Report from the XCRI Mini Projects Start Up Meeting, 30 March 2007

Here is the XCRI meeting delegate list (word doc).

Introductory Presentations

Vashti Zarach, XCRI Support Project: Introduction to the day (ppt)

Sarah Davis, JISC Programme Manager: Project Deliverables (ppt)

Short Presentations from the 6 Mini Projects

Chris Frost & John Hughes, University of Bolton: BoXCRIP (ppt)

Mark Stubbs, Manchester Metropolitan University: XCRI@MMU (ppt)

There is more info about XCRI@MMU at the JISC XCRI@MMU web page.

Trish Judson, MOVE: MOVE-XCRI (ppt)

Alan Paull, APS: OCCAM (Open University) (ppt)

Keith Lewis, University of Oxford: OXCRI (ppt)

There is more information about OXCRI at the JISC OXCRI web page and the Oxford University OXCRI website.

Peter Moss, Staffordshire University: StaffsXCRI (ppt)

There is more info about StaffsXCRI at the JISC StaffsXCRI web page.

Other Presentations

Ben Ryan, XCRI Support Project: XCRI Validator (ppt)

Scott Wilson & Vashti Zarach, XCRI Support Project: XCRI website (ppt)

Scott also demonstrated the XCRI Aggregator (website link)

Enterprise related funding opportunities in the JISC Capital Programme Call

JISC are putting out a new call for project proposals as part of the Capital Programme.

There will be a briefing day for those interested in submitting proposals in Birmingham on May 9th.

Details of the calls online.

There are a few project calls of possible interest to Enterprise SIG members, 2 in the April call:

1. The e-Learning Call for projects exploring cross institutional use of e-learning to support lifelong learners (“Regional and collaborative projects to pilot the use of e-learning to support lifelong learning, including the support of progression and workplace learning, and the provision of flexible delivery and personalised learning experiences.”)

2. The Cross Programme call for institutional exemplars (“Projects to develop exemplar technology and practice solutions to large-scale institutional problems in the areas of administration for teaching and learning and for digital repositories.”)

And 1 in the forthcoming July call:

1. The e_Learning call for Institutional Business Process Review (“Projects of up to a year in duration which will describe the administrative processes across an institution or consortium, whether manual or technology-enabled, which support key aspects of learning, teaching and student support.”)

Full Agenda for Friday’s Enterprise SIG Meeting

The next meeting of the JISC CETIS Enterprise SIG will be held this Friday (20th April 2007). The meeting is being hosted at the University of Nottingham by Sandra Kingston. We have a busy agenda, with a variety of updates, project presentations and interesting topics for discussion.

Register at:


And the agenda is also here:



10.45 – 11.00 Vashti Zarach, JISC CETIS Enterprise SIG Coordinator
Introduction & Results from a JISC Systems Integration Survey

11.00 – 11.15 Scott Wilson, JISC CETIS / XCRI Support Project
Update on XCRI and the XCRI CAP (Course Advertising Profile) Mini Projects

11.15 – 11.45 Adam Cooper, JISC CETIS
Work in Progress in IMS: Enterprise Services v2.0 / Tools Interoperability v2.0

11.45 – 12.00 Teabreak


12.00 – 12.30 Sandra Kingston, Centre for International ePortfolio Development, University of Nottingham
ADoM & DELIA: two new e-admissions projects

12.30 – 1.00 Garfield Southall, University of Chester
The SOLVS Project (Supporting Ongoing Learning in Vocational Settings)

1.00 – 2.00 Lunch


2.00 – 2.30 Simon Grant, JISC CETIS Portfolio SIG
Identity: Personal, Learner, Institutional, etc

2.30 – 2.45
Discussion time: Identity

2.45 – 3.15 Chris Kew, CETIS
The Tencompetence Project and the Personal Competence Manager

3.15 – 3.45 Roger Clark, Greater Manchester Strategic Alliance (ioNW2)
Adding A Competency Dimension into XCRI

3.45 – 4.00 End / Teas and Coffees

XCRI Mini Projects Start Up Meeting on Friday

This Friday (30th March 2007), we are holding a start-up meeting for the 6 new XCRI Mini Projects. Six projects have been funded: BoXCRIP (based at Bolton), MOVE-XCRI (led by the MOVE Lifelong Learning network), OCCAM (Open University), OXCRI (Oxford University), StaffsXCRI (Staffordshire University) and XCRI@MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University). The mini projects will run for 6 months, and are implementing XCRI CAP, the Course Advertising Profile for XCRI (the eXchanging Course Information schema).

The projects will be supported by the XCRI Support Team, consisting of Mark Stubbs, Scott Wilson, Ben Ryan and Vashti Zarach, with website assistance from Mark Power and Sam Easterby-Smith. The Support Project is scheduled to run for 2 years, and has been extremely busy since beginning this March. So far we have held a Support Team start up meeting, attended by GMSA (the Greater Manchester Strategic Alliance), responded to lots of enquiries and interest about XCRI, dashed around the country meeting people (that’s mostly Mark Stubbs who urgently needs cloning!), worked on a validator (Ben Ryan) and aggregator (Scott Wilson), brainstormed user scenarios and began to set up the new XCRI website (Scott, Vashti, Mark Power and Sam), and planned an XCRI meeting for mini projects and general interested parties (mostly Vashti with help from all). Looks like we may have a busy year ahead!

The XCRI meeting, which is being hosted in Oxford by Sebastian Rahtz of Oxford University Computing Services, is being well attended. We have 28 people coming, including the Support Project Team, Sarah Davies from JISC, 14 project staff members, and 9 other people generally interested in being updated on XCRI.

A copy of the day’s agenda is below:

10.30am – 11.00am Teas and coffees

11.00am – 11.20am Intro to the Day: Vashti Zarach
What to expect from the day / Update on XCRI meetings, etc

11.20am – 11.40am XCRI Update: Mark Stubbs
Brief history of XCRI / Developments with XCRI / Interest from UK learning organizations, etc

11.40am – 12.00noon JISC Requirements: Sarah Davies
What JISC requires from the projects

12noon – 1.00pm Project Presentations: 6 Mini Projects
10 mins presentation time for each project

1.00pm – 2.00pm Lunch

2.00pm – 2.20pm XCRI Validator: Ben Ryan

2.20pm – 2.45pm XCRI Aggregator: Scott Wilson
Demo of the aggregator

2.45pm – 3.00pm Teas and coffees

3.00pm – 3.15pm Scott Wilson and Vashti Zarach
Demo of the new website

3.15pm – 3.45pm XCRI Website discussion
Opportunity for the projects to discuss what they want from the website

16th Enterprise SIG Meeting to be held on Fri 20th April

The next Enterprise SIG Meeting will be held at the University of Nottingham, on Friday 20th April 2007. The agenda is currently being planned, sessions so far include:

Register online at:

2007 JISC Conference: great BBC 2.0 keynote, shame about the mushrooms

Yesterday I went to the annual JISC Conference in Birmingham. We arrived in time for the first keynote speech from David Eastwood, Chief Exec of HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England). As I am currently involved with the XCRI (eXchanging Course Information) support project, which is supporting take-up of a schema for standardising the format and exchange of information about courses, I was pleased to hear the keynote speech finish by emphasizing the need to “create greater convergence”, develop a “shared service agenda” and link up things which institutions are doing separately.

In the morning, I went to Bill Olivier’s session on services oriented architectures and the eFramework. Bill delivered a very interesting presentation at breakneck speed, and I managed to get notes taken by typing very fast! I found his 3 definitions of the eFramework useful: 1. It’s a JISC Programme, 2. It’s an international programme, 3. It’s a website and knowledge base. 

One area the eFramework are focusing on is helping practitioners map out their domains, with Bill defining a domain as “a recognisable area of work or activity”, i.e. not necessarily something technical, just a way of outlining what people do. The domain modelling enables the discovery of issues which are common across institutions, with the idea being that projects with cross institutional benefits can be a priority for funding. Again, I thought this tied in nicely to the work XCRI is doing, plus many other projects I know of, such as the e-admissions domain mapping which MMU and Nottingham are undertaking.

 Lunch was the worst part of the day. As a non mushroom eating vegetarian, and a very hungry one by lunchtime, I was disappointed to see both veggie options contained mushrooms. I ended up with a plate of potato salad and wild rice, not very nourishing. It’s a very grand venue, but the food isn’t wonderful…Oh, and I couldn’t get the wifi to work!

After lunch I went to the Enabling Lifelong Learning session run by Sarah Davies. All the speakers were good, but I was most interested in the presentation given by the first speaker, Bill Pollard from Cheadle and Marple College, who discussed how they had dealt with the issue of a particular course where students never seemed to apply to carry on to university. They discovered that this was due to students being unable to find suitable courses for their interests and needs. They got the students to search on Flock for courses which suited their needs, and then, this is the crucial bit, got them to save courses they liked on us with appropriate tags of their choice, so that the students could share interesting courses with each other. They added a course code to the tags, to narrow down the tagged entries to ones chosen within the college. The outcome of all this searching, tagging and sharing, was that all bar one student applied to university this year, and this from a course where previously almost no one was applying. I thought this was great use of social software.

 The final keynote, entitled BBC 2.0, was given by Tom Loosemore from the BBC. Tom outlined 15 principles of web design, illustrated by examples from (mostly) BBC websites. I found this talk really fascinating, partly because I studied a bit about information design on my Information management course in Brighton some years back; partly because I run an events website for my local area and am interested in principles of good website design; and partly because I love the BBC websites, and it was really interesting to hear all about some of the rationale behind them.

So, in summary, a good and informative day, please can we have no mushrooms next year, and I really must find a pink, scarlet or electric blue suit, there were so many black suits there!

Blogging isn’t always the best medium for sharing information

Hi, it’s Sunday and I’m browsing the internet. I listened to a very inspiring speech by Susie Orbach on Thursday about women and our punishing attitudes toward our bodies, which I found very moving, and have been looking up some of her writing, and browsing various websites dedicated to encouraging more positive attitudes towards our bodies. I was just looking at a website which should have been very interesting, but as the information had all been submitted as blog entries, it was impossible to have a quick browse of the images I was looking for.

I think blogs have two very good purposes: 1. they enable many people to easily publish information to the web without having to learn about website design and html, 2. They suit people entering a continous flow of narrative information, such as personal diaries, work diaries, and so forth.

I don’t, however, think that blogs are well suited for collecting together an assortment of images or information which could be more easily found or browsed on a website laid out with clickable links to different categories of information, i.e. a more “traditional” website layout. It can be very frustrating to go to a site full of interesting information, and find you have to spend hours working back through blog entries to mine out the information.

 I’m a big fan of information design, and making sure that information is gathered and presented in ways which are easy and enjoyable for people to understand and use. It’s important to think about how we are sharing information, and whether the medium we are using is best suited to information seekers.

ENTSIG now 5 days a week and very busy!

I haven’t written in my workblog much lately as I’ve just been so busy! It was always much the same when I kept diaries, when life was quiet there were endless long diary entries as I lay around drinking tea and talking to the cat, but when life was a whirl of parties and pirates, nothing got written down.

The main news is that I am now working 5 days a week, for the first time since doing the Enterprise SIG, which started all of 4 years ago back in Jan 2003. When I started the SIG, I was also teaching English GCSE 5 hours a week, so I took the SIG on at 4 days a week. When the year of GCSE teaching finished, I began a part time Heritage MA, so stayed at 4 days a week. When I finished the taught part of the MA, I was so tired from all the working and learning I stayed at 4 days! However, my workload has been getting bigger and bigger, and I’ve just taken on a day a week as part of the XCRI Support Project, so I’m now on a 5 day working week.

XCRI is the eXchanging Course Information project that emerged out of the Enterprise SIG members collectively noticing a lack of a standardised approach to formatting and exchanging course information. The project has been gathering momentum like a small but persistent wave as various institutions implement the XCRI schema, and the JISC has just funded 6 mini projects to implement the XCRI Course Advertising Profile, which will be supported by the XCRI Team of Mark Stubbs, Ben Ryan, Scott Wilson and myself. I just looked online for a cool team of 4 consisting of 3 men and a woman and found these: I’m obviously Polly, so I have a human mind inhabiting an android body, can fly and also generate a superstrong polyfilament fibre to bind opponents, which should be very useful whilst running the support project. XCRI website:

The Fab Four met for the first XCRI Support Team meeting in Manchester on 23rd Feb, and laid out our strategy for world domination, I mean, supporting the XCRI mini projects. We also met with some nice people from GMSA (Greater Manchester Strategic Alliance: who are interested in XCRI, and Richard Hartley, Head of Information and Communications at MMU, who is from an excellent library background (Librarians Rule, see:

On Thursday 1st March, I went up to Bolton to meet Scott, Mark Power and Sam Easterby-Smith to discuss the new XCRI website, and plan user scenarios for people using the website. This was a great task for a would-be novelist like myself, sadly Scott only let me name two of the hypothetical users (mind you, Mark did invent a great name), and I had to stop short at planning their entire back stories, and focus on brainstorming their likely requirements from the new XCRI site.

We are planning an XCRI mini projects start up meeting on March 30th (which will probably be in Oxford) and an XCRI showcase in September, when the 6 month mini projects finish. We also intend to present and demo XCRI at a couple of conferences.

And Enterprise SIG? I’m currently planning the next meeting, which Sandra Kingston has kindly offered to host in Nottingham, in either April or May. As usual, contact me at if you want to present, or request any particular topics to focus on. I’ve also been involved in the beginning stages of hunting for a location for the next JISC CETIS Conference (sadly they won’t do Disneyland Paris).

 So, enough blogging, and back to the grindstone!