Friday, April 24, 2009

Intrallect user's conference - Edinburgh

Rachel and I gave a paper at the Open Educational Repositories: Share, Improve, Reuse conference in Edinburgh, organised by Intrallect, on the 25th March. We had no expectations at all and really no idea who would be attending or presenting. It was only after we arrived at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and looked at the programme that we began to get really interested.

The two day programme was a good mix of long talks on JISC-funded projects and showcases of smaller projects from the UK and beyond. The conference kicked off with Amber Thomas from JISC outlining the Open Educational Resource programme of projects which are due to begin in April 2009. These projects will aim to encourage institutions and individuals to open up their learning material to be available to all. The projects will also track any cultural changes in how and why creators of learning material share their content.

As the morning went on the other, shorter talks focused on projects involving creation and re-use of learning material with the emphasis of making use of repositories (as the conference was sponsored and held by Intrallect) in opening up content. During these talks, metadata was an issue raised again and again (which was also an important part of our paper) so we felt at least that we would be speaking to a receptive audience.

We gave our talk, and during the questions bit at the end Catherine Bruen, from Trinity College Dublin, echoed our concerns about use of metadata to adequately give RLOs a context and to indicate how successful learning material had been in achieving learning outcomes/intentions. Catherine works as a project manager within the NDLR in Ireland and later on, over some lovely sandwiches, we discussed how important we also think metadata is for repositories for 'discoverability' (another big issue for ReJiG). There is a balance that needs to be struck between getting contributors to input detailed information about their material and with not wanting to burden them with too much work.

The following day we listened to Lou McGill give a talk about the Good Intentions report from JISC. This report focuses on gathering evidence of sharing learning material among individuals and institutions. Even though there is evidence that many creators of learning material are unwilling to share, 70% of respondents to a 2006 JISC survey said that they had re-purposed others' material.

The report includes various tables illustrating different models of sharing and indicates that subject-based reposistories and communities of practice (CoP) are very successful in encouraging sharing. This is good news if we are to build a CoP for IL RLOs.

Later on, in a break out session with Lou and Sarah Currier, there was a lively discussion on the issues surrounding sharing learning material and Lou mentioned a chapter of a book on the experience of the folk at Merlot (an educational resource repository). I've yet to read this but it will be interesting to read more about the CoP approach.

Anyway, Rachel and I really enjoyed the conference and felt that we learnt a lot about what is going on in the repository world and about what the hot topics are.

We even had time to run around the streets of Edinburgh, both in the evening when the castle etc. are lit up beautifully and in the glorious morning sunshine among the daffodils.

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