Giunti Labs acquires HarvestRoad

Increasingly I am focusing on things other than repositories (Amen!) but it still occupies some of my attention, so this news (even 3 months after the fact) still caught my eye. Apparently Harvest Road, an Australian learning object repository/learning content management system vendor, has been acquired by the Italian-based elearning product vendor Giunti Labs.

Harvest Road was a publicly listed company on the Australian exchange that has now been de-listed (presumably because of this acquisition.) They were extremely aggressive in trying to market their product around the world over the past 4-5 years. You can draw your own conclusions, both about what this says about Harvest Road and what it says about that market. From where I’m sitting, though, it would be hard to spin this in a positive way. – SWL

On Using DSpace as a LOR

Pheew! Back home now after a hectic (for me) week of travelling and talking, one of which was a talk I gave to the Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL) Distance Education Forum on the feasibility of using DSpace as a general learning object repository.

I have been pretty hard on this idea in the past, so I was glad to be given the opportunity to revisit the idea in more depth. And while it might not seem so from the slides, I actually found myself softening to the idea, in part because of some innovations from MIT and others to accomodate learning materials. But my main message, which was perhaps buried a bit at the end of the talk, was that it is one thing to evaluate DSpace against an abstract set of functionality that a LOR should have, (which is kind of what I did here) and quite another to say that it will solve the problems of finding, sharing, remixing and reusing learning content, a question some would say has already been asked and answered a few times. – SWL

RepoMMan Project

To keep going on the apparent ‘open source repository’ theme today, this JISC-funded project appears to be using Fedora and Sakai to investigate automated population of metadata based on contextual information provided by the portal environment, to examine the boundaries of personal versus institutional digital resource management, and to develop some workflow aroud common repository tasks based around Service Oriented Architecture. Phew. Fedora is a different approach than DSpace, though both originated from the library/institutional repository world, and yet in my earlier investigations it too seemed to also have some limitations to its effectiveness as a LOR. Early days yet for this project, but maybe some promise in moving it closer to serve those (and other) needs better. And you just gotta love the name. – SWL

Presentation on Archiving Course Websites to DSpace, Using a Content Packaging Profile & Web Services

For a long time I’ve been asked about available open source learning object repositories, and specifically about whether DSpace could work as a LOR. My answer regarding DSpace, up to now, has always been – well it depends on what your use cases are. If you didn’t care about things like IMS Content Packages and learning object metadata, then sure, maybe it could work, but it always seemed like a stretch, that those asking the question were looking to adopt a system because of its license but not because of its functionality.

In this regards, I had always held out some hope on the CWSpace project. As I have mentioned before, CWSpace is a project looking to archive the educational materials found in MIT OpenCourseWare using DSpace technology, and in so doing provide a valueable extension in functionality to DSpace itself.

With the presentation above it looks like they are making some progress – it details how they plan to deal with two major issues, mapping OCW’s object model to DSpace’s object model, and improving the interfaces to DSpace to make them more conducive to working with living (not archived) materials. NOTE: this presentation really only useful for standards geeks and other interoperability weenies (like myself, I guess). Not for the faint of heart.

It’s unclear to me whether they are shipping code yet for this, but it is still encouraging to see some progress, and for me really encouraging to see the library/institutional repository crowd take seriously the differences between their standard use cases and the ones from the LOR world; a big step forward from the red flag that’s been waving from the DSpace site for years claiming it can accomodate ‘learning objects’ (whatever that meant). – SWL

Comparison of content policies for institutional repositories in Australia

“This short paper analyses their content and shows that a requirement to deposit research output into a repository coupled with effective author support policies works in Australia and delivers high levels of content. Voluntary deposit policies do not, regardless of any author support by the university.”

Kind of says it all. Or does it? A lot of people interpret the lessons of Web 2.0 to be “only services which allow people to do what they already want to do (and don’t make them do stuff they don’t want to do) will be successful.” This seems fine to a point, but isn’t it possible that sometimes there do need to be behaviour changes? Or is it that any solution that requires coercion to get behaviour changes hasn’t found the right value proposition for its users? – SWL

DOOR – Digital Open Object Repository

OK, I know NOTHING about this, so don’t even ask, but it seemed like something of interest (if you are still flailing away at that LOR hobgoblin) – an open source Learning Object Repository written in PHP and using MySQL as the backend which supports both the IMS metadata and content package specifications. Looks exactly as uninspiring as every other LOM-based, forms driven LOR, but if that’s what you want, well then at least it’s open source, right? Can you tell I’m having a LORrible day? (grimace) – SWL

Ariadne Decennial Issue Out

Plenty good reads in the latest Ariadne magazine, the 10th anniversary edition, including pieces by Lorcan Dempsey and Clifford Lynch. Although Ariadne aims to be a “web magazine for information professionals in archives, libraries and museums” I always find at least a couple of articles directly relating to (if not directly referring to) issues in elearning. – SWL

Why does ‘Freesound’ succeed when so many learning object repositories fail?

Bryan Alexander posted a link to The Freesound Project and it was interesting to me for a whole slew of reasons.

It was interesting first off because I have been using the site myself for the last few months; I am getting more into making music with digital audio tools (yes, yes, I will post something, someday, give me time to build up my courage) and so turned to Freesound to find new samples for a drum machine. And it works; not perfectly maybe, but you can definitely find new samples fairly easily, and it has a number of other social affordances (‘users who downloaded this also…’ and folksonomies) that lead you to related stuff you might like.

I was interesting also on a personal level as it was built as part of the 2005 International Computer Music Conference. ICMC is dear to my heart because way back in 1995, I was responsible for building the first website to support a ICMC conference, when it was hosted in Banff (the only remnant of which I can now find is this reference, the ‘WayBack machine‘ not even going back that far, so safe to say Internet ancient history!)

And finally it’s also of interest as a ‘repository’ of shareable remixable content, and one that would have to be judged relatively successful at that, with around 10,000 ‘objects’ and almost a million downloads. So what makes it tick, why does it succeed when so many of our various ‘learning object repository’ projects are failing so miserably? Let’s consider (more)….
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RLG-NARA Audit Checklist for Certifying Digital Repositories

Via David Mattison comes this interesting link to an effort to establish a set of guidelines for determining whether a digital repository can be certified as a trusted location for digital collections. Note that ‘repositories’ are being used here very much in a library-centric way, and that these may or may not apply to the same degree to learning object repositories, but some interesting things to learn from and expectations to live up to (you mean you don’t want the whole collection to magically disappear in 3 years time? Damn, wish someone had told me 😉 – SWL

P.S. Don’t get to thinking I’m blogging again – am still underwater with work and on a self-imposed blogging hunger strike (not sure what I’m protesting yet, I’ll think of something!) but these last two got me to post somehow.

ELATED – Front End to Fedora

Seeming to prove out the model of ‘repository as service’ is this front end to the Fedora repository system. And also seeming to provide a good example to back up Charlie Lowe’s recent point on how open source can itself provide learning opportuniites within educational institutions, this was built as part of the Associated Colleges of the South Technology Center’s Software Engineering Internship.

Interestingerrr and interestingerrr… – SWL