A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post summarising a discussion that had take place at RPAG prompted by Andy Powells suggestion that
…the issues around learning object repositories, certainly the softer issues like what motivates people to deposit, are so totally different from those around research repositories that it makes no sense to consider them in the same space anyway the issues around learning object repositories, certainly the softer issues like what motivates people to deposit, are so totally different from those around research repositories that it makes no sense to consider them in the same space anyway.
This sparked considerable discussion on the RPAG mailing list the highlights of which are summarised here.
Steve Hitchcock was first up with the suggestion that we should focus on the œI of Institutional Repositories and asked
Are there personnal, domain and institutional perspectives to consider? And how do they relate to each other?
Amber Thomas agreed learning materials are different because
- The priority isn’t to expose them by OAI-PMH (people don’t use oaister etc for finding learning materials, they use google)
- They are referred to as open content, open educational resources etc rather than open access
- The argument for open access is different, has different rhetoric and different stakeholders
- They won’t often be institutional with a capital “I” they are more likely department or project or cross-institutional
Charles Oppenheim was also in agreement:
…learning materials are different in all sorts of ways, most importantly the (normally) absence of a commercial third party stakeholder (in contrast to research outputs) and the attitudes of the owners to sharing.
Andrew Rothery, who has already commented extensively on the pros and cons of using repositories to manage teaching and learning materials, suggested that we need to distinguish between different types of learning materials
Across the country, thousands of tutors are uploading substantial quantities of their own materials into their institutional VLEs every week. Broadly speaking these are the materials which institutions find hard to manage in conventional open access repositories and these are the ones which relate to different concepts, and need different approaches.
Yes, there are some resource collections which could be archived in a more formal repository system, a bit like text books or teaching materials which get published.
But that still means the whole question of learning and teaching materials needs its own perspective so we can make progess with designing appropriate repository systems.
It’s much harder to deal with the kind of resources Andrew identifies than collections of learning objects which may have been designed with re-use, re-purposing and “publication” in a LO repository in mind. The former are exactly the type of materials that have traditionally been regarded as ephemera but these are the resources that facilitate a key part of the institutions’ core business: teaching and learning. Should we be considering strategies to manage these resources?
Tom Franklin took a somewhat different perspective and cautioned against creating a dichotomy between teaching and learning materials and scholarly publications and suggested that we should also consider other resource types such as research data, archival data and student created content. While agreeing that we need to focus our efforts Tom added that we also need to be inclusive of a wide range of content types.
Finally Chris Awre provided a very neat summary of the issues we need to address:
…it is hard to imagine that research outputs and learning materials are different in ALL respects, even if there are clear differences in some areas. The issue in the debate about whether to include learning materials seems related to one area of repository activity, that of open access, and, while this is clearly a key aspect of why we are establishing repositories it is not the whole story: there are vast swathes of digital content out there that need managing for a variety of purposes but where open access is not on the agenda (or only a part of it).
It may, thus, be useful to gather evidence and thinking on how different types of materials are different to better understand where different approaches are required and where a similar or common approach can be taken: Ambers points are a step along this path and I agree that a focus on learning materials would be helpful. Whilst considering the differences from an open access perspective will be one factor within this, a multi-faceted view needs to be taken to address all potential institutional requirements.
It is encouraging that there seems to be general agreement that we need to consider the differences and similarities between various resource types and the objectives and requirements of their users and that we should focus more on these objectives and less on a single technical approach to meeting these objectives.