Ada Lovelace Day

Wednesday 24th March marks the second Ada Lovelace day “an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.”

Due to me forgetting to take my dongle with me on my travels today (one of the the perils of the technology road warrior) here is my belated post.

This year I’d like to highlight the work of Juilette Culver, a developer at the Open University. I’ve know Juilette for, I guess about 4 or 5 years now. At the moment I have most direct contact with her through her work on Cloudworks which is part of the OU’s Learning Design Initiative (and part of the current JISC Curriculum Design Programme). I don’t get to work with developers in the way I used to pre working for CETIS, however Juilette is exactly the kind of developer I think everyone should work worth – creative, caring, eye on the technology ball, willing to listen and try new things and share her knowledge and experience with the wider community.

Lorna commented the other week in her blog about the lack of women at certain techie events such as Dev8D. Juliette is also one of the few women who does go to these events and keeps the flag flying for female developers.

PRODing around Curriculum Design – what happened to content packaging?

This is part of a post that’s been sitting on my desktop for sometime, however I’ve been spurned onto publishing it by the recent posts from my colleague John Robertson about the use of IMS Content Packaging and QTI in the current UK OER programme.

Part of the support function we at CETIS offer to a number of JISC programmes evolves around our project database PROD. We have (and continue to) developed PROD as a means of capturing information around the technical approaches, standards and technologies projects are using. This enables us to get a programme level overview of activity, what’s hot/what’s not in terms of “things” (standards/technologies) projects are using and identifying potential development areas. Wilbert Kraan has also recently blogged about his experiments around a linked data approach to information stored in PROD giving an overview of JISC activity.

John reflected that “In comparison to many e-learning development projects few projects in the UK OER programme are using elearning specific technology (more on this in a future post) and as a result out-of-the-box support for CP is not prevalent in the programme. There is also only limited use of VLEs in the programme”. In contrast projects in the current JISC Curriculum Delivery programme quite unsurprisingly as the programme is about course delivery, make substantial use of VLEs. In fact of the almost 60 different types of technologies and standards identified in use throughout the programme, the most prevalent is VLEs, with Moodle being used by half of the projects. But like the OER programme few of the projects are packaging their courses. In fact only 3 projects are using IMS CP and 3 SCORM. And in some ways that is probably down to the default export functions on tools rather than a considered approach to packaging material.

Now in many ways this doesn’t really matter. The world has moved on, we’re all working the cloud, linked data with relate everything to everything when, where and how we want it . . . So, has the content interoperability within VLEs exercise failed? Do the real users, and not those of use at the cutting edge of development, just not need to think about it? Are there enough, workable alternatives?

However I do think it is interesting that there seems to be some kind of gap around content packaging. Maybe this is due to a mix of bias and guilt. I have spent vast chunks of time in IMS meetings trying to improve the spec. Was it all just a waste of time? Should I really just go and open my shoe shop? Is IMS CC doomed to the same fate as CP? Well actually Warwick Bailey, ICODEON, gave a presentation at our distributed learning environments meeting last week which provides a pretty compelling case for use standards based structured content.

With the OER programme we’ve had a number of discussions in the office around people looking for ways to essentially wrap their content and CP just doesn’t seem to feature in their radar. I know that there are other ways of pushing out content but in terms of archiving and allowing people to download content CP is actually a pretty good option – particularly for learning resources. John also commented that another reason for not choosing CP could be that “detailed structuring seen as superfluous?” Well maybe, but actually, having structuring is really useful for end users. And for archiving purposes CP does have its merits too.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that sometimes we don’t always have to look for the shiny and new, sometimes there are things out there that are maybe a little less shiny but functional nonetheless.

cetisdle – presentations now online

Over the past year or so we’ve been doing a lot of thinking and work around what we’ve now come round to calling distributed learning environments. Essentially, ways that you can extend current VLE functionality without having to change/upgrade your VLE.

Concurrently it also seems that every HE institution in the country is either about to start, in the middle of, or has just completed a review of its learning environment provision. So despite many calls of its death, it does seem that the VLE is going to be around (in some shape or form) for a while yet.

Last week in Birmingham we held an event to launch our DLE briefing paper. The event also coincided with the Distributed Virtual Learning Environments call announcement from JISC. During the day we had presentations demoing a number of the models featured in the briefing paper as well as an overview from Peter Hartley of the ALT LER (learning environment review) SIG. Heather Williamson from JISC was also able to give an overview of the DVLE call.

Over all there was a lot of interest from participants in exploring further ways to easily extend functionality of learning environments for users (staff and students) – particularly the development of widgets. Over the next year we are planning to run a number of events where we can bring developers and users together, so watch this space, and if you have any suggestions please let me know.

Presentations from the day are now available on the CETIS wiki. You can also view the twitter stream from the day.