Tuesday, September 30, 2008

BRUM and ISCoP in Dublin

On the 5th of September I travelled to Dublin to give a talk about the BRUM project at the launch of the National Digital Learning Repository (NDLR) Information Skills Community of Practice (ISCoP) (http://www.ndlr.ie/iscop/). The NDLR is an Ireland wide repository of learning material funded by Ireland's Higher Education Authority. The NDLR is split into subject areas that are known as communities of practice (CoP) and each CoP is responsible for gathering and uploading learning and teaching material on to the repository.

The NDLR is based on the Intrallect software, as is Jorum, so it was interesting for me to see how they have organised the learning material. The taxonomy they use is based on their subject areas (CoPs) and a bit more straightforward to use than Jorum (for HE users anyway).

The launch day saw librarians from across Ireland come together to discuss developing and sharing information literacy (IL) learning material through ISCoP. It was a great opportunity for me to talk to other creators of IL RLOs about how best to maintain high standards when developing, sharing, re-using and re-purposing this material.

Several interesting issues arose during a group discussion including many that Ann-Marie and I had discussed as part of BRUM.

Quality Assurance (QA) - this was raised when I attended a Jorum training day but I think it is relevant to any repository of learning material. Should QA be an issue when uploading learning material and if so, who should do the checking? This should be easier when you are part of a CoP as you have a forum/framework for discussion already set up but do RLO developers want someone judging their efforts? It may be that this becomes an organic process whereby colleagues give feedback on learning objects as and when they use them. But, as ISCoP develops it may be that a QA panel could be formed to look at all new RLOs added to the site and decide on what should be kept. I have no feeling either way on what is best but that it should be something any repository manager considers.

Number of RLOs - during discussion at the ISCoP launch some community members aired the view that a large number of objects would be uploaded at once, thereby flooding the repository. Whilst this is a slight risk I think it's better to have more objects than less as it gives the community a more realistic idea of the kind of material being created and used. One option would be to form a QA panel as mentioned above to decide on what should be kept. Also, if the repository has a thorough metadata/indexing system then this should ensure that even with hundreds of objects, relevant material can still be found easily.

Audit trail of re-purposing - it is currently not possible with the Intrallect software to easily track when and how many times a learning object is downloaded or by whom or how it is subsequently re-purposed. I think that if the RLO community takes re-purposing seriously there needs to be a way of tracking re-use and re-purpose. This is crucial in understanding how others have used your material for their own teaching and only then will we get a true picture of re-purposing activity and how widespread it is.

Regular training/workshops - frequent meetings should be at the centre of the CoP as it's at these meetings that issues are raised and discussed and important decisions made. Training opportunities within a supportive environment will also be invaluable in sharing and promoting good practice.

Many of these discussion points got me thinking about some of our BRUM project aims/further areas of activity. We had planned to gather like-minded RLO developers from across the UK to discuss issues surrounding IL RLOs including the points above. However, despite initial callouts and positive noises from other developers I never got passed the stage of thinking about a meeting. Attending the ISCoP launch has inspired me to take up this idea again and to try to get IL RLO developers in the UK to meet at least once to discuss, among other things, use of Jorum in hosting IL material, quality assurance etc.

I've also tried to encourage the ISCoP team to submit a paper at next year's LILAC to inspire us here in the UK to try to organise our own community. Fingers crossed, they'll cross the Irish Sea next spring and make it to Cardiff...

ReJiG update

First of all a little ReJiG update. Rachel and I are still working on the repurposing of the RLOs but the biggest hurdle that we are now facing is repurposing subject material. In the last posting of the blog I mentioned that I'd been liaising with two medical science academics in editing of some lab skills material. I got some feedback from one of them and it was very interesting. Even though he could see the value in the material he also said that it was too basic for first year undergraduates. In order for the material to be useful for his students it would need a good deal of editing etc.

Even if it means we don't add this learning material to our skills website, it's still very useful to know what the academics think of the material on offer on repositories like Jorum. So, whilst Rachel and I can repurpose the other more generic study skills material, subject focused material like this will be a bit trickier.

We are now in the process of appointing an assistant to repurpose material for the project and to gather qualitative feedback from academics. We will be drawing on a pool of post graduate research students across the University who put themselves forward for paid work. Once we've selected an appropriate student, we're hoping that they will collect some useful feedback from our academic colleagues on reusing and repurposing learning material.