The JLeRN Experiment

JISC's Learning Registry Node Experiment at Mimas

Archive for the tag “tools”

Understanding and using the Learning Registry: Pgogy tools for searching and submitting

I started with the Learning Registry as part of Plugfest 1, which was just over a year ago in Washington D.C. (see my CETIS blog post reporting on it here).

Pgogy logo

Stuff about Pat Lockley’s tools noted here, plus other thoughts and projects of his, are available on his Pgogy website

Part of the thing I think people don’t get with the Learning Registry, is that as the Internet became the Web, then the Web became a series of distinction destinations – Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. So although the Learning Registry exists – it doesn’t have a front page, or a “Tweet this” button, but it exists like HTTP exists – you can build using the Learning Registry, but you might never see it.

So that is poorly explained, but that is an innate part of the problem – and it’s a problem I sought to rectify at the first Plugfest. If I can’t take people to the Learning Registry, then I should take the Learning Registry to people. How? …

A Chrome tool: the Learning Registry enhancing Google searching

Google is the biggest store of links in the world (I shy away from the ‘R’ word), and so it is where people go to search. Some of the links returned via a Google search will also be links stored in a Learning Registry node – so you can, via one of my Learning Registry tools, check to see if it knows anything about a website.

So you can do a Google search, click on a button, and really quickly (the Learning Registry technology is state of the art) you can see which pages the Learning Registry knows about. Sometimes this knowledge will be just keywords, authors and descriptions, but could also be educational levels and the type of interactivity supported by the page.

You can download the Chrome plugin here – and watch a short demo video below showing you how it works.

Note on trying this from Sarah Currier: Once you’ve installed this in Chrome, you can try it out by running any search in Jorum – nearly all of Jorum’s OERs have metadata in the JLeRN node. So you should see lots of small crosses (+) to click on next to your search results. If you want to try it in Google search, try a search for something you know is in Jorum – here’s an idea in case you want a quick win: “SEA and good governance” governmentality - look for the little cross in your Google search results against a Jorum DSpace result, and note that the same resource appears in the search results in other repositories but without the cross as they don’t publish to the JLeRN node. If they all published to the nide, along with usage data (paradata) ab out that resource, you’d be able to use one of the other tools to look at *all* the paradata for this resource, even when accessed in different places.

Paradata: information about how learning resources are used

As well as this information to describe webpages (in this case, metadata about learning resources), increasingly Learning Registry nodes are storing what is called paradata, which is information on how a resource is used. Imagine the same Google search as above, but this time you can see how popular resources are. So what would normally just be a page, now becomes a page used by 500 teachers in your subject area. Once a resource becomes used (and as long as someone tells the Learning Registry about it) other people can find this data and pick out the resources most suited to their needs.

So paradata, another great mystery to explain? Not really, it’s like seeing how often a book is cited, a link linked or a tweet retweeted. All that is different is the data on reuse is in a slightly different format, and is shared outside of the silos where it lives right now.

How can you share paradata for your resources? Well a lot of people use Google Analytics data, and a page visit (one that Google Analytics tracks) is paradata, it just needs some tweaks before it can become data in a Learning Registry node. How can you do this? …

Pliny: submit your Google Analytics data to the Learning Registry

You can use Pliny, another tool developed by me, to share your Google Analytics paradata. Pliny uses Oauth to sign you into Google Analytics. It then accesses your analytics data, and submits it to the Learning Registry for you (currently the tool at the above link submits to the JLeRN Alpha Node). It does all the hard work for you, all you need to do is click your mouse a few times.

You can watch the short demo video below to see how Pliny works:

Ramanathan: submit metadata from your RSS feed to the Learning Registry

So we’ve looked at the benefits of the Learning Registry for teachers in terms of finding appropriate resources; how can people contribute? Well, Pliny allows paradata to be submitted, and you could use another tool I developed – Ramanathan – to take an RSS feed and use it to submit the metadata in a feed into a Learning Registry node.

You can watch a short demo video below to see how Ramanathan works:

In the same way that there isn’t a place to go to search for teachers, how do cataloguers work with such a decentralised model? Both Pliny and Ramanathan help data to be submitted, but there isn’t as of yet an easy tool to remotely manage metadata on your resources in a Learning Registry node. If you use either of these tools, you will be given permanent links to your documents on the Learning Registry node – but this is only to see – not to delete or revise.

Learning Registry Browser: find Learning Registry paradata for a web page

I’ve developed a second browser plugin for Chrome – the Learning Registry Browser – which will tell you if the page you are on has data in the Learning Registry, show you the documents that have been submitted, and when they where submitted. Remember that as people might be using your resources, there may be documents not submitted by you; this is one of the benefits of the Learning Registry – to track others’ use of your resources outside of your own silo.

You can watch this brief demo video to see how it works (and see the note above in red, which will give you a sample search to try):

I appreciate this is lots of new things, but I hope that you think you’ll find these tools helpful and are encouraged and hopefully curious enough to consider submitting data to the Learning Registry.

The Hackday: Report and Reflections

The JLERN Experiment and JISC CETIS co-organised a Learning Registry Hackday on January 23rd 2012, hosted by Mimas at Manchester University. Lorna Campbell from CETIS has already written a great blog post (which now includes some excellent discussion below the line) summarising some of the issues that were discussed.

I wanted to report from a JLeRN point-of-view what happened at the Hackday, and what we got out of this event. Our aim was to get the UK folk who were already doing stuff around the Learning Registry in a room with those who were starting to think about doing stuff, to talk about use cases. And we wanted to get some technical people in a room with the JLeRN developers to play around with publishing and accessing data through the JLeRN node.

Before JLeRN started CETIS were already on the case in forming a community of interested folk in UK HE. And Pat Lockley, when he was still at Nottingham University (he’s now at Oxford University), attended the first ever Learning Registry Plugfest in the US (see his report here). So we had a room full of early adopters and experts in the Learning Registry, alongside some new folk with great ideas.

Plan for the Day

We started the day with a blissfully brief presentation session, just an hour long before lunch. Lorna Campbell gave us an overview of the Learning Registry and JISC’s involvement with it. I talked everyone through what JLeRN is doing, with the help of this handout, which summarises some of the options from the Learning Registry specification: Communities, Networks, Nodes.  John Robertson of CETIS finished with an introduction to paradata.

After lunch everyone introduced themselves and what their interest in the Learning Registry was. This was where some interesting ideas and use cases started to emerge.

One Outcome: Concrete Proposals to JISC OER RI Funding Call

It also became apparent that several participants were intending to submit project proposals involving JLeRN and/or The Learning Registry to the JISC OER Rapid Innovation funding call. As it turned out, four proposals (that we know of) that were discussed here were submitted; we won’t know whether any of them were funded until March, but it was great to get so much concrete interest out of the day.

Who Came and What They Said

CETIS’s Scott Wilson was there; he was interested in the Learning Registry from the point of view of a project he’s involved in, which is developing “a Widget Store aimed at the UK education sector using a codebase shared across and sustained by a range of other EU projects and consortia”. Scott wanted to see if the Learning Registry could offer solutions for sharing paradata about educational widgets.

With our proximity to the national learning resource repository Jorum, also based at Mimas, we were delighted to see Ben Ryan, the new Jorum Technical Manager, and Steven Cook, one of Jorum’s developers. Jorum has a great interest in usage data and other forms of paradata, and had been promising to share data with JLeRN from the start. This event turned out to be an excellent opportunity for their new technical manager to get up to speed. Plus, Steven Cook, who is working on a framework and dashboard for Jorum usage stats, was inspired to start developing ways to get that kind of data out of Jorum, together with resource metadata, and into a Learning Registry node. Watch this space: Steven will be blogging here!

Tatiana Novoselova and Andrew Green came from the University of Liverpool, bringing with them lots of experience and ideas around sharing data about engineering learning resources. They had already been trying to grapple with the Learning Registry, and found the Hackday helpful in ironing out some technical issues they had been having, partly thanks to Pat Lockley’s presence and support, and partly thanks to the JLeRN technical team. They reported here.

Terry McAndrew came from JISC TechDis, with some great ideas about how the Learning Registry might allow the educational content community to finally start getting some traction on how to usefully share information about accessibility of resources. It’s always been very difficult to get metadata standards to accommodate accessibility data, which is often, basically, about a user’s experience of a resource, or about the features of a resource as they relate to a user’s individual requirements. Lorna’s post summarises this discussion.

Suzanne Hardy and John Peterson came from Newcastle University, full of ideas from the more complex end of the paradata spectrum: their Dynamic Learning Maps as educational context of use / curriculum data around resources. Watch this space: I’d like to get some more out of them about their ideas!

Julian Tenney came from the University of Nottingham with some great ideas about gathering good paradata from users via the Xerte content authoring tools. He felt it important to start to think about ways that content authors and educators will actually be able to contribute contextual data as part of their usual workflow. Another space to watch.

Richard Goddard, formerly of MrCute (Learning Objectivity) and Alastair Hole came from Worcester College of Technology with an idea about developing a tool that will help record actual educational usage of resources (as distinct from merely hits/downloads). Once this data is recorded, wouldn’t it be great to share it via the Learning Registry?

Jenny Gray from the Open University has had an interest in the Learning Registry since before JLeRN, from the point of view of the OU’s LearningSpace, came along and had some fruitful chats with Nick and Bharti, and Pat Lockley, about options for publishing LearningSpace data and paradata in the node. Like Jorum, she’s interested in how to get an OAI-PMH feed into a Learning Registry node. She reported back on her own blog here and followed up with some more thoughts, and questions, on sharing LearningSpace paradata here (to share or not to share?).

Matters Arising

Note: these action points and issues are not a to-do list for JLeRN, or even for the Learning Registry! They are just a note for when future plans are discussed, and for JISC and other stakeholders to take note of.

  • We need to more fully develop some concrete use cases. E.g. a simple Accessibility “Like” button that could start to capture accessibility info of use to users.
  • We need to develop some demonstrators. E.g. a desktop widget or browser plugin that captures info on user, resource, content, and context of use, with a simple interface.
  • We need to think about how we interact with a node to share and call complex paradata (e.g. Dynamic Learning Maps type stuff).
  • We need to start defining the structure of paradata for various use cases. E.g. we need to look at the concept of ‘actor’ as currently specified for paradata.
  • Note that running a node is a cost, and the JLeRN node will only run for the life of the project (until July 31 2012); need to think about business model and business case for node services; folk can build their own tools and services on top of nodes. People will not feel motivated to start building on something that is still experimental and has an uncertain future.
  • Might be an idea for JISC to take a similar approach to developing SWORD: a series of simple tools to put and get data into JLeRN.
  • Running a node on Amazon Web services (i.e. on a cloud service) has unpredictable costs; this is not generally liked by UK university finance departments!

Data sources for JLeRN

A final note to ourselves: some excellent suggestions from the floor, and thanks to Lorna for taking these notes!

  • Jorum
  • Xpert
  • OU
  • NHS eLearning Repository
  • DLM NBBS programme data
  • FE Data sources like NLN? XTLearn
  • Open Spires podcasts
  • Delicious / Diigo
  • Merlot
  • NDLR

Next Steps

JLeRN are about to attend the Learning Registry session at the CETIS Conference 2012, like, tomorrow. And we are still calling for entries to our Dev8D JLeRN Paradata Challenge (due Friday midday).

After that, we have five months to go until the end of JLeRN. What should we be focusing on? Discussions are ongoing, we’ll report back here, let us know your thoughts!

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