The great UKOER tag debate

After three years of innovation focused on the sustainable release of open educational resources, the JISC HEA UK OER Programme is drawing to a close and yesterday Martin and I went along to the final programme meeting in London. Phil wasn’t able to attend the meeting and instead posted the following e-mail to the oer-discuss mailing list:

Hello all, I can’t be in London today, so I’m kind of joining the end of programme discussion from afar. The last three years have been great. At one of the early planning meetings someone (Andy Powell, I think) said that one measure of whether the programme was successful could be the widespread recognition of UKOER / OER as an idea within UK F&HE and the existence of a community around it. I’m pretty sure that has happened, not just because of UKOER but we were there and helped. So well done all of us :)

But what now? The programme has always aimed at sustainable release of resources, change of culture and practice, not just a short burst of activity leading to a one-off dumping of resources. What will happen over the next few years by way of sustained release and which practices are sustainable? Also, of course, from a CETIS point of view, what technologies can help?

Happy diwali, keep the OER light shining.

Phil’s mail prompted Nick Sheppard to ask the apparently innocent question:

Possibly a silly question…but I should stop tagging new resources ukoer?!

This seemingly innocuous enquiry prompted the kind of mailing list explosion normally only seen on Friday afternoon, and it wasn’t long before the discussion had it’s own twitter tag: #oergate. I haven’t counted the number of replies but if the thread has reached double figures it wouldn’t surprise me. If you’re feeling brave, you can read the whole thread here.

Some colleagues were all in favour of continuing to use the ukoer tag, arguing that it now represents an active community which is powerful evidence to the sustainability of the funded programmes’ legacy. Others argued that continued use of the tag would muddy the waters for collection managers and make it difficult to identify resources produced through the funded phase of the programme.

Amber has now managed to capture the discussion in an excellent blog post UKOER: What’s in a tag?*. Although there is no conclusive consensus as to how to answer Nick’s original question, one thing that this discussion has clearly demonstrated is that there does appear to be a lively and active community that has grown up around the funded programmes and the ukoer tag, and that definitely has to be a good thing!

*Amber’s blog post was written with input from Sarah Currier (Jorum), David Kernohan (JISC), Martin Hawksey (CETIS), Lorna Campbell (CETIS), Jackie Carter (Jorum).

ETA It now appears that the #oergate debate borked JISCmail! It seems that the list exceeded posting limits or some such, and no further comments were posted to the list after 15.10 on Wednesday afternoon. I’m delighted to say that I got the last word in ;)

OER Bookmarking Mini Project Update

Following on from last week’s CaPRéT OER Technical Mini Project update we now have a progress report from Paul Horner of the University of Newcastle’s OER Bookmarking mini project. The project, which builds on the Dynamic Learning Maps initiative aims to:

1. To develop a non-proprietary social bookmaking service to enhance resource discovery across the community. This will be designed specifically for OERs.
2. To provide an openly available and well documented API, enabling 3rd party systems to access and add to the resources and associated ‘paradata’.
3. To pilot the API and system in Dynamic Learning Maps. This will harvest resources for specific topics and add descriptors and links to these within personal and curriculum maps.

In a recent post to the oer-discuss jiscmail list Paul explained:

We’ve done quite a bit of development work so far – we’ve setup the Django project; we’ve modelled the database; we’ve written the create/read/update/delete scripts for bookmarks, playlists and tags; we’ve sorted out authentication (by OpenID, Twitter and Facebook); and we’ve put in place the mechanisms to add comments and rate bookmarks. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks we’ll have finished the main bookmarking tool, and then we’re going to start looking at the API. Our code is in a repository at Bitbucket, but it’s currently only available to our development team because it’s not really ready for public consumption (yet).

Paul also called for help in naming the system

The Bitbucket repository uses the imaginative name ‘oerbookmarking’, so any suggestions would be gratefully received!

You can find out more about more about “OER Bookmarking” and download a copy of the project plan from the website here.

CaPRéT: Getting to the Alpha Release

Earlier this week Phil Barker wrote a blog post about the intriguing cut and paste attribution tool developed by the CaPRéT OER Technical Mini Project. CaPRéT has been developed by Brandon Muramatsu of MIT and Justin Ball and Joel Duffin of Tatemae. Brandon has now written a blog explaining how the team scoped and developed the alpha release of the CaPRéT tool and also how it works:

CaPRéT uses the jQuery library and a jQuery clipboard extension to monitor the copy event on a given web page. At the time content is copied, the extension adds attribution information that was parsed from the page using the OER license parser. In addition, analytics are gathered at the time content is copied so that even if the user chooses to remove the attribution information the server still gathers information that indicates the content was used. If the user pastes the code into another webpage (and does not remove the attribution information) then a small tracking code is included which records views of the copied content.

You can find Brandon’s blog post here CaPRéT: Getting to the Alpha Release and the CaPRéT code is available to download from github.

JISC CETIS OER Technical Mini-Projects Results

After a slight delay caused by all those public holidays and an unscheduled absence on my part, it gives me great pleasure to announce the results of the JISC CETIS OER Technical Mini-Projects Call. Having taken into consideration the comments and discussions on the oer-discuss JISCmail list, a pannel of JISC and CETIS staff selected the following two projects for funding.

1. CaPRéT Cut and PAste reuse and Tracking from Brandon Muramatsu, MIT OEIT and Justin Ball and Joel Duffin, Tatemae.

2. OER Bookmarking Initiative from Paul Horner, James Outterside, Suzanne Hardy and Simon Cotterill, University of Newcastle.

JISC and CETIS would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who submitted proposals for this call and also to those who contributed to the discussions on the mailing list.

We’ll be undertaking a short informal evaluation of the Mini-Projects Open Call shortly so I hope you’ll let us know what you think about this new way of selecting and funding small scale projects.

In the spirit of this open call most of the projects have agreed to allow us to circulate the markers comments on their proposals as follows:

CaPRéT Cut and PAste reuse and Tracking
~ Brandon Muramatsu, MIT OEIT and Justin Ball and Joel Duffin, Tatemae.

1. Usefulness of idea
It would be useful to have a plugin to a browser to track reuse in a way that doesn’t require anything of the end user. This bid also extends the growing interest in analytics. Although it only works for websites this is a not insignificant portion of OERs. It is similar to image attribution tools and Open Attribute both of which have proved successful. Limits are that it’s not going to be able to track everything and relies on action by users and providers. The interaction with this community would also benefit UKOER.

2. Experience of project team
The team are highly experienced and have demonstrated a clear willingness to engage on the list.

3. Demand for outputs
There is a demand for the outputs: everyone wants to get the end results of analytics. Although only scoped for html text but there is enough demand for this. One question is how are they going to market it/ make use of comms channels – it will be better the more it’s used.

4. Is the project achievable?
Yes. Can it also be integrated into content management systems that people use (wordpress/ xerte/ drupal etc plugins?)

5. Does the project build on existing work?
Yes. It builds on their experience and shows willingness to engage with Open Attribute and related work, We would like clarity on how these outputs would be licenced and how they fits with related commercial initiatives.

6. Does the project duplicate existing work?
No, especially as it focusses on use rather than access; There is a need to work with open attribute.

7. Technical approach
Good technical approach. It is assumed that when you’re copying and pasting from a website you’re turning it into an object. but often you would edit it in text tools etc: it could easily be lost and there may be a reliance on what text tools will permit.

8. Quality of proposal
Very good

9. Fund?
Yes, but would like more detail wrt to license and commercial interest/ proposed future.

OER Bookmarking
~ Paul Horner, James Outterside, Suzanne Hardy and Simon Cotterill, University of Newcastle.
1. Usefulness of idea
There was a mixed response to a bookmarking tool on the oer-discuss list but more than enough interest and demand for this to be considered relevant.

2. Experience of project team
The team are experienced and have demonstrated a clear willingness to engage on the list. We note though that their technical experience is not well evidenced in bid.

3. Demand for outputs
There is a demand for a service that doesn’t have the current insecurity of delicious and possibly offers richer structured information and a more localised control over future service developments. The proposed service has the potential to seriously enhance quality of available metadata/ paradata.

4. Is the project achievable?
We’re not sure – there are some issues in the proposed scale and scope of project which are of concern: the plan to build a web scale service, and the assumed community-based sustainability plan. However, this is a demonstrator and if it manages expectations carefully it has potential. Social tools need scale to work so proof of concept developments are tricky – a designated community (for example medical education) might help get suitable scale. There’s a lot of development mentioned in this bid, it may be overambitious.

5. Does the project build on existing work?
A not insignificant issue is that the bid doesn’t build on existing bookmarking projects or tools, however discussion on the list indicates a willingness from the team to engage with external services (via APIs). We would encourage the team to investigate the possibility of working with OERCommons / ISKME?

6. Does the project duplicate existing work?
Yes – but with potential demand for the duplication and opportunity to collaborate.

7. Technical approach
The aspect of the work lining to dynamic learning maps is quite innovative, we’d like to see more of this kind of approach.

8. Quality of proposal
The bid could use some more technical detail in places

9. Fund?
Yes with the proviso that they can they address the issues and questions raised here and on list as well as carefully managing expectations. This is not the type of service that JISC would fund further – this should be seen as seed funding to enable the team to develop a viable tool and attempt to secure further support from other sources.

Development of Visual Vocabulary Management Tools
~ Dr Ian Piper, Tellura Information Services Ltd
1. Usefulness of idea
Vocabulary management is an issue for organisations and [centralised] initiatives – it is however, much less clear that it is currently an issue or problem for OERs which are released in highly distributed, diverse, and uncoordinated ways. In itself this is a useful idea and lack of mechanisms and tools to manage and share controlled vocabularies more widely is a recognised problem but, even within the library community, it is not clear that there is a consistent demand to reuse vocabularies developed by others (apart from the very large scale controlled vocabularies that operate with their own business models and support structures). On a related note it is potentially unclear what the provenance of existing vocabularies in the proposed system would be, or their relevance to OER.

2. Experience of project team
Tellura Ltd has highly relevant experience and the outputs of their earlier projects are well regarded. They have also have demonstrated a clear willingness to engage on the list.

3. Demand for outputs
This project is about managing small localised vocabularies, and assumes that people outside the ‘creating’ community want to use those vocabularies. As yet there is unclear demand for such a service in the OER environment and, perhaps more widely in JISC. We would like to have seen some more evidence of the demand for vocabularies to be reused. There might be more of a demand from e-content or repositories people, or bigger institutions such as the OU.

4. Is the project achievable?
Yes, probably.

5. Does the project build on existing work?
The project builds strongly on existing work. There is a concern, arising from this, that the deliverables seem somewhat focused on extending the existing work rather than building on the outlined investigations of innovative technical approaches.

6. Does the project duplicate existing work?
Not in the OER space.

7. Technical approach
The ability to visualise data in innovative ways can result in a step change in the uptake of tools and service. We liked the investigation of cql as a native query language, the investigation of SKOS and a RESTFUL web service approach. It’s a solid approach and correctly uses things we’d liked to see used.

8. Quality of proposal
Very good

9. Fund?
No. It is, however, a good bid and will be passed on to other parts of JISC in case it is of interest to their efforts (collections/ repositories).

JISC CETIS OER Technical Interest Group

In order to provide a focus for the wide range of technical activities that the UK F/HE community is engaging with in the general space of “open educational resources” CETIS are establishing an OER Technical Interest Group. This group will provide a forum to explore a wide range of technical issues relating to the creation, description, dissemination, aggregation, discovery, use and tracking of open educational resources. In addition, the group will help to surface and identify current and best practice in these areas.

Who is the OER Technical Interest Group for?

Anyone with an interest in technical issues relating to open educational resources and the wider areas of open education and educational resource management in general. Participation is not restricted to JISC HEA OER Programme projects, we would welcome and encourage participation from outwith the UK and from across the educational sector including schools, colleges, work based learning, life long learning, etc.

How do I participate in the OER Technical Interest Group?
To join the group just add a comment below to identify yourself, sign up for and look out for blog posts and tweets tagged #oertig

Rather than create a new mailing list, the OER Technical Interest Group will initially use the recently launched JISC oer-discuss list. An additional technical list will be established at a later date if necessary.

What will the OER Technical Interest Group do?

  • Together with UKOLN’s DevCSI initiative the group will run an OER Hackday on the 31st March / 1st April 2011 at Manchester Conference Centre. For further information and to sign up for this event visit
  • Provide a forum for the forthcoming JISC CETIS OER Mini Projects. JISC and CETIS intend to fund a series of OER Mini Projects in 2011 to explore a range of specific technical issues already surfaced by the JISC / HEA OER Programmes and recent CETIS events including #cetisrow and #cetiswmd. All participants will be eligible to apply for Mini Projects.
  • Engage with and disseminate initiatives and activities outwith the UK F/HE sector including Creative Commons, OCWC and the US Learning Registry.
  • Run a series of public events over the course of 2011 building on past CETIS events such as #cetisrow and #cetiswmd.
  • Provide a forum to raise and discuss technical issues.

What kind of technical issues will the OER Technical Interest Group explore?

The group hopes to explore a wide range of technical issues including but not restricted to:

  • Feed deposit
  • Web search log analysis
  • RSS end point registries
  • Use of open source repositories for managing educational resources.
  • Tracking open educational resources.
  • License encoding.
  • Self description and embedded metadata.

Further information about CETIS OER Technical Interest Group projects and activities will be posted on the CETIS blogs and circulated through the usual channels. If you are interested in participating please add your name below along with any comments or issues you would like to see the group explore. Thanks,