When Clint Lalonde came up with the crazy and wonderful idea of recording aserialised audio version of Martin Weller’s25 years of Ed Tech book and asked if I was interested in getting involved, I knew right away which chapter I wanted to read. And I also knew it was one of the chapters no one else was likely to volunteer for – E-Learning Standards. That’s not to disrespect to Martin’s writing, it’s more a reflection of the fact that the standards that he highlights in this chapter were never particularly successful. The reason I was so keen to read this chapter though is that I spent 15 years of my life working on various learning technology standards projects, mostly focused on resource description, metadata, and controlled vocabularies, including some that Martin critiques in the chapter. On pretty much all of these projects I worked with Phil Barker, so it seemed only natural to invite Phil to join me for the recording, which he kindly agreed to do, despite claiming not to enjoy audio recording :}
Another reason I thought it would be fun to record this chapter is that people used to find the way I pronounce “metadata” absolutely hilarious. To this day, I have no idea why, however I used to get frequent requests from American colleagues at ed tech standards meetings to “say the word metadata.” Admittedly standards meetings could be pretty dull, so we had to make our own entertainment.
We used Zencastr to record the chapter, which worked pretty well, however for reasons of acoustics I ended up having to record my audio in my bedroom rather than the open plan office downstairs were I usually work. Sitting on the bedroom floor reciting the elements of the Dublin Core was definitely one of the more surreal moments of lockdown.
Recording this chapter also put Phil and I in the interesting position of reading Martin dissing several standards that we had been responsible for developing, particularly the UKLOM Core. Although we both felt that some of Martin’s criticism of Dublin Core really applied to the IEEE LOM, the cause of this confusion highlighted exactly what was wrong with many e-learning standards; too many of them were overly complex and educators should never have been expected to get to grips with them in the first place. Phil and I had an opportunity to discuss these and other issues in an entertaining Between the Chapters discussion with Laura Pasquini. Phil has already written a blog post about this discussion here, Reading one of 25 years of EdTech, which I can highly recommend reading, particularly if you want to revisit thedawn of EduProg.
From my perspective, I think one of the most important points Martin raises in this chapter, and which we discussed in the podcast, is that although many e-learning standards didn’t really work, we learned from our mistakes, and went on to lay the foundations for the emerging OER movement. The UKOER programme is a perfect case in point. When the programme was launched in 2009, Phil and I had already contributed to the technical strategies for a number ofJISC development programmes and we knew from painful experience that expecting educators to understand baroque metadata standards and provide meaningful descriptions for fields such as semantic density (memorably described as “the poster child for useless metadata elements”) just didn’t work. Application profiles such as the UK LOM Core were an attempt to simplify these complex standards, and make them more human friendly and interoperable, but even these profiles were woefully complex. So when the UKOER Programme came along, we decided on a completely different approach. (You can read the original technical requirements on my old Cetis blog here:OER Programme Technical Requirements.) Rather than mandating the use of a specific metadata standard and application profile, we simply told people what information to record (title, author, date, url, basic technical info), we didn’t tell them how to record the information, we left that up to them. The only metadata item that we actually mandated was the programme hashtag, #UKOER. There was a lot of discussion about the wisdom of this approach, web 2.0 was still in its infancy, and people were only just beginning to get to grips with new-fangled approaches to resource description such as community generated metadata and folksonomies. Some people also complained that using the hashtag for resources as well as information about the projects would muddy the water and make it hard to find content. Another radical approach we recommended for the UKOER programme was that projects could share their resources using “any system or application as long as it is capable of delivering content freely on the open web”, on the proviso that they also uploaded their OERs to Jisc’s national learning resource repository Jorum for safe keeping. I’m not going to go into the reasons why central learning resource repositories are a bad idea, that’s a whole other blog post. Suffice to say that Jorum has long since been consigned to the annals of ed tech history.
The technical strategy we developed for the UKOER programme, was really our first attempt at using the open web as technical infrastructure and by and large, it actually worked. Almost ten years after the end of the programme, if you search for UKOER, you can still find some of the project outputs on the open web and on sites like Flickr and YouTube. And what is even more remarkable is that, despite there being someheated discussion at the end of the programme about whether the UKOER hashtag should be retired, people are still using it on twitter to this day. All of which backs up Martin’s closing point that:
“not only did some of the ideas from learning objects and standards later evolve into the work on open educational resources (OER) but many of the same personnel were involved; for example, Stephen Downes, David Wiley, Lorna Campbell, Brian Lamb, and Sheila MacNeill all contributed to this early field and then became significant voices in open education. This demonstrates that while some approaches do not achieve the success envisaged for them, the ideas and people involved develop the key ideas into more successful versions.”
Huge thanks to Martin for chronicling the history of ed tech with his brilliant book, to Clint for making this amazing project happen, Laura for being such an engaging podcast host, and last but not least, Phil for putting up with me for 15 years of metadata projects!
I was honoured to be invited to present 3 open education keynotes this at the beginning of this year at OER18, the FLOSS UK Spring Conference and CELT18 at NUI Galway. Each keynote presented different challenges and learning opportunities, particularly FLOSS UK where I had to get up on stage and talk to an all male conference (there were only 3 women in the room including me) about structural discrimination in the open domain. It was pretty terrifying and I couldn’t have done it without the support of the #femedtech community. Indeed the #femedtech network has been one of of my main influences and inspirations this year and it’s been a real joy to see if go from strength to strength. My OER18 keynote also resulted in my most impactful tweet ever with 16,592 impressions to date. Predictably it wasn’t about open eduction, it was about shoes :}
To coincide with the centenary of women’s suffrage on the 6th February, I wrote a Wikipedia article about Bessie Watson the 9 year old suffragette from Edinburgh. Bessie’s story really seemed to capture the imagination and it was great to be able to bring her amazing life to wider notice.
11 Days of Industrial Action
The USS Pension strike had a huge impact on the whole Higher Education sector early in the year. I was grateful that I was in a position to be able to support the strike, which I know was much more difficult for many, many colleagues across the sector employed on part time and precarious contracts. Although the strike was nominally about a single issue it really did galvanise action around a whole host of deeply problematic issues including workloads, pay, conditions, equality, precarity and the commercialisation of higher education. It was a real inspiration to see so many staff and students getting behind the strike and to be able to join the strike rally in George Square in Glasgow.
USS Strike Rally, George Square, Glasgow, CC BY, Lorna M.Campbell
Repeal the 8th Campaign
Once again I was hugely inspired by the people of Ireland and the way they came together to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, to recognise womens’ right to bodily autonomy and to amend abortion legislation.
AO3 an Inspiration in Open Source
In June I was delighted to listen online to Casey Fiesler’s amazing Open Repositories keynote Growing Their Own: Building an Archive and a Community for Fanfiction. I’ve long been a fan of AO3 and have been endlessly frustrated, though not surprised, that this phenomenally successful open source initiative run on feminist principles isn’t more widely recognised and celebrated in the domain of open knowledge. Casey’s brilliant keynote showed us how much we can potentially learn from AO3.
Wikimedia UK Partnership of the Year
In July the University of Edinburgh won Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year Award for the 2nd time, for embedding Wikipedia in teaching and learning and for advocating for the role of Wikimedians in Residence in Higher Education. None of this would be possible of course without the support of our own tireless Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew.
Left to right: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Open Education Resources; Lorna Campbell, OER Service; Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence; Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learnng, Teaching & Web Services. CC BY, University of Edinburgh.
The other significant event in July was my 50th birthday :} The day itself was lovely, lazy and lowkey and I spent most of the month catching up with friends from all over the world online and in person. It was wonderful. My partner bought me glider lessons as a gift but sadly I haven’t taken them yet as I haven’t been able to get to the air field since….
RIP Magic Bus
After 13 fabulous, and admittedly often frustrating, years our VW T25 camper van died a death, though not before taking us on one last holiday to Galloway and then home to the Hebrides where I finally got to visit Traigh Mheilein beach in North Harris. Traigh Mheilein is often described as the most beautiful beach in the Hebrides and boy does it live up to that reputation.
Traigh Mheilein, Isle of Harris, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell
ALTC 25th Anniversary
In September I was back in Manchester for the 25th ALT Annual Conference. As an organisation that truly embodies its core principles of collaboration, participation, independence and openness, ALT continues to be an inspiration right across the sector and I’m honoured to be able to play a small role in supporting the organisation through the ALT Board and the ALTC social media team. The 25th conference was one of the best yet and my own personal highlights included thought provoking keynotes by Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas, Melissa Highton‘s unflinchingly honest talk about developing and implementing a lecture recording policy at the height of the USS strikes, and Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell’s personal feminist retrospective of learning technology. Catherine and Frances’ session also inspired me to take a step back and reflect on my own career as a learning technologist.
Wiki Loves Monuments
September means Wiki Loves Monuments and this year the competition was even more fun than last year, which I wouldn’t have thought possible! Huge thanks to everyone who participated and who made the competition so much fun, particularly our Wikimedians in Scotland – Ewan, Sara and Delphine. I uploaded 383 pictures and came 15th overall in the UK. Most of these pictures were taken during our summer holiday so I really have to thank my parter and daughter for their patience :}
I haven’t been writing much Naval History recently and indeed I’ll be stepping down from the Society of Nautical Research‘s Publications & Membership next year after 5 years in the chair. However my colleague Heather and I did publish one short paper in The Trafalgar Chronicle, the journal of The 1805 Club, which this year focused on the lives of women and families at sea and on shore. Our paper “I shall be anxious to know…”: Lives of the Indefatigable women, shone a spotlight on the personal lives of some of the women we encountered while researching our book Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates.
Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile
In October I built my 1st ever SPLOT! As part of the roll out of the University of Edinburgh’s new academic blogging service I was tasked with developing a digital skills training workshop on professional blogging and what better way to do that than by practicing what we preach and building a blog! Anne-Marie Scott set up the SPLOT template for me and it was all plain sailing from there. The Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile workshop has already proved to be very popular and all the resources have been shared under Creative Commons licence so they can be reused and adapted. It was great working with LTW colleagues on this project, particularly Karen Howie, who a good friend from early CETIS days and an awesome person to work with.
In late November Gary Needham, senior lecturer in film and media at the University of Liverpool tagged me in the #QueerArt20 twitter challenge; one image a day, any medium, no credits or titles. I’ve loved seeing the images other people have been posting and it really was a challenge to choose just 20 of my own to post. It was also a timely opportunity to reconnect with queer culture. And talking of which…
120 Beats Per Minute
I didn’t see many memorable films this year but one that I did see, and which will stay with me for a long time was 120 Beats Per Minute a deeply moving and viscerally powerful film about queer activism set against the background of the AIDS crisis in Paris in the late 1980’s / early 1990’s. It’s a beautiful, painful and necessary film and I would urge you all to see it.
CETIS – The End of an Era
At the beginning of December I stepped down as a partner of CETIS LLP ending a 17 year association with the organisation in all its various incarnations. I wouldn’t be where I am today without CETIS and I wish all the partners the very best for the future
….and the lows
Brexit has cast a noxious cloud of reckless xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance over us all, with the only glimmers of hope being a 2nd referendum and the more distant promise of Indy Ref 2.
It’s been equally been horrifying to watch the rise of right wing populist movements across the world. Fascism might have a new acceptable ALT-Right face but it’s still fucking fascism.
I was heart broken by the death of Scott Hutchison in May. He was a phenomenally talented writer and his songs uniquely captured the struggles so many face with alienation, depression, isolation and addiction. Scott faced all these demons in true Scottish style; with scathing wit, self-effacing humour and heartbreaking poetry. Just a few months before his death, I was packed into the Academy with hundreds of others for 10th anniversary tour of The Midnight Organ Fight. It’s a night I won’t forget.
Frightened Rabbit, Barrowlands Ballroom, December 2016. CC BY Lorna M. Campbell
On an open education note, one of my frustrations this year is that, due to lack of time and focussing efforts elsewhere, I had to neglect Open Scotland. I really hope I’ll have an opportunity to revitalise the initiative next year as we still have a lot of work to do to persuade the Scottish Government of the benefits of open education. This might seem like a trivial exercise when Scot Gov is facing the catastrophic challenge of Brexit, but surely we need open and equitable access to education and educational resources now more than ever.
I think I’ve exhausted my numbers now and they all add up to quite a year (sorry, that’s terrible) it just remains for me to wish you all the very best for 2019.
This is my presentation for the amazing PressED Conference #PressEdConf18, run by the equally amazing Pat Lockley @pgogy, and Natalie Lafferty @nlafferty. My “talk” is about surviving precarious employment and using WordPress to build an independent academic identity and support formal CPD through CMALT.
Hello, I’m Lorna & I work at the OER Service @OpenEdEdinburgh at @EdinburghUni. I’m also an independent open education practitioner. I’m going to talk about how you can use WordPress to support open education practice, personal academic identity & formal CPD #pressedconf18
Before joining @EdinburghUni I worked for the @Jisc Cetis service @UniStrathclyde for 15 years. Most of that time I was employed on a series of short term precarious contracts. In 2015 my dept was shut down & I was made compulsorily redundant. It wasn’t fun. #pressedconf18
After 15 years my prof. identity was tied up with the Uni & Cetis, extricating myself hard. 1st thing I did was set up a WordPress blog to reassemble evidence of my work & my career. It’s called Open World after a Kenneth White poem http://lornamcampbell.org/ #pressedconf18
Setting up my blog allowed me to take ownership of my academic identity, #outwith the constraints of the institution. This was an important positive step that helped me through a difficult period of transition and uncertainty. #pressedconf18
It was also reassuring and encouraging to gather evidence of my skills in one place, and my blog now hosts my cv, papers, presentations, history research. #pressedconf18
It’s also where I think out loud &, along with twitter, where I connect with my community & share my practice & personal politics with my peers. You can listen to me Shouting From The Heart about why blogging is so important to me #pressedconf18
Having reclaimed my professional academic identity, in 2016 I took the next logical step as an open practitioner, and moved my blog to Reclaim Hosting. The process couldn’t have been simpler and I can’t recommend the service highly enough. #pressedconf18
Anyone who has worked on short term or precarious contracts know’s how difficult it is to manage career progression & CPD, esp. in a domain as diverse & rapidly changing as learning technology. I wrote a blog post about this here: Thoughts on ALT’s CPD Rebooted #CMALT #pressedconf18
I’m now fortunate to work at @EdinburghUni which supports learning technologists to undertake CPD through @A_L_T’s #CMALT programme. In 2017 I started gathering evidence for my CMALT portfolio #pressedconf18
Because I had already gathered evidence of my professional practice on my blog, it was easy to find the information I needed. Choosing which evidence to use for my #CMALT portfolio was much harder! #pressedconf18
Being an open practitioner, I decided to practice what I preach & build my portfolio in the open on my existing WordPress blog http://lornamcampbell.org/cmalt/ I shared it with the #CMALT community on twitter and got lots of helpful advice & feedback. #pressedconf18
Developing my #CMALT portfolio in the open, & using WordPress, was a really positive experience for me & you can read my reflection on the process here: CMALT Reflection and Thanks #pressedconf18
I was delighted when my CMALT portfolio was approved on first submission with the peer assessor commenting on my commitment to open education and open practice. None of this would have been possible without my Open World blog. #pressedconf18
CC BY, @ammienoot
I still keep my Open World blog at & my OER blog posts are now pulled through to our Open.Ed blog enabling me to maintain my own academic identity & still share my practice with my colleagues. #pressedconf18
I have worked with Cetis in one way or another for about 15 years, but am very happy to announce that at the end of last week I became a partner of Cetis LLP.
For many years CETIS was a university-based innovation support centre funded by JISC. A few years ago the Jisc funding stopped, and most of my colleagues lost their university posts. They decided to keep offering the same range of services as a limited liability partnership, and so Cetis LLP was born as a cooperative consultancy for innovation in educational technology. I was lucky, and did not loose my position at Heriot-Watt at that time as Cetis was only a part of my role there, and I was able to fill the gap with other work. I did remain as an Associate of Cetis, i.e. someone with whom they work regularly, and we did several joint projects on that basis.
One of the first decisions I made when I left Heriot-Watt was that I wanted to be a full member of Cetis LLP. They are a great team, they do great work, and with them I will be able to continue to work on their many interesting projects, while also contributing what is necessary to keep the partnership going. I have already been working with them testing out the TrunkDB project (a cloud based relational database for researchers) which is in private beta, and we are starting a new project on data wrangling orchestration. And I know we need to sort out the Cetis website so that it properly reflects all the work that the partnership has done over the last two or three years.
Going forward, I hope most of my work will be through Cetis. I’ll keep PJJK Limited for any work that doesn’t fit in with their interests, and there is a chance I’ll do some work through other channels, but the benefits of working with such a brilliant group of partners far outweigh any benefits of independent work.
The aim here is to illustrate the extent to which the two specifications are interoperable. Also mapping a functioning specification for advertising courses to schema.org terms will give an indication what might be lacking from the latter, or to help define a subset of schema.org that could be used as an application profile for course advertising. Finally, there is a python script that might be the start of a useful tool for people who have XCRI-CAP data and want to use schema.org to describe those courses.
Before going any further I should clear up one potential point of misunderstanding. In the UK ‘course’ is often used to describe a programme of study at University or College level lasting from one to five years, leading to an award such as an Diploma, Degree, Masters etc. These ‘courses’ also called programmes, and roughly translate to what in the US can be called a Course of Study. They typically comprise several modules, also often called courses (sorry, we made up this language as we went along). XCRI-CAP is primarily used to describe these long courses/programs of study, because in the UK that is what institutions typically advertise to potential students. However, XCRI-CAP can also be used to describe short courses. My sense from the development of the schema course extension is that many people had short courses in mind (e.g. MOOCs), however it is also applicable to long courses / programs of study. So, in short, for this discussion, if it is a “sequence of events and/or creative works that aims to build the knowledge, competence or ability of learners” then I’ll call it a course, however long or short it is.
The anatomy of an XCRI-CAP XML feed in schema.org terms
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
Author: Alan Paull, APS Ltd, email@example.com
Created: 25 June 2014; modified: 21 May 2015
This is a generic XCRI-CAP 1.2 example file produced to illustrate the postgraduate format adopted by Prospects, including material that would be expected to be relevant for other aggregators.
It uses the coursedataprogramme.xsd schema.
It uses revisions to the schemas to include specific refinements for postgraduate data vocabularies.
Modified by Phil Barker <http://people.pjjk.net/phil> to show just starting tags and hints to content
<!-- list of all the university's departments that can 'own' courses. -->
<dc:identifier xsi:type="courseDataProgramme:ukprn"><!-- numerical id -->
<!-- isPartOf must match exactly with a hasPart entry -->
<!-- Note XHTML markup (concise markup version) -->
<!-- 'specialFeature' is in the XCRI-CAP 1.2 Terms schema (verbose markup version) -->
<dc:identifier xsi:type="courseDataProgramme:internalID"><!--alpha-numeric id-->
<dc:subject xsi:type="courseDataProgramme:JACS3" identifier="N200"><!--name of subject-->
<dc:subject><!--name of subject-->
<!-- Course type codes specific to PG(T) -->
<dc:type xsi:type="courseDataProgramme:courseTypeGeneral" courseDataProgramme:identifier="PG"><!--label for code-->
<dc:type xsi:type="mlo:RTCourseTypeFlag" mlo:RT-identifier="T"><!--label for code-->
<mlo:start dtf="2015-09-01"><!--text equiv-->
<end dtf="2017-07-01"><!--text equiv-->
<mlo:duration interval="P2Y"><!--text equiv-->
<applyFrom dtf="2014-09"><!--text equiv-->
<applyUntil dtf="2015-09"><!--text equiv-->
<!-- Note: in the absence of attendanceMode, consumers can assume that it is Campus, so the attendanceMode can be omitted -->
<mlo:languageOfInstruction><!--iso 639-2 code-->
<languageOfAssessment><!--iso 639-2 code-->
<mlo:places><!--iso 639-2 code-->
<mlo:cost><!--free text description-->
<!-- Note: in the absence of venue, consumers can assume that it is as per the main provider element, so the venue can be omitted -->
<!-- international convention also acceptable: +44 (0) 800 666 9999 -->
Working through this from the top (root) down (up?):
In XCRI catalog is the root element for a list of courses, the Google Developer guidance for describing course lists suggest schema.org/ItemList is a good equivalent. The catalog element has an @generated attribute which is the date on which the catalog content was generated, it also has sub elements of description and contributor. I haven’t implemented this yet, but they could be translated if the schema.org course list is double typed as an ItemList and a CreativeWork. In schema.org the relationship between the course list / catalog and the Courses is provided by the itemListElement property of the ItemList. This expects a value which is a ListItem, and so we need to double type the course entities in schema.org as a ListItem and Course.
In XCRI XML the relationship between courses and the organizations that provide them is expressed by nesting the a course element nested inside a provider element. In schema.org we use the provider property that Course inherits from CreativeWork. The information about the provider, i.e. description, title, parts, location (as a postal address), identifier, url mostly have obvious counterparts in schema.org/Organization (i.e. description, name, subOrganization (not implemented), address (as PostalAddress) and url). Identifiers take a bit of thought, see below.
XCRI makes the distinction between Course as a thing which may be offered at different times and places, and Presentation as an offering or instantiation of a course. This is the same as the distinction between schema.org/Course and schema.org/CourseInstance. So the course elements in XCRI map directly to schema.org/Course entities.
The subelements of xcri:course that map clearly to schema.org properties of Course are: title (maps to name), url, abstract (maps to description), subject (maps to about, and, when an identifier from suitable framework is specified, an educational subject alignment) and mlo:prerequiste (maps to coursePrerequisites). Identifiers take a bit of thought, see below, but if the identifier was not an http URI I took a punt at it being the schema.org/courseCode (I am especially sure of this if it had the internalID attribute).
As well as abstract there were other descriptions in the XCRI feed, formatted in XHTML giving marketing information. These I passed over, but (stripped of the formatting) they could be used as descriptions, especially if the abstract is absent.
XCRI Elements that I haven’t mapped yet are, isPartOf, dc:Type, applicationProcedure, mlo:assessment, mlo:objective, regulations, mlo:qualifications, and mlo:credit. The last two of these are known gaps in schema’s ability to describe courses; there might be mappings to some LRMI properties for some of the others in some circumstances. For example if the dc:Type is PG: Postgraduate, then this could be an alignment to some educational level.
Additionally, we use the provider property of schema.org/Course to link to the provider, a relationship that is conveyed in XCRI XML by nesting, as mentioned above.
The xcri:presentation maps to schema.org/CourseInstance, which is linked to from the Course by the hasCourseInstance property.
Elements of presentation which map directly to properties of CourseInstance are: title (maps to name), mlo:start (maps to startDate) end (maps to endDate), mlo:duration (maps to duration), studyMode, attendanceMode and attendance pattern (all mapped to courseMode). The venue element maps to CourseInstance’s location property, though the provider’s identifier turns up here in a way which requires a bit of thought, see below.
A number of other elements (namely cost, applyFrom, applyUntil and applyTo) can all be mapped to properties of a schema.org/Offer. mlo:cost maps to a description of a PriceSpecification (the costs for UKHE degrees are usually more complex than can be given with a single number/currency pair), the others map to availabilityStarts, availabilityEnds, availabilityAtOrFrom. This Offer is linked to from the CourseInstance’s offers property.
There are multiple identifiers in various formats in the XCRI XML input, and various required identifiers in the schema.org graph of the course information. As discussed above, some of the dc:identifiers provided were short alphanumeric codes, and were used as, for example, the value for schema.org/courseCode, or to identify an educational subject in an Alignment Object. There is also the mlo:url element, which I used for the schema.org/url property.
What I skipped over several times is that, as well as the mlo:url, similar (or identical) http URIs were used as values for dc:identifier. Also, as well as the schema.org url property, for linked data we need an identifier for the entities we are describing (the @id tag in JSON-LD), preferably an http URI. So, I decided to experiment with using the the dc:identifiers in XCRI XML as @id identifiers for the JSON-LD. This has an advantage over just using an arbitrary random identifier in that for larger data sets there is a chance of reducing repetition in the serialization of the graph. For example with luck many courses will share the same location, and so this could appear as a properly identified entity in the graph to which many Course Instance location properties link. I have experimented with different orders or preference for what to use for the @id, (e.g. 1. dc:identifier beginning with http, 2. mlo:url, 3. dc:identifier with text value). I immediately hit a snag with this, because the same http URI was being used for different things in the XCRI example, e.g. for course and presentation, or for institution and venue, and it troubled me that the URI I was using was actually the identifier for an Institutional web page. So to disambiguate I appended #<SchemaType> to the URI, e.g. http://example.org/course1#Course, http://example.org/course1#CourseInstance.
This is probably going to take more thinking about in the future.
Most of the above mapping is implemented (or with luck, soon will be) in a python script using xml.eTree and rdflib. You’re welcome to take a look at it on github, but please bear in mind that it is pretty much untested on any input other than the example file given above. It is certainly not production level code, so don’t use it as such.
Broadly speaking, it works. With some exceptions that didn’t surprise me the XCRI-CAP data about a course can be represented as schema.org linked data.
Credit and Qualifications seem to me to be the biggest gaps, relating to existing use cases from the schema course extension community group.
Likewise there is a gap around how to represent aims and objectives in schema.org, which might be related to work on competencies.
In several places there was coded information in the XCRI (e.g. UK Provider ID, course mode codes) which isn’t easy to represent in schema.org. But this issue is being worked on.
I’ll tidy up the code a bit, and I also want to test it more extensively. I’m also pondering putting the resulting JSON-LD into a graph database to test how well it can be queried. This would be a great test of whether the schema course extension project really did meet it’s use cases.
Do drop me a line if you have any ideas, or if you have any XCRI feeds (or similar data in another format) I could play with.
After months, if not years, of procrastinating, I’ve finally decided it was about time to start practicing what I preach and I’ve moved this blog over to Reclaim Hosting. Huge thanks to the guys at Reclaim for setting everything up for me so promptly! My shiny new domain is
I’ll never forget that feeling the morning after Indyref. I just felt sad, so fucking sad that so much positivity and promise had gone to waste. It feels different this time round. Today I’m angry. But the worst thing is, I’m not surprised. There seems to have been a horrible inevitability to the result of the EUref. It’s like watching a carcrash in slow motion.
Martin Weller has already written a really powerful personal response to the result that really chimes with my own feelings. I work in open education, and I believe passionately that as educators we have a moral responsibility to work together to improve opportunities for all, not just for a select few.
“Open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens. In addition, open education can promote knowledge transfer while at the same time enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing.”
I wrote that. Those aren’t just words. I actually believe all of that. That’s what I work for.
The thing that really struck me about Martin’s post was his reference to Primo Levi’s The Drowned and The Saved and Levi’s anger at those who try to absolve their guilt by claiming that they didn’t see the evil when in actual fact they chose to look away. It struck me because I’m reading The Drowned and The Saved right now and Levi’s anger has stayed with me since I read that passage in Paul Bailey’s masterful introduction.
So yeah, I’m angry. Angry that we’re sleepwalking over the edge. Angry that we’ll let the unthinkable happen because we don’t have the courage and the honesty to open our eyes and think, really think, about the consequences of our actions.
I don’t know how to end this post, because I really don’t know where to go from here. I guess if there’s one tiny glimmer of hope in all this, it’s that I’m so fucking proud of Scotland right now. That doesn’t make me any less angry though.
Earlier this month I went along to the ALT Scotland SIG‘s annual conference, which was held at Dundee and Angus College’s fabulous Gardyne Campus and Learning Lab. This year the theme of the event was Sharing Stories: enablers and drivers for Learning Technology in Scottish Education. I spoke about how the University of Edinburgh is supporting engagement with learning technology through open education, and my colleague Susan Greig gave a presentation about how the university is supporting staff to become Certified Members of ALT.
I’ve linked the recording of the afternoon session below along with my slides, and the recording of the morning session can be accessed from ALT’s YouTube channel.
For once in my life I actually wrote my presentation in advance of the event so I’ve copied my script below too.
Supporting Engagement with Learning Technology Through Open Education at the University of Edinburgh
Earlier this year the University of Edinburgh launched a new strategic vision which outlined where the university is at present and where it intends to be in 2025.
Central to this vision is increased provision of world-leading online distance learning.
It’s an ambitious vision that aims to see up to 10,000 students, learning online by 2020, through MOOCs and postgraduate online learning programmes, and open education embedded right across the institution.
I’m not going to talk today about MOOCs and online masters programmes per se, what I want to focus on today is how the University is supporting engagement with learning technology through a range of open education initiatives and services, focusing particularly on OER.
The University of Edinburgh’s vision for open educational resources builds on three strands:
The history of the Edinburgh Settlement.
Excellent education and research collections.
Traditions of the Enlightenment and the University’s civic mission.
The University has established an OER Service that will create an OER exchange to enrich both the University and the sector; provide support frameworks to enable staff to share OER created as a routine part of their work, and enable staff to find and use high quality teaching materials developed within and beyond the University.
The service will also showcase Edinburgh at it’s best, highlighting the highest quality learning and teaching; identifying collections of learning materials to be published online for flexible use, and made available as open courseware, and enabling the discovery of these materials to enhance the University’s reputation.
And as a contribution to the University’s civic mission it will open access to Edinburgh’s treasures, making available collections of unique resources to promote health, economic and cultural well-being; digitising, curating and sharing major collections of unique archives and museum resources to encourage public engagement with learning, study and research.
In order to ensure Edinburgh’s OER Vision is sustainable and supported across the institution, the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee has approved an accompanying OER Policy that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience and to help colleagues make informed decisions about creating and using OER in support of the University’s OER Vision.
The Edinburgh OER Policy will look familiar to many of you as it’s based on the policy developed by the University or Leeds and already adopted by Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Greenwich. Edinburgh has made a number changes to this policy including adopting a more active and inclusive definition of OER.
“Digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning, which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence permitting their use or re-purposing by others.”
By focusing on the context of use, this definition encompasses a wide range of resources including multimedia, courseware, and cultural heritage resources.
In order to provide access to its open educational resource the university has launched Open.Ed, a one-stop-shop which provides access to openly licensed content, the OER Vision statement and OER Policy, together with practical support for staff and students in the form of workshops, advice and guidance on finding, using and creating OERs.
I should add that this is not a formal repository Open.Ed is built on WordPress and aggregates OER from other repositories and sites across the university.
In addition to Open.Ed, the University has also launched Media Hopper a new multimedia asset management system which provides all staff and students with space to upload media and publish it to VLEs, websites and social media channels. Not all the content in Media Hopper is openly licensed, but student interns currently working to develop feeds to pull openly licensed content out of Media Hopper and into Open.Ed.
Edinburgh is also working to enhance the biggest open educational resource in the world; Wikipedia. Building on long term engagement with Wikimedia UK, the University has become the first in the UK to employ a dedicated Wikimedian in Residence. As an advocate for openness the WiR delivers training events and workshops to further the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy, through skills training sessions and editathons.
The University is also committed to supporting open education across the sector and last year announced it’s support for Open Scotland. Scotland is a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. Part of my role as OER Liaison – Open Scotland will be to continue promoting the Scottish Open Education Declaration and hopefully bring it to the attention of the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
And of course last, but not least, earlier this year we were very privileged to host the OER16 conference with the support of ALT. The theme of the 7th OER Conference, and the first to be held in Scotland, was Open Culture and the conference focused on the value proposition of embedding open culture in the context of institutional strategies.
So to conclude, open education is being used as a key driver to encourage and embed engagement with education technology right across the institution.
The University of Edinburgh’s vision for open education provides a strong foundation for developing a sustainable model for online education at scale, encouraging engagement with learning technology and OER within the curriculum, and improving teachers and learners’ confidence and digital literacy with regard to teaching and learning online. In addition, this affords the University a valuable opportunity to scale up its community engagement, to disseminate the knowledge created and curated within the institution to the wider community and to help shape conversations about the role of learning technology and the future of open education in Scotland.
Last week I attended the Holyrood Connect Learning Through Technology event where I saw a rather jawdropping demonstration of the very best and very worst that education technology has to offer. The best, and it really was wonderful, came from teachers Natalie Lockhead and Nicola Paterson, and pupils Rebecca and Stephen from Kirklandneuk Primary School, who are part of the school’s Digital Leaders Network. The Digital Leaders Network encourages children who are confident with using all kinds of technology to support their teachers and peers by sharing their skills and knowledge, while at the same time enabling the children to develop confidence, literacy and skills for life.
Stephen and Rebecca stood up in front of an audience of over a hundred delegates and spoke confidently and articulately about the importance of the Digital Leaders initiative and how much they enjoyed and benefitted from being part of it. Inspirational has become a rather throwaway term used to describe speakers, but these young people really, truly, were an inspiration.
Their honesty, enthusiasm and willingness to share was in stark contrast to the previous presenters and event sponsors Lightspeed Systems who presented their “online safety and web filtering systems” for education. As well as just blocking content, Lightspeed’s Web Filter also incorporates hierarchical filtering “to keep students safe, even when they leave the classroom,” along with web activity reporting functionality “from the high level to the detail”. I presume in this instance “the detail” means individual students.
According to their press, Lightspeed Systems create tools to help schools manage and filter their networks as well as empower classroom learning. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of trivial issues such as privacy, ethics and consent. One of their products, Classroom Orchestrator, is designed to allow teachers to monitor students screens and devices “making it easy to see who’s off-task, who needs extra attention, and who’s excelling”. Orchestrator allows teachers to view all students screens from a dashboard, “ensures safety by seeing who is protected by the webfilter and who isn’t”, and perhaps most worryingly, “record sessions to store a students activity to share or investigate.” This immediately rang all sorts of alarm bells; where is that data being stored, who owns it, who has access to it? Although Lightspeed’s products are primarily designed for use on schools’ own mobile devices, the presenter added that they can also be installed on children’s own mobile devices and can be used to monitor their web activity outwith school hours. Apparently they’ve had, and I quote, “Lots of positive feedback about teachers taking control of and locking apps on students’ mobile devices.” That was the point where my jaw really hit the floor.
I made a point of asking during questions who owned and had access to the data that Lightspeed gathers. The reply was that the data is stored on servers in the UK and clients have the right to access this data under the Freedom of Information act. Seriously? I asked again if clients really had to submit an FOI request to access their own data and the presenter replied that they could just e-mail their sales representative for access. I lost the will to live at that point.
The contrast between the two presentations couldn’t have been more stark, and both demonstrated in quite different ways, why it is so important to engage children and learners in their own education, why we need to listen to them, not eavesdrop on them, and why we need to respect their privacy and consent. And most of all, it brought home to me just how critical trust and openness has to be in our use of technology in education. After all, if we don’t trust and learn from our children, how will they ever learn to trust and respect others?
NB Throughout the presentation, the Lightspeed representative seemed to refer to Classroom Orchestrator as Classroom Monitor. There is another UK based ed tech company called Classroom Monitor that markets an assessment platform for teachers. There is no link between Lightspeed Systems and Classroom Monitor and their products are not related.
I am chair of the Schema Course Extension W3C Community Group, which aims to develop an extension for schema.org concerning the discovery of any type of educational course. This progress update is cross-posted from there.
Course, a subtype of CreativeWork: A description of an educational course which may be offered as distinct instances at different times and places, or through different media or modes of study. An educational course is a sequence of one or more educational events and/or creative works which aims to build knowledge, competence or ability of learners.
CourseInstance, a subtype of Event: An instance of a Course offered at a specific time and place or through specific media or mode of study or to a specific section of students.
hasCourseInstance, a property of Course with expected range CourseInstance: An offering of the course at a specific time and place or through specific media or mode of study or to a specific section of students.
The wiki is working to a reasonable extent as a place to record the outcomes of the discussion. Working from the outline use cases page you can see which requirements have pages, and those pages that exist point to the relevant discussion threads in the mail list and, where we have got this far, describe the current solution. The wiki is also the place to find examples for testing whether the proposed solution can be used to mark up real course information.
The next phase of the work should see us performing, working through the requirements from the use cases and showing how they can be me. I think we should focus first on those that look easy to do with existing properties of schema.org/Event and schema.org/CreativeWork.