JISC Infonet Learning Resources and Activies resource

JISC Infonet have produced a web resource showcasing JISC projects that have carried out work in the area of learning resources and activities, connecting them across a range of JISC programme initiatives.

Five themes have been developed providing some context and the current state of play as well as examples of projects. The themes are:

* developing learning resources
* sharing learning resources
* re-purposing learning resources
* curriculum design and effective use of learning resources
* managing learning resources

Additional outputs from programmes such as Design for Learning will be added to the site to create an infokit. More information @ www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/themes/lra

Strategic Content Alliance Home Nation Forum

I attended the Strategic Content Alliance (SCA) Scottish home nation forum this week. I have been vaguely aware of the SCA but to be honest haven’t really looked at the work of the SCA in any depth as I had thought it was mainly concerned with procurement of content and not with content creation. However as I found out yesterday this is not the whole story.

Briefly, the SCA is a two year JISC initiative involving a number of strategic partners (BBC, Becta, British Libary, MLA, National e-Science Centre and NHS) to “build a common information environment where users of publicly funded e-content can gain best value from the investment that has been made by reducing the barriers that currently inhibit access, use and re-use of online content”. The project is currently looking at ways of “providing a set of principles and guidelines for best practice”. As part of this process the SCA are trying to get feedback from as many sectors as possible, hence the series of ‘home nation’ forums. Although most sectors are all working to a broadly defined common goals around use and re-use, there are key differences in drivers in each of the home nations – for example unique learner numbers (as outlined in Clive’s post) will not be implemented in Scotland in the same way as England. So it is crucial that these differences are recognised.

After an introduction to the SCA by Emma Beer the morning was taken up with two case studies outlining the current work of the SCA. The first of these was from Naomi Korn who, along with Prof. Charles Oppenheim, are carrying out a study on IPR and licensing work. This work will include a synthesis of existing work and the development of guidance and dissemination of good practice in this area. This of course would be of great interest to the CETIS community as the need for clear guidance was an issue which was raised at the JISC learning resources and activities event last week. Some of the deliverables outlined by Naomi were maxtrices, a terminology toolkit, template statements, exemplars and case studies – all of which would be incredibly useful for those us involved in developing, sharing and re-using learning content. These outputs should be available by early next year.

The second case study was presented by Chris Batt (former Chief Executive of the MLA) who is undertaking research on user characteristics and behaviours of the sponsoring partners of the SCA. Chris has really just started this work so wasn’t able to share many findings with us. However, he outlined the scope the study and some of its aims in trying to develop methodologies for analyzing audience behaviour and audience relationships to/with e-content. The study will to begin to create cross-audience profiles and scenarios exploiting multiple content sources to help the SCA understand who/what the users of the future will expect from content providers and what services they themselves require as content producers.

The majority of the attendees seemed to be from the library and museums sector, however there were a couple their from the education sector. There was a real feeling of willingness to share experiences, resources and develop common frameworks (which allowed for regional variation) which was very positive. The next Scottish meeting will take place on 22 May and the SCA blog has details of the other home nation events taking place over the next few weeks.

As there is obvious cross-over with CETIS communities we will keep you updated on the work of SCA and try to foster collaboration wherever possible.

Creating an "architecture of participation" – thoughts from JISC Learning Activities and Resources Conference, 22 January

One of the comments that seemed to summarize the myriad of discussion that took place at the JISC Learning Resources an Activities Conference yesterday in Birmingham was that in the development of learning activities and resources, what we need to start exploring is ‘architectures of participation’ (I think this phrase came from Fred Garnett, Becta).

The aim of the day, as outlined by Tish Roberts (Programme Director, E-Learning, JISC) was to provide an opportunity to bring together people and projects involved in creating and using learning resources and activities, discuss challenges and to get an indication of what areas the community think that JISC need to focus their development activities.

Professor Allison Littlejohn (Glasgow Caledonian University) started the day with her keynote presentation “Collective use of learning resources’. Allison took us through some of the work she and her colleagues are doing in relation to collective learning where learners consume and create knowledge and are encouraged to create and chart their own learning trails/paths. Advances in technology mean that these learning trails can be used by other students when they are planning their learning. Using web2 technologies, more connections can be made between the formal and informal systems students are using. This approach should take a rapid development approach with user needs analysis being at the forefront. Allison did concede that this methodology was perhaps more applicable to post graduate students and work based learning courses where sharing of knowledge is a key driver, unlike some undergraduate courses where sharing and providing access to information has more precedence.

After lunch Andrew Comrie (former VP of Lauder College and director of the TESEP project) gave the second keynote of the day outlining his own transformational journey in e-learning and some of the highs and lows he has experienced when trying to drive transformational change. Andrew admitted that the TESEP project hadn’t brought about wholeshale transformation in his institution but it had allowed for pockets of change to occur. For each of the partners the project had been an important step on their continuing transformational journey. It had provided an opportunity to allow staff and students to change their attitudes and behaviours in relation to teaching and learning. Andrew outlined the main principles of the TESEP transformational model being; non threating to staff, preparing learners to take more control of their learning and encouraging staff to spend more time designing learning activities rather than developing more content.

In between the keynotes there were 5 parallel sessions focusing on key questions around developing, sharing, re-purposing, managing and design and effective use of learning resources. The day ended with a plenary where the key issues from each session were discussed. And this is where the idea of ‘architecture of participation’ came to my attention. There seemed to be a general consensus that people were more concerned with developing methods to create and sharing learning designs/activities rather than creating more content (which maybe a bit of a “no-brainer” for some, but it was good to hear this come through so clearly). However there is increasing awareness of the need to incorporate students into the process and how to make use of informal and formal networks and technologies and develop and use appropriate pedagogical approaches. Of course this challenges the traditional approach of many of our HE institutions, who as Mark Stiles pointed out are more interested in maintaining control rather than managing changes in behaviour. To bring about transformational change we need to re-think all our traditional architectures, not just in terms of technical infrastructure but in terms of social networks too and explore the key connections between all of them.

Other key points raised were the need to engage middle management in development of practice. It would seem that we have a strong community of practitioners who are committed to sharing and developing practice but they can be thwarted by lack of support. One possible approach to this is to develop some business cases, but I’m really not sure just how much the JISC can do in reaching this sector. Another message coming through loudly was that IPR and copyright is still a key issues for practitioners, and despite lots of work being done by JISC in this area, people are crying out for good, clear simple advice on where they stand.

As ever it is hard to condense the whole day into one post, but it was heartening to see so many people at the event and we will try and build on key parts of the feedback in a future SIG meeting.

IMS announces development of community testing tool for Common Cartridge

The IMS Global Learning Consortium have announced the launch of a new project that will produce a community source testing tool for the Common Cartridge (CC) format. JISC along with ANGEL Learning, eCollege, McGraw-Hill, Microsoft, The Open University United Kingdom, Pearson Education and Ucompass.com have agreed to provide initial funding for the project.

“A number of organizations have recognized the community benefit in having a common format for both publisher-sourced materials and in-house production by learning institutions,” said Rob Abel of IMS. “I’m delighted to announce that such is the level of commitment to this goal, nine organizations have already stepped forward to fund and participate in a project to develop a cartridge testing tool that will be distributed free-of-charge by the CC Alliance.”

More information about the Cartridge Alliance is available @ http://www.imsglobal.org/cc/alliance.html

We will keep you informed of developments of this tool and the joint Assessment and EC SIG meeting on 19th February will include presentations from a number CC implementers including the OU and a community update from CETIS from the IMS quarterly meeting which takes place the week before.

What's hot (or not) for 2008

Drum roll please, the results of the first EC SIG survey are now in. When asked what would be the “hot topics for the domain in 2008”, increased use of web 2.0, mash-ups, social networking etc was the resounding winner with almost half (48%) of the votes.

The full results are shown in the graph and pie chart below and are as follows:

*increasing use of web 2.0, mash-ups, social networking etc 48% (16 votes)
*learning design (in its widest sense) 21% (7 votes)
*the development and use of open content (e.g. OpenLearn) 12% (4 votes)
*standards such as IMS Common Cartridge;OAI-ORE 9% (3 votes)
*virtual worlds and games 6% (2 votes)
*other 3% (1 comment – “increasing uptake of all e-learning technologies across the board”

Results of survey graph

Survey results pie-chart

Now, I realise that this has been not the most scientific/rigorous of studies – more really a case of me just trying out a free service and hoping that I would get some response:-) and I c/should probably have spent a bit more time thinking of categories and not just used the ones that were top of my list that morning. However I do think the results are interesting. I can’t help wondering if I had named Second Life in the virtual worlds category would that have influenced the results. Learning design (in it’s widest sense, not just the IMS specification) is still creating a lot of interest (hopefully this is due in part to the excellent work of all the projects on the JISC Design for Learning Programme which the SIG has been involved in); but newer standards developments such as IMS Common Cartridge don’t seem to be areas that the SIG members feel will be very important in 2008.

So with the resounding vote for web 2.0 etc does that mean that our community are now really committed to web service approaches? Does the seemingly lacklustre interest in developing standards just show that people feel that there are enough standards/specs out there already and we have cracked the content packaging problem and have moved on to more exciting ways of sharing and re-using content? I’d be interested to hear any other views on this.

The other main outcome for me from the survey has been the opportunity get such quick feedback from the community and I would like to thank everyone who voted. As someone who is commonly referred to as “the one that sends out all those emails” I hope that it has added a bit more (relevant) interactivity to the mailing list. It certainly is very useful for me for planning the next set of SIG meetings.