Ada Lovelace day

A while ago I pledged to write a blog post for Ada Lovelace day. The whole point of the day is to celebrate the role of women in technology. I was quite surprised by the reaction of some of my colleagues to the idea. Some people seemed to think it was patronizing – but I really do think that this is a great idea as we do still need to take every opportunity to celebrate female role models, particularly in technology there is still a male bias. I was listening to the Guardian’s tech weekly podcast the other week, and Suw Charman-Anderson (organiser of the day) was talking about the what her motivations were for organising the day. I think she summed it all up by saying “women don’t pimp their sh*t ” in the same way as men. So I’m going to indulge in a bit of pimping now.

I am very fortunate as I get to work with some really talented, inspirational people (women and men) everyday. I do really believe that the small JISC world I inhabit is a great model for equality. However, there are still more male developers than female and I’d really love to see a few more proper geek girls. So today, instead of just choosing one person to write about I’d just like to take a few minutes to celebrate all the great women I work with, read about and admire in the field of educational technology – too many to mention but you all know who you are – the extended sisters of CETIS. To all of us who have been the only, or one of the few females in meetings (particularly at standard bodies meetings), let’s keep going and hope that more females come onboard. Of course I do have to make one exception and say a big thank you to Lorna Campbell for being a mentor, role model and all round great gal pal 🙂

Let’s celebrate today and hope that celebrating the lives and work of women like Ada Lovelace will help inspire us all (women and men) and the next generation too.

SCORM 2.0 and beyond LETSI seminar

Last Wednesday along with 190 others I joined the “SCORM 2.0 and Beyond” webinar hosted by LETSI. This was the first in a series of community events LETSI are hoping to organise to promote its activities.

Charles Allan started the session with an overview of developments with SCORM and the relationship between LETSI and the ADL. Orginally it was envisaged that ADL would hand over governance/stewardship of SCORM to “the community” i.e. LETSI. However, there have been some developments and the current state of play is that ADL are continuing to steward SCORM and may (or may not) release new versions. LETSI is working on developing SCORM 2.0 which is not as close to the existing SCORM specification as originally thought. So in effect they are starting with a blank sheet and are looking at wider context of data interoperability than the original SCORM model which was primarily content driven. SCORM 2.0 developments will be focused on the different types of data which need to be shared including: learning activities; resources, people, competency frameworks there was also a nod to webservices and mashups.

Charles explained that LETSI is not a standards development body or a trade association. It sees itself rooted within the implementation community. LETSI will work with existing bodies to help shorten adoption lifecycles through filling a gap in the current standards community. Specifically by helping to build communities and developing agile software development processes which should speed up consistency of implementation approaches. LETSI will not build a spec if there is an existing one which is fit for purpose and they are currently reviewing a number of standards as part of the SCORM 2.0 scoping work. LETSI hopes to enable a move towards a more agile, iterative standards development process.

Four technical working groups have been formed (more info on the LETSI website) and they hope to produce a technical roadmap later this year. Over the coming months there will be a series of webinars on candiate technologies, continued development of potential software architecture solutions as well as continuing liasion with formal standards bodies. Future developments will include investigation of orchestration of content/activities and compentency frameworks amongst others and they are actively looking for working group participation. The working groups are open to anyone to join, however to have voting rights you need to pay a (nominal, I think $100 was mentioned) membership fee.

It will be interesting to see how developments progress this year and if an organisation like LETSI can actually effectively work with existing standards agencies and speed up the specification development and release process. I hope they don’t get bogged down in the same bureaucratic processes which have made the formal standards process so drawn out.

EC SIG OER Meeting 27 February

Last Friday the EC SIG met at the OU, Milton Keynes for a really interesting day of presentations and discussion around OER. The meeting was in part timed to to coincide with the JISC OER call and to give an overview of some current developments in OER from a range of perspectives from the institutional to the individual.

Andy Lane and Patrick McAndrew started the day with an overview of institutional impact of the OpenLearn project. One of the key institutional barriers was (unsurprisingly) trying get over the assumption that providing open content wasn’t “giving away the family silver” and the fear of not being able to control what others might do with your content. OpenLearn has fundamentally been about de-bunking these perceptions and illustrating how making content open can actually bring about a range of benefits to the institution. The ethos of the OpenLearn project has been to enhance the student experience and the student, not the institution has central to all developments. In terms of institutional benefit, perhaps the most significant one is that there is now a clear trail showing that a significant number of openlearn students do actually go on to register for a fee paying course.

Sarah Darnley, from the University of Derby gave an overview of the POCKET project which is using OpenLearn materials and repurposing/repackaging then for their institutional VLE. They are also creating new materials and putting them into openlearn. Russell Stannard, University of Westminster rounded off the morning’s presentations with his fascinating presentation of his multimedia training videos. To quote Patrick McAndrew Russell is a bit of a ‘teacherpreneur’. During teaching of his multimedia course Russell saw that it would easier for him to create short training videos of various software packages which students could access at anytime thus freeing up actual class time. Russell explained how the fact that his site was high in google rankings has led a huge number of visits and again increased interest in the MSc he teaches on. Although not conceived as an OER project, this is a great example of how just “putting stuff out-there” can increase motivation/resources for existing students and bring in more. However I do wonder as Russell starts producing more teaching resources to go with his videos and his institution get more involved how open he will be able to keep things.

The afternoon session started with Liam Earney of the CASPER project sharing the experiences of the RePRODUCE programme. CASPER has recently surveyed to projects to find out their experiences dealing with copyright and IPR issues when repurposing material. A key finding is that the within the HE sector there is generally an absence of rights statements and only 14% of the projects found it easy to clear copyright. Ambiguity abounds within institutions about who/where/what and how of content can be reused. Of course this is a key area for the the upcoming JISC OER call.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in discussion around the call. Four of the programme managers involved were at the meeting and we able to answer questions relating to it. It is important to note the the JISC call is a pilot and is not a means to an end. It will not, and is not trying to solve all the issues around OER, however what it will do is allow the community to continue to explore and move forward with the various technical and IPR/copyright issues in the context of previous experience.

Copies of the presentations from the day are available from the CETIS wiki, and also a great summary of the day is available via Cloudworks ( a big thanks to Patrick McAndrew for pulling this together).