com/mrss” namespace and marks up the preview thumbnails accordingly:
(Another way to tackle this might be using our newly developed ‘EPrints2Blog’ plugin, which allows a depositor to post information about their new EPrint to a blog of their choice (using XML-RPC). As we deposit the course EPrints, each could be posted to a WordPress site. The resulting feed from the WordPress site does include some embedded media, but it’s still a bit of a hack. No, scrap this idea).
Right, how about this…?
Using EPrints as the canonical source for each of the files for the course, we could create a WordPress site with the addition of the Dublin Core and OAI-ORE plugins for WordPress.
For each WordPress post, this gives us the following metadata:
This is more like it. Click on the oai-ore link and look at the source code. It’s too big to display here, but it does what you’d expect and produces a OAI-ORE 1.0 compliant Atom/XML file. Contained within the file is a ‘resource map’ of all the WordPress posts and pages marked up with Dublin Core and FOAF terms. Thinking about how the course site might be represented in this way, it makes sense to atomise the course even further so that each of the sub-nodes of the Mind Map is a WordPress post. Using the current course structure, that would result in about 20 separate posts to represent the course. Each post would contain one or more resources such as a PDF, video, audio, slides, etc. Is it worth atomising it even further and creating a post for each of these resources, too, I wonder? Quite possibly.
Unfortunately, the resource map does not include media that are included in each post or page – apparently it’s on the developer’s list of things to do. Maybe we could use some of the project budget to ask Alex, who’s working on the JISCPress project with me, to extend the plugin in this way…
Finally, there’s also a MediaRSS plugin for WordPress, which could enhance the RSS feeds to include all the media used in the course. Here’s an example that’s including images by default. I’ve already written about the various feeds that are available for WordPress, with some careful categorisation and tagging, media rich feeds would be available for different points (‘nodes’) of entry into the course.
Once we are at this point, I guess we’re ready to think about broadcasting the course via Boxee and DeliTV (no time to dig into that now. Sorry!)
p.s. you’ve probably noticed that I’m a bit weak on the EPrints and OAI-ORE stuff, to say the least. Please do pick me up on where I’m going wrong with this. Thanks 🙂
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