The JLeRN Experiment

JISC's Learning Registry Node Experiment at Mimas

Archive for the category “Working with Projects”

Rounding up the JLeRN Experiment

We have reached the end of the JLeRN experiment, at least the end of the current JISC funding for Mimas to set up a node on the Learning Registry and examine its potential. One part of the process of rounding up ideas and outputs generated through the experiment was a meeting of those who had engaged with it, held on 22nd October. This post providers pointers to two sets of resources associated with that meeting: the blog posts etc. that people who attended it wrote after the event, in order to summarise what had been discussed, but first a quick round-up (mostly from Sarah Currier) of posts that describe what the people who attended had been doing with the Learning Registry.

The Story So Far?by David Kay
A summary of some of the “headline ‘findings’” of a series of conversations that David has been having in an attempt to pin down the nature of the Learning Registry and its potential.

Understanding and using the Learning Registry: Pgogy Tools for searching and submittingby Pat Lockley.
Pat has been very involved in the Learning Registry from the start. This blog post gives you access to all four of his open source tools that work with the Learning Registry, set up to work with our JLeRN node. They are very easy to install (two of them plug very easily into Chrome) and try out, plus Pat has made some brief videos demonstrating how they work. The tools use the Learning Registry to enhance Google (and other) searching, and support easy submission of metadata and paradata to a node. There is also a sample search you can use with the Chrome tools that should show you how it works pretty quickly.

Taster: A soon-to-be released ENGrich Learning Registry Case Study for JLeRNby the ENGrich Project.
The ENGrich project are working on a case study on why and how they have implemented a Learning Registry node to enhance access to high-quality visual resources (images, videos, Flash animations, etc.) as OERs for engineering education at university level. Their work has involved gathering paradata from academics and students; this taster gives you an overview. A really interesting use case. Please pass this one on to anyone working with engineering resources too!

Taster: some ideas for a use case on paradata and accessibility opportunities -by Terry McAndrew
Terry is an accessibility expert from JISC TechDis, he came to our first Hackday and got us thinking about how the Learning Registry model for capturing and sharing paradata might be useful for people to share information about how accessible resources are. We commissioned him to write up a use case for this; look here to see his beginning thoughts, and add any of your own.

How widely useful is the Learning Registry?: A draft report on the broader contextby David Kay
The JLeRN team have been keeping half an eye from the start on the potential affordances the Learning Registry might offer the information landscape outwith educational technology: what about library circulation data, activity data and activity streams, linked data, the Semantic Web, research data management? And what if we are missing a trick; maybe there are already solutions in other communities? So we commissioned a Broader Context Report from David Kay at Sero Consulting. This is his first draft; we’re looking for feedback, questions and ideas.

I reported on some information about the current status of the Learning Registry in the US and some other related initiatives (slideshare) based on information Steve Midgely had sent me in reply to an email.

Summaries/reflections from after the meeting

Registryingby Pat Lockley
Pat’s summary of his presentation on how the Learning Registry affects the interactions between developers, service managers and users.

Experimenting with the Learning Registryby Amber Thomas
A round-up of the meeting as a whole, pulling out a couple of the significant issues raised: the extent to which the Learning Registry is a network, and the way some real tricky problems have been pushed out of scope…but are still there. Some really useful comments on this post as well, notably from Steve Midgley on increasing adoption of the Learning Registry in the US.

JLeRN Experiment Final Meetingby Lorna M Campbell
Another summary of the meeting, summarising the uses made of the Learning Registry by projects represented at the meeting, mentioning some subject areas where the use of the Learning Registry to store information about curriculum mapping may prove useful and questions from Owen Stephens about alternative approaches to the Learning Registry.

At the end of the JLeRN experimentby Phil Barker
My summary of the meeting, covering the issues of whether the Learning Registry is a network or just isolated nodes (-not much of a network, yet), whether it works as software (-seems to) and why use it and not some alternative (-it’s too early to tell).

Watch this space for more information and case studies from some of the people mentioned above, and for the official JLeRN final report.

Taster: a soon-to-be released ENGrich Learning Registry Case Study for JLeRN

One of the tasks we’ve commissioned from our informal task group is a case study from Liverpool University on why and how they have implemented a Learning Registry node to enhance access to high-quality visual resources (images, videos, Flash animations, etc.) for use in engineering education. The ENGrich team will be presenting their case study at the JLeRN Final Workshop on Monday 22nd October and completing it based on feedback and discussion there; but we’d be interested in any questions or points you have as well prior to the final version being published here.

So, here is your taster:

Ins and Outs of the Learning Registry: An ENGrich Case Study for JLeRN – draft

By the ENGrich Team at Liverpool University. This work is licensed by The University of Liverpool under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License CC-by-sa icon

A brief summary of the ENGrich project

ENGrich, a project based at the University of Liverpool, is both designing and developing a customised search engine for visual media relevant to engineering education. Using Google Custom Search (with applied filters such as tags, file-types and sites/domains) as a primary search engine for images, videos, presentations and FlashTM movies, this project is then pulling and pushing corresponding metadata / paradata from and to the Learning Registry (LR). A user-interface is also being developed to enable those engaging with the site (principally students and academics) to add further data relating to particular resources, and to how they are being used. This information is published to LR, which is then employed to help order any subsequent searches.

ENGrich process flow

This section will detail the process flow of the proposed service. Effectively, the LR plays a central role in ‘engriching’ visual engineering content, above and beyond the basic data returned by Google Custom Search.

ENGrich Process Flow Diagram

ENGrich Process Flow Diagram

Working with documentation

This section will cover how we worked through the available LR guides and documentation, from the very basic methods (publish, slice etc) to the more customized data services (extract).

The list includes:

Learning Registry in 20 Minutes or Less

Learning Registry – Quick Reference Guide

Learning Registry – Slicing

Paradata in 20 Minutes or Less

Modeling Paradata and Assertions as Activities

Paradata Cookbook

LR Data Services

Setting up a Learning Registry node at the University of Liverpool

This section will explain the rationale behind the decision to set up an institutional LR node (common node) at the University of Liverpool, and challenges and issues we faced while doing it. This node is to be utilized by the project, as well as providing a means of highlighting the wider potential of the LR to other centres / services across the University.

Summer students identifying learning resources

This section will describe how the project employed undergraduate engineering students over the summer of 2012 to classify visual media available online that are relevant to the University of Liverpool engineering modules. The project relies on their experience as engineering students to provide insights into learning techniques of how to identify resources that will aid future students. 25,000+ records were linked to the appropriate modules, and are ready to be published in the University LR node using the paradata templates described below.

The students blogged every week on their tasks and progress.

Paradata statements templates

This section will report on how we went about creating the required PHP templates to publish the students’ data into our Learning Registry node. We have constructed a set of contextualized usage paradata statements for different types of actions (e.g. recommended, aligned, not aligned) and so far have published a couple of test documents to our University LR node.

Slice, harvest, obtain methods and data services (extract)

This section will summarise our experience with different methods the LR has in place for accessing data from the LR. We report on using slice, obtain, harvest and extract methods, explaining why we have chosen one over the other.

University of Liverpool student portal – using data directly from LR

This section will demonstrate how an iLIKE ‘widget’ (a portative version of ENGrich visual search) could be implemented within the University of Liverpool student portal. The iLIKE prototype gets a unique listing of identifiable University of Liverpool engineering modules (titles and codes) directly from the Learning Registry as the user types into the text field, and then fetches the latest resources relating to that module from the LR. It dynamically generates the thumbnails corresponding to the resources.

Working with Mimas

This section will talk about how we collaborated with the JLeRN team at Mimas to resolve some initial bugs in the slice service; to draw on their experiences in setting up a new LR node at the University of Liverpool; to develop a set of customised extract data services; and also about the possibility of joining the LR nodes at Liverpool and Mimas using the LR distribute service.

JLeRN Reporting: Appetite and Demand for the Learning Registry

This is one of a series of posts from the JLeRN Experiment, forming sections of what will be our Final Report. Please send feedback and discussion in the comments section, as your own blog post response, via Twitter (hashtags #jlern #learningreg) or on the OER-Discuss and Learning Registry email lists. To see all the posts, click here.

JLeRN Draft Report: 2. Appetite and Demand

Interest in the Learning Registry in the UK: a summary

Following on from the Hackday in January 2012, where considerable interest was shown in JLeRN, there were well-attended sessions at the CETIS Conference 2012 and OCWC/OER12. However, conference sessions and a Developer Challenge at developer-specific events Dev8D and Dev8eD were less well-attended, despite effort put into publicising JLeRN and encouraging participation. Those events were for developers working on the ground rather than project managers or strategic thinkers; it seems the immediate benefit of the Learning Registry to coders wanting to code cool stuff was not yet apparent, although if you are interested in some exceptions to that, see our blog post about Pat Lockley’s plugins here and our own JLeRN Node Explorer here.

Building on this early buzz, a small number of institutions have shown an interest in trialling implementation of the Learning Registry around well-defined use cases meeting real community needs, although only one has followed through: Liverpool University have implemented their own node to support their ENGrich work (a JLeRN Case Study is coming on this). There have also been projects hoping to try out the Learning Registry approach as a side issue to their core work (e.g. Xenith, ORBIT- see below), recognising the potential value and wanting to take advantage of JLeRN while it was available to help. However, lack of capacity on both sides prevented much happening beyond discussion.

Learning Registry: popular with JISC OER projects

Six projects working with the Learning Registry were funded in the JISC OER Rapid Innovation Programme, and one FE-based project involved JLeRN in its bid, but was not funded. Two JISC OER Programme projects (ENGrich at Liverpool University and ORBIT at Cambridge University) have also initiated collaboration with JLeRN; we have supported ENGrich with their node and commissioned a case study, whereas with ORBIT we only managed some initial discussions on the idea of sharing semantic data using the Learning Registry, an idea we would’ve loved to explore further.

Are others interested in the Learning Registry, sans funding?

Where people have secured funding (or institutional support in the case of ENGrich) directly related to the Learning Registry, they have been able to collaborate with JLeRN. It is important to note that these projects, while they relate to very real use cases, are small scale and exploratory, like JLeRN itself. In no case are they close to developing anything like a strategic or service level implementation. This is as it should be, however, given the stage the Learning Registry itself is at.

Others who showed an early interest, for instance, The Open University’s LabSpace and LearningSpace platforms; JISC TechDIS; and the Health, E-Learning and Media (HELM) team at Nottingham University (distinct from the Xerte / Xenith team at Nottingham who have an OER Rapid Innovation project), have not been able to make resource available to work with JLeRN as it is too experimental and not part of their core work. Their participation in our events and discussions has been valuable and much appreciated, however. And Terry McAndrew at TechDIS is working up an accessibility use case which will be published here on the blog.

Interest in the Learning Registry outwith the educational technology sector

There are other JISC communities outwith educational technology that have shown an interest in JLeRN and the Learning Registry, the most prominent being those involved in content, discovery and activity data. Joy Palmer, a Senior Manager at Mimas with a number of interests and projects in these areas, has been keeping her own watching brief on the progress of JLeRN. Joy and Amber Thomas made sure that JLeRN was represented at JISC Content and Discovery Cross-Programmes Meeting in April 2012, where a number of useful conversations were had. Amber Thomas has also noted that the research data management community has similar issues to solve. JLeRN has commissioned a report looking at how the Learning Registry might benefit these wider areas: see David Kay’s JLeRN blog post initiating discussion around this. His final report will also be published here on the blog.

Strategic interest and expectations management

Broadly speaking, discussions within the HE community in the UK and abroad, as reported informally by various JLeRN, Mimas, CETIS and JISC folk, have indicated that those who recognise the gaps in paradata provision are interested in the Learning Registry at a strategic level, but this invariably raises an accompanying problem of expectations management. In describing the problem area the Learning Registry is aimed at, and the innovative approach being taken, it can be easy to latch onto this work as the next big thing that will solve all problems, without recognising that there is (a) a lot of work to be done, and (b) that work would require a well-supported infrastructure, both technically and in terms of communities, shared vocabularies, and so on.

JLeRN at Dev8eD next week: will you be there?

The JLeRN team (myself and developer Nick Syrotiuk) are working with CETIS to bring you some juicy sessions on the Learning Registry at Dev8eD: “A free event for building, sharing and learning cool stuff in education! Tuesday 29th – Wednesday 30th May 2012, Birmingham, UK.”

We are very interested in talking and hacking with people working on JISC and other OER projects, including the Rapid Innovation projects we already know about, and anyone else interested in “capturing conversations around OERs” and paradata. If you haven’t already signed up to Dev8eD and you want to spend some quality time with JLeRN, this is a great opportunity to do so!

We are planning:

  1. A Lightning Talk on Day 1 from Nick to update you on what’s new at JLeRN;
  2. A workshop / panel session on Day 1 for those working in this area to share what their projects are doing and identify common requirements or useful ways in which JLeRN and CETIS can help;
  3. A training session / hack session on Day 2 so that Nick can give you direct support with whatever you are working on with JLeRN or the Learning Registry.

If you are planning to come we would really like to hear from you to see how many projects will have something to talk about at the workshop / panel session on Day 1. Comment here or email me at sarah [dot] currier [at]

I’d also like to hear if you have any further ideas about how we can best use our time at Dev8eD with you.

Dunking your Cake into a tasty source of data

APIs make it easier for developers to interact with web applications and systems. To understand the capabilities of the Learning Registry, and how Jorum could potentially use and benefit from the it, I decided to create a CakePHP Datasource for the Learning Registry API. My framework of choice is CakePHP. CakePHP is designed for rapid development, and is ideal for prototyping web applications.

So far, I’ve created the READ parts of the LR Datasource. The LR Datasource abstracts the connection requirements and the intricacies of the API and helps connect Cake developers directly to the LR, allowing them to simply “plug-in” to a node and use the data obtained directly in their developments.

Recently, I have been working on the Jorum Dashboard; a web application that will provide an up to date, accessible window to statistical data about Jorum resources. The dashboard is written in CakePHP and I have been able to plug the LR Datasource directly into the application, giving me access to LR nodes (including the JLeRN nodes).

With the READ capabilities of the Datasource I can access paradata about resources and display that information within the Jorum Dashboard.

In the future I’d like to develop the Dashboard so that it submits the DSpace stats about resources, collects further usage data about resources from other sources including Topsy, Twitter, Google, Klout, and posts this paradata to a Learning Registry node.

You can find this and other CakePHP Datasources that I am working on at the following Git repository:

JLeRN and the JISC OER Rapid Innovation Projects

The HE Academy / JISC OER3 Programme‘s new Rapid Innovation strand projects kicked off last week in London at the Programme Meeting. We are thrilled that there are four projects within the strand who want to work with us on Learning Registry related developments.

HEA / JISC logo

With only four months left for JLeRN, we want to make the most of the time we have, and participating in well-thought-out projects meeting real requirements in the OER space seems like a good way to consolidate what we’ve learned so far. All of these projects involve folk who supported us by coming to the Hackday in January and the CETIS Conference Learning Registry session in February so it’ll be nice to give something back.

The four projects we are working with are as follows (NB: There were a few other sparks of interest in the OER Rapid Innovation projects’ breakout session, so I think we may pick up a few more along the way: don’t be shy to get in touch if you’d like to work with us. UPDATE: We’ve added a new one already- read down to the end of the list for CAMILOE! And another: SupOERglue from Newcastle University, check under RIDLR!):

Rapid Innovation Dynamic Learning Maps-Learning Registry (RIDLR)

Dynamic Learning Maps concept map

The Dynamic Learning Maps Concept

Based at Newcastle University, and led by Simon Cotterill, this project will build on their Dynamic Learning Maps work, and their FavOERites social bookmarking project, to develop “open APIs to harvest and release paradata on OER from end-users (bookmarks, tags, comments, ratings and reviews etc.) from the Learning Registry and other sources for specific topics, within the context of curriculum and personal maps.” Also (added to post 4/04/12) from the Dynamic Learning Maps folks at Newcastle, we have the SupOERglue project, led by Suzanne Hardy, which aims to enable easy content creation and aggregation related to specific topics.  They will also be looking at collecting paradata on OER from end-users.

Sharing Paradata Across Widget Stores (SPAWS)

Based at Bolton University (with partners KMi (Open University)IMC AG, Saarbruecken; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium) and led by Scott Wilson, this project will use the Learning Registry infrastructure to share paradata in the form of user views, reviews and ratings about educational widgets across four existing widget stores.

Xerte Experience Now Improved: Targeting HTML5 (XENITH)

Xerte Online Toolkits logo

Based at Nottingham University (with partners JISC TechDIS, EDINA and Mimas (us!)), and led by Julian Tenney, this project builds on the Xerte Online Toolkits, which integrates directly with the Xpert Repository. As an adjunct to its main development work, it will explore sharing metadata and paradata about Xerte resources with the Learning Registry.

Track OER: Tracking Open Educational Resources

Based at the Open University, and led by Patrick McAndrew, this project aims to “develop software that can help track open educational resources” as they are used away from their point of origin. JLeRN has already entered discussions with them to ensure mutual affordances are identified.

CAMILOE (Collation and Moderation of Intriguing Learning Objects in Education) (added to the list 3/04/12)

Based at Canterbury Christ Church University, and led by Mike Blamires, this project aims to  reclaim and update 1800 quality-assured, evidence-informed reviews of education research, guidance and practice that were produced and updated between 2003 and 2010, and which are now archived and difficult to access. They are aiming to discuss the potential usefulness of JLeRN and the Learning Registry in achieving their aims.

In addition to these projects, the University of Liverpool will soon be working with the JLeRN team to set up their own node, as part of their JISC OER project CORE-SET. As well as assisting with meeting Liverpool’s requirements, this will enable JLeRN to experiment with sharing data between nodes at different locations. Work with Jorum will continue, and discussions have begun with the resource discovery strand of JISC’s Information Environment 09-11 activities, to widen the reach of the Learning Registry concept. Watch out for blog posts on all of these activities!

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