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.