Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Open synergies and symbioses - The role of academic libraries and the importance of information literacy in the Open landscape

The next journal club discussion will take place on Wednesday 25th September at 8pm and is on the topic of Open Educational Resources.  Join our discussion by adding your comments and questions to the comments below this post.

First of all a bit of background and before that a disclaimer: I’m not a real librarian, I am a shambrarian (to utilise an occasional twitter meme). I have, however, worked with repositories since 2007 in the context of Open Access to research (OA) and Open Educational Resources (OER) and am primarily interested in sustainable models of OA and potential synergies with OER (and open education more generally), particularly underlying technology and interoperability of systems, including open standards and the potential of Open Source software (OSS).

As a focus for this discussion I would like to point you towards a report by Gema Bueno-de-la-Fuenta and John Robertson - The roles of libraries and information professionals in Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives. From August 2012 and derived from data now nearly 2 years old the report is still highly relevant; academic libraries (and repositories) are arguably still primarily focussed on access to research materials and historically have not been closely involved with the management of teaching materials which, where they are available digitally, are often in virtual learning environments (VLEs) to which the library may not have access and may be poorly integrated into users’ view of library resources. The report itself is lengthy but the executive summary provides a good overview and has informed subsequent conference presentations by both Gema and myself, the slides for which are available here and here respectively.

It is probably accurate to say that both OA and OER have recently moved from fairly niche communities to more mainstream interest, really in the last 12 months or so, due largely to the impact of the Finch report and resulting RCUK policy - at least in the context of OA and perhaps OER by association (see also MOOCs!) My own involvement with OER has primarily been through the JISC/HEA OER programme that ran in three phases from 2009-2012. I also sit on the steering group for Jorum, the national OER repository, which supported the programme throughout and which has just last week released its new interface which looks great and includes new features including item level usage stats* and a sophisticated API that gives access to content, metadata and usage data and can be used to build customised web tools and services (not yet available - formal release in October). Huge congratulations to the team at Mimas who I know have worked extremely hard and are rightly proud of the result. In terms of information literacy, Jorum are planning a bespoke collection to sit alongside their other collections and are currently collecting feedback via this survey (deadline this Friday 20th September 2013). For more information and to access a spreadsheet of suggested metadata fields and terms see http://delilaopen.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/jorums-information-literacy-collection-needs-your-help/).

* In fact stats can also be derived for groups of items, say by institution, licence type or project tag.

In the spirit of Open I have made an infolit OER of my own using the excellent Xerte Online Toolkits, Open Source software from the University of Nottingham which I hope will be suitable for the new collection and which you can find in Jorum here.

The resource is derived from the SCONUL 7 Pillars of Information Literacy and brings together the core model along with several ‘lenses’ highlighting different attributes, and using language recognised by the specific communities which they represent; it includes Michelle Dalton’s healthcare/evidence based practice lens which was the subject of the last post and discussion.

Xerte itself is an excellent tool for Digital Literacy - input is form based, intuitive enough for beginners with the option to use HTML tags or more sophisticated web-based technology. It can also be embedded on any webpage using an iframe (I would have done so here but the page design is too narrow). Moreover, as output is HTML5, unlike proprietary software like Adobe Flash and PDF, content is accessible on any device/browser including mobile. Content can also be more easily reused even without access to the software itself - just by cut and paste / right click -> save as. Like any HTML webpage.

If you would like to reuse this resource you can download three separate versions:

  • This zip file for deployment on your own webserver (just unzip and upload to a webserver as a self-contained directory)
  • The SCORM package for use in a VLE or other software that will play SCORM
  • This archive zip file which you can import back into your own instance of XOT