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July 8th Monthly Meeting

Posted by johnrg on July 9, 2008

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick summary of the excellent meeting yesterday afternoon. The actual minutes are attached as a file.

Mike Taylor of the Skills for Learning (S4L) team attended and initiated a very interesting discussion about how Streamline could help them deposit their existing and new learning objects into the Leeds Met repository. One issue concerns the sparse meta data associated with many of the existing objects. This is an opportunity to test the usability and quality of output of the meta data generation tools. It would also help boost the objects currently stored in the repository so a hit for both Streamline and Persona.

Dawn and Nick are following this up.

We also identified other potential user groups including a group of post graduate students who are looking to create a space to store and circulate their work and staff at Belfast Metropolitan College who are very active in creating learning objects an depositing them in a repository. Each of these offers opportunities to investigate various aspects of work flows associated with the creation, review and deposit of objects within a repository.

Janet and Wendy are anticipating a challenging time at the July 15th JISC event and will be supplied with handouts, presentations and other goodies through Dawn, Nick et al.

The work packges continue to progress and we have some usable outputs available for comparison – see minutes for details.

Thanks to John Heap for his invigorating posts here and on the EMERGE blog  on the e-framework aspects of JISC projects, I guess that the rapid offering of an event in October to facilitate this may well indicate a problem common to a number of projects!

We agreed that the August monthly meeting as scheduled would not be held due to holiday clashes for many of the team however where possible team members should check with Janet during the week commencing August 18th to check that everything is in place for the Staff Development Festival in early September.

The next monthly meeting is scheduled for the morning of Tuesday September 16th.

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TEL Day: Questionnaire

Posted by Dawn on June 13, 2008

The TEL day presented a good opportunity to promote the Streamline project alongside PERSoNA and the Institutional Repository. Nick and I put together a shared questionnaire between these three projects, which I have now done the preliminary analysis on. This report shows the questions I asked and some basic statistics gleaned from them. Nicks findings are available here on the projects respective blogs: PERSoNA and Repository.

We had twenty respondents in total many of whom also indicated that they were willing to participate in the focus groups Meg has mentioned. Unfortunately our first attempt at organising one has been cancelled due to lack of volunteers. Meg suggested that there is a lot going at the moment academically (exam boards and final marking) and that we would be better of in a coupe of weeks.

I’m going to take these results and re-examine them alongside our previous questionnaires. I’m manly look for patterns of positive or negative attitudes and work practices towards the process around learning object creation and re-use. I will post these up in couple of weeks with a more detailed report. I’m also going to have a look at the social networking questions Nick asked in regard to our ideas about the organisation and sharing of learning objects.

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Outcomes from the June 10th 2008 Meeting.

Posted by johnrg on June 10, 2008

The meeting generated a number of interesting discussions, as has been typical of earlier meetings, however not all of these discussions have resulted in blog postings. One aim of this meeting was to re-invigorate the use of the StreamlineNews – the Project Blog. Hence one outcome should be an noticeable increase in postings to the blog.

Specific outcomes form the meeting included:

Following the 3rd June Technology Enhanced Learning event:

  • Dawn and Nick to produce a short report detailing the results of the questionnaires collected.
  • Dawn and Nick to initiate a paper outlining the relationship between the Streamline, Persona and Institutional Repositories projects using commonalities discovered in the questionnaire responses as points of focus.

Progress on the Automated Meta data generation tool has progressed slowly this month, largely due to holidays and involvement with the TEL day on June 3rd. There is a need for Dawn, Mark and Elizabeth to meet to review the development of this tool set.

Similarly involvement with another project has interfered with progress on the Resource Discovery tool development. There is a need to ensure significant time is allocated to this work package in the coming month.

The personal resource management work has progressed but is hampered by the lack of an actual repository to work with. The University has now decided on Intralibrary and work should move forward quickly here. There is some early training on this repository scheduled for mid June.

In conjunction with this work package the Persona project can also begin to move forward. There is an involvement with the EMERGE event on June 23rd which will allow some wider dissemination and offer opportunities for the wider EMERGE community to contribute their experiences of using repositories.

The next meeting is scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday July 8th. July 15th clashes with a JISC event and the 22nd falls in our graduation week so the earlier date is preferred.

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Getting (Streamline) Started with the e-framework

Posted by johnheap on March 27, 2008

On the JISC e-framework site, you will now find a new heading … Getting Started. This offers a range of resources designed to explain the concepts and practises of the e-framework … something badly needed (explanation) as anyone who read my earlier criticism of the documentation will know.

So, does the “Getting Started” material help?

Well, there is an animated video (well-produced) which does quite a good job of explaining the basic concept … and why such a framework might help in improved sharing and re-use of data and in managing the expanding number of applications and systems in large organisations.

The other documents that sit alongside this video offer more detail about the various issues that relate to the development of a common framework across an entire industry (global education) and to the technical issues involved.

Though there does seem sometimes an element of this documentation having been ‘simplified’ from earlier documentation (rather than having been designed from scratch for a non-technical audience), the new set of documentation does a much better job of introducing the e-framework.

Those who have read some of the – at times impenetrable – earlier versions will be pleased to find simple summaries of main topics such as:

Service oriented approach
A service oriented approach describes a way of building systems using discrete service components. This highly flexible approach reduces the costs of system development and maintenance through reuse of components. Reusing services in this way also improves interoperation between systems and simplifies the extension of system capability.

Services perform specific tasks. These can be made available over the web – a well-known example of a service is Google Search. Others may be less well-known but could be just as useful – an example could be an authentication service (checking that you are who you say you are). Services can be implemented using various technologies. The most common technology used today is referred to as “web services”.

In order for a range of services to be able to work together they must conform to a set of technical standards. Standards enable services and systems to ‘talk to each other’ and exchange data. At a simplistic level this is analogous to agreeing to country codes that enable international telephone communications.

Service Usage Models (SUMs)
SUMs are developed by communities to address their particular learning, teaching or research requirements. SUMs provide an analysis of the tasks involved, identify the sets of services that will be called upon, how they will work together, and provide information that developers will require to create the interoperability points for particular applications.

Implications for Streamline

If we take just this ‘executive summary’ of key terms within the overall concept (and remember, I have seen the video!), then it is clear that the Streamline project must:

  • Be aware of the evolving e-framework and the benefits it can bring in the longer term
  • Recognise where outputs of the streamline project might be ‘services’ more widely applicable – and ensure they are made available in a form that helps this wider use
  • Be aware of – and work to – the sets of standards that govern software and service development – especially in the world of, education
  • Construct our own Service Usage model for the workflows we are trying to model within the project – and make these models available in a format which aids their dissemination and understanding.

Using the e-framework gets simpler as you start to understand it better.

The JISC is to be congratulated for listening to earlier criticism of the documentation and responding positively. I am sure the new materials will help others – like the Streamline team – to understand and work within the e-framework.

John Heap
March 2008

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Reflections from York

Posted by Janet Finlay on January 24, 2008

We have a large contingent from Streamline at the Project Startup meeting for Emerge in York. At the programme meeting this morning the e-Framework was raised as an issue for all the e-administration projects – and probably for many U&I projects. John Heap, one of our team members, produced a e-framework briefing document for the rest of us on Streamline, which we have been asked to share here. It was written for internal consumption so pulls no punches – but I haven’t edited it as perhaps it is important to express some of the genuine frustrations of trying to make sense of how to contribute.

Our conclusion is that much of what we are doing as a matter of course can contribute to the e-Framework but it would still be useful to have a clearer steer as to how to do this most effectively.

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Social Software for Learning: What is it, why use it?

Posted by Stuart Hirst on January 21, 2008

The most recent report from The Observatory has become available at: 

Unfortunately, access is by subscription only. However the following will give readers an insight into the relevance of this report. (All remaining text below, provided by The Observatory)

Following the general report abstract and author listing, Dr. Don Olcott, Jr., Chief Executive of The Observatory, provides a commentary on this report’s relevance to cross-border higher education.Social Software for Learning: What is it, why use it?  

By Scott Leslie, Manager, BCcampus Shareable Online Learning Resources and Dr. Bruce Landon, Instructor in the Psychology Department, Douglas College

 The recent, and undeniably massive, growth in adoption of various social software applications represents both an opportunity and a threat to institutions and educators: opportunity because the qualities which help these applications thrive align well with socio-constructivist and other contemporary theories of learning which have resonated strongly with online educators and learners and sparked massive interest and growth in adoption; threat in part because they are often developed and adopted by learners outside the bounds of their formal relationships with institutions, and in part because they depend on network characteristics that can be in tension with the more ‘closed’ environments and online approaches found within most institutions. In many ways, social software represents a key manifestation of borderless education in that it has typically been developed on the general Internet, not within academic enclaves nor for specifically educational purposes, and often thrives best when the full dynamics of the entire network (e.g. linkability, searchability, network effects) are in play. Initially, this report compares some of the qualities that cause social software to flourish with contemporary ideas about what enables successful learning in a networked world. Following an examination of uses of specific social software applications to support learning, it subsequently discusses how these key characteristics create both challenges for adopting institutions and considerations for adopters and implementers of social software that can help them harness them to best advantage in creating more authentic engagement for lifelong learners.


As you read Leslie and Landon’s report, you will become familiar with a range of social software applications such as social bookmarking, blogging, social networking, wikis, social media sharing, and even shared concept and knowledge maps. The authors suggest the obvious . . . that these forms of software are social in nature, that they are often developed and used outside the boundaries of institutions and formal learning environments; that they tap into the user’s motivation and help build authentic online identities and learning experiences for users; that such applications build networks of affinity and enable connected knowledge to emerge; and finally that social software encourages peer production and review of content. You will have to judge the merits of these assertions about social software and their applications to teaching and learning in your university.  What is known for certain is that social software applications have increasingly been adopted by users and are gaining more interest amongst educators in all sectors. Adoption of social software, however, is not synonymous with the effective delivery and assessment of quality teaching and learning. The jury is still out on this fundamental question, one which challenges all educators when assessing educational technologies. Here are some key questions to consider in the cross-border context.

Key Questions for Social Software Applications in Cross-Border Higher Education

  1.  Do social software applications have potential for enhancing teaching and learning in cross-border higher education? How and why? Why not?
  2.  Does social software facilitate multi-cultural learning, cultural and social understanding, and language(s) practice and training for students in host countries (and for international students on home campuses)?
  3. Social software effectiveness, to some degree, is predicated on the scalability to serve increasing number of users. Given the programmatic and targeted focus of many cross-border higher education partnerships, it is financially sound to invest in social software applications for a limited user population?
  4. How do we assess and evaluate user learning engaged with social software networks or applications?
  5. Can social software facilitate the creation of a new, international knowledge base?
  6. What quality standards could or should be applied to educational uses of social software? Who should have oversight and/or responsibility for these standards? The institution? A quality assurance agency?
  7. Can social software play a role in facilitating cross-border research exchanges and partnerships?
  8. What are the key ethical and legal issues associated with social software?  

A Challenge to Software Developers: Cultural Software for Cultural Networking

Social software adoption has been driven by like-minded users that have similar intellectual and perhaps social interests. This is understandable and probably a natural evolution of any new innovation. I would, however, challenge the developers and institutional managers of social software to expand their thinking to include a new concept . . . Cultural Software for Cultural Networking. In the global context, the world is increasingly becoming a multi-cultural mosaic of learners. Celebrating the learning (and cultural experiences) derived from embracing differences is arguably just as valuable, perhaps even more so, than the learning and knowledge created by like minded groups. Cultural networking will facilitate these connections and enhance multi-cultural understanding and knowledge essential to living and learning in a global world.  Finally, is it possible that social software applications will ultimately have a negligible impact on the ‘measurable’ quality and depth of student learning? Indeed, perhaps social software applications simply make learning more fun and enjoyable and connect students with their peers through various social environments. It is often said in higher education, ‘of course it’s useful and practical, it just isn’t easy to measure,’ and in this respect social software may be no exception. The Observatory will look forward to new research which attempts to answer such questions. Enjoy your read of Leslie and Landon’s report.

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