Earlier this afternoon my colleague Phil Barker led a fascinating Elluminate session exploring resource tracking issues for the JISC / HEA Open Educational Resources Programme. One approach to tracking Phil raised was the use of unique keys or tag combinations which are embedded in resources and then released into the wild. Googling for the unique key will then indicate where your resource has been reused and by whom, more or less.
Now I’m no authority on tracking technologies but this reminded me of a very interesting article I read in the Guardian today How Belle de Jour’s secret ally Googlewhacked the press. This explains how a blogger known as Derren used some astute guesswork and a unique key combination of two terms associated nowhere else on the web to monitor whether anyone else was coming close to guessing the identity of the anonymous call girl Belle de Jour.
At the OER Technical Roundtable at last week’s CETIS Conference one of the actions participants prioritiesd was case studies and examples of different approaches to tracking. I’m not entirely sure that the above is the kind of case study the projects had in mind but it’s a pretty good real world example never the less! Just thought I’d mention it…..
Phil’s slides from the Elluminate session are available on Slideshare and no doubt there will be blog posts to follow.
Cast your mind back to the CETIS Conference 2007 and you may remember a session on Semantic Technologies for Teaching and Learning. This session sought to introduce current developments in semantic technologies, explore their potential application to the domain of teaching and learning and facilitate discussion between these two apparently disparate communities. The case for the relevance and potential of semantic technologies was ably presented by a range of international experts through a series of short position papers which formed the basis for a wide ranging discussion. Following this discussion there seemed to be general consensus that it would be valuable for JISC to facilitate further exploration of the affordances of semantic technologies to the domain of education.
JISC responded to this requirement by issuing an ITT for a scoping study to:
“…investigate how applications which use semantic technologies can add value to learning and teaching.”
This study was awarded to the SemTech Project at the University of Southampton and at the same time CETIS established the Semantic Technology Working Group. The remit of this group was firstly to act as an expert working group for the SemTech Project, and secondly to develop recommendations for potential future work based on the outputs of the project.
The SemTech project successfully concluded in July 2009 having undertaken an extensive survey of semantic technologies relevant to learning and teaching and an investigation of the use and uptake of related tools and services by UK HE institutions. In addition to producing a comprehensive report the SemTech Project has also drafted a roadmap for semantic technology adoption by the UK F/HE community.
Semantic technologies appeared again at this year’s CETIS Conference, this time in the guise of linked data which was discussed in both the Find and Seek and Giant Global Graph sessions. The latter session has already generated a number of blog posts by Adam Cooper, Paul Walk and Andy Powell.
In order to disseminate and discuss the SemTech roadmap, the outputs of the CETIS conference and potential future activities in the area of semantic technologies for teaching and learning CETIS are holding a public meeting of the Semantic Technologies Working Group on the 10th of December at the University of Strathclyde. This meeting will:
- Review the outputs of the SemTech project.
- Consider the roadmap and recommendations to JISC.
- Respond to these recommendations and explore future directions.
- Investigate ways that CETIS can raise awareness of the potential affordances of semantic technologies to the teaching and learning sector.
- Discuss future activities in this areas that CETIS could potentially engage in.
The meeting is open to all those with an interest in semantic technologies and their potential application to the domain of teaching and learning. We will be actively seeking comments and feedback from the community and would encourage colleagues to join the discussion.
To register for this meeting and for further information please visit the CETIS events page.
The CETIS conference always strives to address current and cutting edge issues in the domain of education technology, however the OER Technical Roundtable session was arguably more timely than most given that it coincided with a Guardian article on open courseware and open educational resources: Any student, any subject, anywhere.
The session was attended by over thirty participants representing a wide range of projects and initiatives, all of whom brought a plethora of technical issues to the table. These issues were ably captured by my colleague R. John Robertson using some recalcitrant mind mapping software which he is still fighting with. John has already posted the raw list of issues on his blog and on Slideshare.
As expected the range of issues was considerable but the following broad themes did emerge:
- Tracking – metrics, Google analytics, statistics to support advocacy.
- Usability of repositories – deposit and the role of SWORD, discovery and use.
- Streaming large media files.
- Licensing and rights encoding.
- Resource description – metadata and JorumOpen, portability and interoperability, tagging, automatic metadata generation, identification of derivative works, SEO, Google discovery, how to users search for resources?
- Aggregators to manage distributed resources – metadata aggregation, resource aggregation, iTunes & iTunesU, OER broadcasting, batch upload, Flickr & Slideshare APIs.
- Granularity – disaggregation and reuse, content packaging, dependencies between resources.
Participants voted with their feet and broke into groups to discuss tracking, resource description, aggregators and granularity. We’ll try to synthesis the outputs of these breakout groups in later blog posts but in the meantime here’s a summary of the potential activities the groups identified that JISC and CETIS could take forward to benefit both the OER Programme and the community more generally:
- Develop an agreed RSS / Atom profile for open educational resources.
- Undertake research to analyse how teachers and learning actually search for educational resources. What terms do they search for and what metadata is actually necessary to facilite their searches? Synthesise data from projects, including Jorum and Steeple that are already gathering information about search terms, techniques and characteristics.
- Investigate how successful commercial systems such as Amazon and iTunes create and manage resource descriptions. What can we learn from them?
- Opening access to analytics and anonymised user data. Encourage the sharing of Google analytics data between projects.
- Set up shared Piwik or Google analytics accounts for each JISC programme.
- Share and synthesise good practice in resource tracking. Record and disseminate case studies.
- Identify requirements and minimum recommendations for resource tracking.
- Fund mini-projects on esoteric approaches to tracking.
We intend to discuss these recommendations with JISC in the not too distant future with a view to taking some of them forward. Hopefully we’ll be in a position to discuss progress in some if not all of these areas at #cetis10!
Only four days to go until the CETIS Conference and we’re already starting to draw up a list of issues to explore at the OER Technical Roundtable. The aim of this session is to give OER Projects techies and other interested folk an opportunity to come together to discuss technical issues that they have anticipated, encountered and possibly even resolved.
Issues we expect to turn up include:
- Metadata, resource description and tagging.
- Version control – Does it really matter? If so, what can be done about it?
- Tracking – What? How? Why?
- Working with different repositories.
- Aggregating and linking resources distributed across multiple services and applications.
- Using and managing feeds.
- Bulk upload.
- Encoding license information.
The Steeple Project have already raised some additional issues:
- Subject classification – mapping between proprietary subject classification codes and JACS.
- Approaches to describing “levels of difficulty” and “intended use”.
- Consistent CC license description in audio, video and feed metadata.
We want to know what works for you and what doesn’t? What technical problems have you banging your head on the desk in frustration? Or have you discovered an elegant technical solution to a thorny problem that you’re willing to share?
Members of JISC, CETIS and other community experts will be on hand to offer advice and explore potential solutions.
We would welcome more suggestions of issues you’ve encountered so please add your comments here and we’ll add these to the list of topics to discuss.
Conference tag #cetis09
Session tag #cetis09oer