The JLeRN Experiment

JISC's Learning Registry Node Experiment at Mimas

JLeRN node upgraded

The node was previously running version 0.23.5 of the LR code but is now running version 0.23.7.  Version 0.23.6 was a major release and 0.23.7 was a minor release.

The release notes for version 0.23.6 state the following:

  • Data Services NEW
    • The extract API is included and enabled in this distribution. The Extract API brings a “batteries included” interface for tailoring data extraction and query to suit more narrow and varied use case needs without high resource requirements.
    • Data Service views are NOT installed by default. Node administrators can install any or all of the 3 standards alignment focused data services using python CouchApp. This is done to prevent unneeded consumption of disk space for data services not utilized.
    • Interactive documentation explaining Data Services and how to roll your own for your use case.
  • Resource Data Distribution refactoring CHANGED
    • Distribute has been significantly refactored to reduce the need for 2x storage for documents. New distribute uses 2 DB’s, incoming and resourcedata. New _tainted documents can be distributed to incoming, and node may impose an internal policy for untainting documents before moving into resource_data. All harvest services still operate against resource_data.
    • More compatible with Learning Registry 0.23 specification. Document Types of resource_data are distributed, not resource_data_distributable.
    • Upgrade will require some minor configuration changes to NGINX to change or expose incoming endpoint.
    • IMPORTANT Legacy nodes can distribute to a 0.23.6 by adjusting service documents to use the incoming endpoint. Legacy cannot be the destination for a 0.23.6 server.
  • Subscription for Distribute NEW
    • You may now visit http://%5Bnode address]/register, enter the URL of your node (use https if SSL required to access).
  • Support for CouchDB 1.2.0 NEW
    • This is a highly recommended upgrade. Significantly improves the storage and resource utilization, as well paves path for features planned for future releases.
  • Many Bug fixes

I have not yet installed the Data Services views (pertaining to standards alignment) but if anybody wants them please tell me.

Next steps:
1. Test the new Extract API
2. Test distributing data between nodes

I’ll report back with the test results.

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] manchester.ac.uk

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

Node Explorer

We now have a prototype of a tiny app you can use to explore things on our node.  Our app is based on some work, called LR statistics, previously done by the LR developers in the U.S.  If you wanted to, you could clone the app and adapt it to explore any LR node.  The source code is available in our JLerN Github repository.

The app is here:
http://jlern.iriscouch.com/resource_data/_design/explorer/start.html

This version of the app runs on CouchDB in a cloud.  (It literally took seconds to create a CouchDB instance, hosted by Iris Couch.)  Once the prototype was ready, we replicated our resource data from the JLeRN Alpha node to the cloud and pushed the app there also.  The app is just another JSON document stored in CouchDB.

Tonight the document count is 15955.  This will not change if new documents are published to the JLeRN Alpha node.  Having said that, live updates could probably be implemented but this would require further testing.  [28 May: We have now implemented live updates.  With respect to IE 8 & 9, the app works as expected but the status information might say the node is down when it is actually up.  This has to do with your browser's security settings.  In your Internet Options, (1) allow "jlern.iriscouch.com" as a trusted site; (2) lower your security levels for that zone to Medium-Low; and (3) answer "yes" to the security question when you start the app.  Or contact us.]

We could further develop the Node Explorer in any number of ways.  Please do let us know what you think would be useful.

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: https://github.com/cookiescrumbs/Datasource

What next…?

We have been looking at options to further work related to the JLeRN node and paradata, basically to create a sample interface. Javascript will be used mainly for the front-end, though it is all in primary stages. With all the data we have currently in our JLeRN node, it would be good to have a way to explore it and use it through a web client. Currently it is not fully clear what we might end up with, but some basic wireframes for the web pages are considered. Next we will look at the sharing and synchronising of learning resources across the Alpha node on Ubuntu OS and the Beta node on Windows 2008 OS.

Keep watching this space on more progress.

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!

Update on the JLeRN Experiment Paradata Challenge at Dev8D

Just a wee update on the results of the JLeRN Experiment Paradata Challenge at Dev8D 2012. The whole team put a lot of effort into the challenge, especially Bharti Gupta, who set up the pre-conference surgery, ran an introductory session at Dev8D, and really got involved in discussing the Learning Registry with developers and following up after the conference finished. A big thanks also to Steven Cook from Jorum who accompanied Bharti to Dev8D, and helped a lot with supporting the challenge.

So: after a lot of interest we had two entries, both in the form of use case ideas around using paradata about books. We (the JLeRN team and the judging panel) decided not to award any prizes as the ideas just weren’t quite developed enough in relation to the Learning Registry, but we did feel these were use cases worth keeping an eye on.

We really want to emphasise that the lack of prizes is not a reflection on the work we know the two entrants put in, in terms of getting their heads around the Learning Registry. It still takes a fairly big push of effort and thought to dig into this stuff, and we were asking developers to do this a bit too quickly, and in their own time. And, it has to be said, without the incentive of a big cash prize at the end! Thank you very much for participating Vani and Neeta!

Ultimately, we came up with the challenge idea as a way of publicising the JLeRN Experiment and more broadly the Learning Registry. We’re not too disappointed at not being able to award any prizes, because the whole experience sparked a fair amount of interest in what we’re doing, and discussion on Twitter and elsewhere. It also highlighted some of the requirements developers identified around supporting their engagement in the Learning Registry. It was genuinely a valuable exercise for the project.

We’d like to thank the Dev8D team, especially Mahendra Mahey, for their help in thinking through and setting up the challenge. I’d emphasise however, that any decisions we made (such as the nature of the prizes on offer) that may have contributed to people not entering, were entirely our own decision!

We’ve had an interesting discussion within the judging panel for the challenge (including folk involved in organising hackdays and other developer events) about where the community is currently at with developer challenges, so hopefully we’ve contributed to that as well. We’re grateful to them for their support throughout.

We’ll be releasing an interim report and a plan for the next 5 months of JLeRN work very soon. Lessons learned from running the challenge, as well as from the hackday, the CETIS Conference, and our other activities, will feed into these, so watch the blog for a post!

And there will be some other very good news coming soon too about some funded projects who will be working with JLeRN over the next 7-8 months, and some small bits of cash we may be offering for mini-tasks. Watch this space …

The Learning Registry and JLeRN at the CETIS Conference: Report and Reflections

In late February, the JLeRN team, along with Steven Cook who is working with us from the Jorum team, attended the annual CETIS Conference, and participated in the Learning Registry: Capturing Conversations About Learning Resources session. See this previous post for our presentation slides.

Our intention was that the CETIS Conference would be a significant point of reflection for the project: a chance to evaluate what JLeRN has achieved so far in light of community discussion and feedback, and a chance to get some pointers on how we should spend the next five months, since we finish at the end of July.

This week I’ll be meeting with Amber Thomas, our JISC Programme Manager, to write up an interim report for JISC, so I’m hoping this post will help me start to crystalise what I think personally, and what I’m hearing from the community. Skip right to the bottom of this post to see some bullet-pointed suggestions for further work from participants!

Firstly, can I just give a big shout out to Phil and Lorna from CETIS, and also to John who has now left CETIS but who helped a lot with organising the session. It was great!  Phil was particularly heroic in filling in for Dan Rehak by interpreting his slides for us. Also thanks to Walt Grata from the US Learning Registry team who came all the way to Nottingham just to hang out with all of us for a couple of days: it was absolutely invaluable having him there in person to advise, inform and have a laugh with.

Stepping Back: An Overview

As previously mentioned, Phil started us off with an overview of the Learning Registry. He presented some slides developed by Dan Rehak, which included diagrams peering into the Learning Registry model and concepts from a number of different angles. I’m getting the hang of it now, but I don’t doubt there were some baffled faces in the room at this point (I was at the front, and I didn’t look around). I keep reassuring people that you need to go through this stuff a few times using a few different resources to get a grip on it. However, speaking for myself, it was really useful to step back out of JLeRN and be reminded of how the Learning Registry is conceptualised by its creators.

The best thing for me about Dan/Phil’s presentation was being reminded of the Big Use Case. In the US, massive amounts of federal money is spent on educational resources which are then held in numerous silos, e.g. Nasa, PBS, NSDL, the Department of Defence may all hold different versions of the same resource. And therefore paradata, or usage data, about those resources may also be split into these different silos. Each portal only knows about a subset of what’s happening around their resources. How to pull it all together? The Learning Registry hopes to be a solution. This is highly relevant to Jorum here in the UK, which already shares resources with other services like Ireland’s National Digital Learning Repository.

We were in imminent danger of getting dragged into discussing definitions of paradata versus other kinds of data and metadata but Amber pulled us back from the brink, reminding us that we are not in the business of classifying types of data around resources: the nice thing about the Learning Registry is that it’s all in scope. Walt agreed, noting that “As long as you can express it as a string, and in JSON” it’s in scope. Walt also pointed out that even though there is a paradata specification available in the Learning Registry documentation, it’s not something that is required or validated; it’s just one suggestion to get folk going. “You can make up whatever you want”, he said.

Some Participants Chime In

This discussion led to Fred Riley from the SONET repository at Nottingham University, and Terry McAndrew from TechDIS asking some questions about how they could get involved. Fred would like to publish his repository’s OERs into the JLeRN node. There will be more on this in a later blog post, but the basic upshot is that this bespoke repository coded by Fred himself offers an RSS feed but not OAI-PMH, and until this point we’d been talking about publishing repository OAI-PMH feeds into our node. This was a timely discussion as Pat Lockley had just been working on a way to publish RSS into the Learning Registry, so it was a bit of edtech speed dating there.

Terry reiterated some of his ideas from the Hackday in January, following up with questions about how teachers can pull together stuff they have in a range of places (e.g. WordPress, Delicious, Posterous) to publish to the Learning Registry. All of this prompted some reminders about what an early stage proof-of-concept technical infrastructure project the Learning Registry is: some tools for developers and others are starting to emerge, but at this point just listening to these kinds of requests is all we can do. Walt noted that in the US there is work going on developing a few plug-ins and apps to work with various things teachers use to publish their content. Pat Lockley here in the UK also has some stuff on the go.

Terry also asked at a later point whether we can harvest from JISCmail as a source of data: folk can then see contributions that they’ve already made being used. Amber (from JISC) agreed strongly but noted that there are currently limitations- Brian Kelly has advised JISCmail to make their data harvestable.

Lorna on JISC / CETIS Interest in the Learning Registry

Why are JISC and CETIS interested in the Learning Registry? Folk are asking all the time whether they should get involved: is now the right time? Lorna noted again that this is an ongoing project; it’s being built right now. We don’t know how successful it will be. From CETIS’s point of view, it appears to be an interesting development that’s addressing problem we’ve had for ages.

Just for context, Lorna showed us a new OER timeline resource being developed by Lou McGill, which gives a graphical representation of the history of learning resources within JISC and CETIS. She noted that they used to recommend open standards for educational content, but that they were tricky to implement. Metadata for learning resources has been particularly problematic: describing educational context is very difficult. With the advent of the JISC OER Programmes, they decided to ask for descirptions of a few key aspects of resources, but not in standardised way.

The key questions that are still hard to answer are: How do we know where resources have gone, how they’ve been used, have they been remixed etc. So JISC and CETIS are interested in Learning Registry, because it acknowledges that we can’t normalise the mess of data. We need to get it into a network, and let clever people build services and tools to query the data. CETIS like that it’s dealing with the reality of the way the world is.

Amber on the Wider JISC Context

JISC supports the sharing of learning materials and digital library materials. Amber noted two other JISC Programmes that have looked at this stuff: the Activity Data and Discovery programmes. They are interested in open metadata; encouraging the flow of data. If you have data more openly available, makes resources more visible, this is a virtuous circle making discovery easier.

Andy Powell (who wasn’t present) Tweeted a question asking if we are talking about #bigdata at the Conference. This is about identifying patterns in data; it resonates with the Learning Registry model of the benefits of opening up data. The Managing Research Data programme has similar issues.

There is a question around how much effort are people willing to put into describing, rather than having that data inferred/extracted/derived. Amber name-checked Zoe Rose from the BBC on whether we should even try to describe educational resources, or at least the educational aspects of educational resources: Zoe thinks not, it just gets sketchy.

So, Amber reiterated again: JLeRN is not a pilot, it’s an experiment. Mimas run a node to be point of reference; JISC are not planning to necessarily turn it into a service. The questions starting to arise for her with her JISC hat on are: What are skills issues involved? What sorts of developers can start to learn these skills? It’s a capacity issue, and an appetite issue. Who are the people who want to make apps and widgets? What are their skillsets? JLeRN won’t be sustainable unless people get involved.

JLeRN’s Presentations

I refer you back to our slides and handout here. I like to think we’ve made a bit of a contribution to the resources helping folk understand what the Learning Registry is doing with these, so please do have a look.

Some Projects and Ideas

The next session was presentations on some work folk are doing or hoping to do around the Learning Registry and/or JLeRN. Hope to get some slides and links in here later.

Scott Wilson (Bolton University / JISC CETIS) on SPAWS: Sharing Paradata Across Widget Stores

- There are 3 educational widget stores sharing paradata (reviews, ratings, downloads) using the Learning Registry. The reason why 3 stores have been developed is because they are for different audiences, have different policies etc.
– The same widget in different stores would have paradata in different places. So they want to use the Learning Registry to bring together this paradata.
– Paradata includes downloads, ratings, embeds, reviews. It’s the same structure of information across different stores, so there are no ontology arguments. They are working on a shared architecture.
– Noted: there is a problem with how paradata is managed in Learning Registry. Their question is how to normalise paradata because the Learning Registry isn’t doing normalisation.
– They put in a bid to JISC OER Rapid Innovation for SPAWS.

Discussion:

Terry McAndrew mentioned that we need to identify good reviews of content rather than quick comments. There may be an opportunity for text mining in the middle, to bring out something more useful than Wordles. It worries him that there’s loads of info about resources: but it doesn’t include specifically meaningful stuff.

Scott responded with an example review: “I tried this in IE6 it doesn’t work”, noting that getting any comment is such a struggle, he’ll be happy with anything. If other organisations are interested in more in-depth stuff that’s fine, SPAWS just want enough to make it useful.

Owen Stephens noted that there are also stats about bias in reviews; that you could get many more bad reviews than good, but Scott felt that there is enough context around reviews for folk to interpret them. People don’t just say “oh 2 stars, it’s crap”.. you can leave some nuance to the reader.

Martin Hawksey said that as soon as he publishes anything, he gives himself 5 stars; so the system is open to gaming. Scott responded that if someone games it as positive and you use it and it’s rubbish, you are more likely to review it yourself; it balances itself out.

Phil Barker asked if there would be information on who is providing reviews; Scott noted that this will depend on the policies of the widget stores, whether they ask folk for permission to share their reviews; there may be some tracing of user activity. Some stores have to have control over user experience.

Amber noted that these issues of using paradata are fairly new and require some teasing out. It’s a different sort of architecture: it’s more distributed; it’s different from building a big website with the functionality inside it. We are separating it out; people don’t know how their reviews might be used. It’s still difficult to get our heads round it. People will need to re-calibrate how things are tweaked and used.

Terry McAndrew (TechDis): Learning Registry – Opportunities for Accessibility?

Terry shared some ideas at the Hackday in January about possibly using the Learning Registry to capture accessibility data about resources; perhaps simple reviews by people stating how well a given resource met their accessibility requirements as a start. This time, rather than showing a tool or app, or even a use case, Terry presented a “problem environment”: to enable participants understand what accessibility requirements might be.

- TechDis gives Inclusion Technology Advice across very broad range of education, including offender learning, so there are a broader range of issues and constraints than JISC projects even normally look at. The focus is on issues easily overlooked – accessibility.
– TechDis want conversations between developers, tutors and users about resources to be laterally available- live dialogue rather than end of year review, and available to all, to boost accessible development, and to expose issues around resource and practice early (including good and bad accessibility factors).
– Quality of data is extremely important.
– Terry asked whether we could get Learning Registry output through Google; noted the Xerte philosophy- doesn’t look glossy but gets lots of data through.
– Terry also noted that efforts around visualising OER use needs all the stakeholders’ invovlement. We need graphics that illustrate different types of users in different environments to see how the traffic is moving.

Discussion

Amber noted the validity of this view being wider: there’s accessibility, there’s usability, there’s mobile. Are there underlying characteristics that can go together? So not about boxing accessibility into one thing? Usability and mobile need similar things as a lot of accessibility.

Terry responded that this is where a controlled vocab would help, but Amber noted that questions of control and vocabulary happen before the data goes into the Learning Registry. The Learning Registry can then get the mass of developers around it to work on it.

Walt Grata from the Learning Registry: Harvesting Tool and Landing Pages

Walt talked about two things he has been working on for the Learning Registry to help developers: a harvesting tool and landing pages.

Harvesting Tool:

This tool can be used to harvest from any Learning Registry node that you want, and cache the data locally for analysis, mashing up, etc. Point the tool at a node’s HTTP endpoint, do a bit of config; it does a periodic harvest. You can get it all out in whatever format you want. He’s working on validation- and he noted that anyone who wants to try it out can raise an issue on GitHub and he will get to it. This work came about because he found he was writing bits of code for developers to use in Java, CSharp, JavaScript, etc., so he wanted to make all this available to just be plucked from GitHub.

Landing Pages:

Walt wanted to make available simple landing pages for resources, including backlinks for SEO, that are indexable by Google, so folk can find Learning Registry stuff through Google.

Discussion
There was some discussion around the relationship between the Learning Registry work and Google, touching on whether we are trying to create a parallel universe to Google, whether Google was interested in what the Learning Registry was doing, and to what extent the schema.org Learning Resource Metadata Initiative work might help (see Phil Barker at CETIS for more on that; Phil also noted that schema.org are coming out with other potentially useful vocabularies, e.g. to do with ratings). Lorna shared the interesting background that Google may have had a role in encouraging the Learning Registry project at the highest levels of the US administration: they were concerned about not being able to get to the swathes of educational content in silos.

There is also the question of how to identify unique resources in the Learning Registry given some resources will be available in different silos at different URLs. At the moment resources are only identifiable by having the same URL; Walt noted that they are currently looking at using RDF triples with “sameAs”.

Pat Lockley: Services Built Around the Learning Registry

See Pat’s slides here. Pat talked about two services he’s been working on:

- A Chrome extension for Google searches returning Learning Registry hits, that will display attributes about the resource in your search results. This could be what CC licence is applied to the resources, but as the Learning Registry develops, it could also include paradata, or data from the resource’s activity stream.

- A WordPress plugin that will let you display Learning Registry node content (accessed via “slice”, which is the Learning Registry search function) in your WordPress blog (I know, let’s try that in this blog! Watch this space).

Steven Cook from Jorum: Getting Paradata Out of Jorum and into the JLeRN Node

We’ve published all of Jorum’s metadata into the JLeRN node (that’s >15,000 resources), but we’ve also been looking at how to get paradata, initially just as some simple statistics and usage data, out of Jorum into the node. Steven Cook’s been exploring this as he is Jorum’s resident expert in extracting statistics.

Steven has been working on creating a CakePHP DataSource (“DataSources are the link between models and the source of data that models represent”) for the Learning Registry API, because CakePHP is being used to build the Jorum statistics Dashboard, and because CakePHP is designed for rapid development, is ideal for prototyping Web applications.

The Learning Registry DataSource abstracts away the connection requirements and the intricacies of the API and helps connect Cake developers directly to the Learning Registry, allowing them to simply “plug in” to a node and use the data obtained directly in their developments.

With the read capabilities of the DataSource he hopes to create a simple Web interface that will allow users to search the LR for resources. He also talked about “mashing up” this data with other sources across the internet including Topsy, Twitter, Names, Google, Klout. There are DataSources available for these other services and he has already written one for Topsy for the Jorum Dashboard.

Watch this space: Steven will be blogging on this soon here!

Discussion

When asked how scalable the CakePHP approach is, Steven responded that he probably won’t end up using Cake- but that it was a good way to gain understanding of how the Learning Registry works. He will probably port it to something else. He noted that the Learning Registry doesn’t give you exactly what you want and is not completely RESTful. In future he would cache on his side.

If You Could Have One Thing From or For the Learning Registry

We had a few minutes left at the end of the session, so I prevailed upon Lorna to ask everyone to say one thing they would like to see happen in the Learning Registry space. Here are the ideas shared, sans attribution! Contributors are welcome to expand on these, or add to them by commenting on this post!

  • Simple software libraries for a range of languages to interact with LR.
  • An OAI Explorer which allows you to poke at a node see what’s there.
  • The ability to get learning resources out by a simple search- e.g. of activity stream; what’s trending.
  • Would like to see my institution release Dynamic Learning Maps data for LR.
  • Developer how-tos.
  • How to deal with backdated paradata; website used for years, all that usage data- do I submit individual records for every single event? Don’t want to crush the node by submitting 50,000 uses.
  • Hide the hard stuff.
  • Can we get some good stuff from Google Scholar?
  • Accessibility dialogue.
  • How can we really make use of Google to get to LR content.

Finally, Lorna announced that JISC are running a DevEd event in Birmingham: a 2-day hackday focusing specifically on educational apps. Keep an eye out for further announcements, and put 29-30 May in your calendar!

JLeRN at the CETIS Conference 2012

The JLeRN Team and Steven Cook from Jorum are at the CETIS Conference 2012 to present on our work, as part of the Learning Registry session there. We’ll expand this post after we’re done and have had some discussion and feedback: in the meantime, here is an updated introductory handout, and our slides:

Nginx server is famous

Last week there was the Dev8D developer conference 2012 in London, and JLeRN proudly threw an exciting challenge to the community to work with the innovative JLeRN project. I was managing and promoting the challege, and participated in JISC Observatory challenge which was focused on presenting views on emerging technologies which can call attention to innovations that can provide important benefits over the next 3 to 5 years.

I presented the most important features for the Nginx server which runs in background for the learning registry node and explained during a recording time of about 5 minutes and was awarded second prize!

Dev8D Award to Bharti Gupta

Dev8D Award to Bharti Gupta

The points addressed were:

  • What about this recent change (innovation) in technology do you consider important?
  • Have you been involved with or seen promising development projects related to this innovation?
  • What is your vision of how this should develop in 3 to 5 years, and what do you see as ultimate challenges and benefits?
  • If you could wave a magic wand, which obstacles to maximising positive outcome would you remove and why?

Here’s a brief overview of Nginx server:

For the better part of the last decade, the choice for Web server software has been pretty stable. Apache has been used on the majority of Web servers while Microsoft’s IIS (Internet Information Services) is used across many of the rest. Over the past few years, however, use of a third entrant, Nginx (pronounced “engine-x”), has been on the rise, thanks to the software’s ability to easily handle high-volume traffic.

Nginx is already run on 50 million different Internet domains, or about 10 percent of the entire Internet, the developers of the software estimate. It is particularly widely used on highly trafficked Web sites, such as Facebook, Zappos, Groupon, Hulu, Dropbox, and WordPress. Not surprisingly, the software’s creator, Igor Sysoev, designed Nginx in 2004 specifically to handle a large numbers of concurrent users — up to 10,000 connections per server. A white paper on this can be found here

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