The Learning Registry: Social networking for open educational resources?


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This presentation will reflect on Cetis’ involvement with the Learning Registry and JISC’s Learning Registry Node Experiment at Mimas (The JLeRN Experiment), and their application to UKOER initiatives. Initially funded by the US Departments of Education and Defense, the Learning Registry (LR) is an open source network for storing and distributing metadata and curriculum activity and social usage data about learning resources across diverse educational systems.

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The Learning Registry: Social networking for open educational resources?

  1. 1. The Learning Registry: socialnetworking for open educational resources? Phil Barker, and Lorna M Campbell, CETIS Sarah Currier and Nick Syrotiuk, Mimas #OER13
  2. 2. The Learning Registry: socialnetworking for open educational resources? Phil Barker, and Lorna M Campbell, CETIS Sarah Currier and Nick Syrotiuk, Mimas #OER13
  3. 3. Introduction Phil Barker, CETIS Lorna M. Campbell, CETIS Sarah Currier, Mimas Nick Syrotiuk, Mimas #OER13
  4. 4. CETIS is… The Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards. A national Innovation Support Centre providing advice to the UK F/HE sector on educational technology and standards. A partnership between the Universities of Bolton and Strathclyde, and Heriot Watt University. #OER13
  5. 5. Mimas is… An organisation of experts. A nationally designated data centre hosting a significant number of the UKs research information assets and building applications to help people make the most of this rich resource. Based at the University of Manchester. #OER13
  6. 6. What’s the problem? It’s good to share educational resources!  You need to describe your resources so other people can find them and decide whether they want to use them.  That means you need metadata to describe the educational characteristics of your resources.  But learning resources come in all shapes and sizes.  Learning resources are used in all sorts of different contexts.  By all people with all sorts of learning requirements.  Describing learning resources is hard.  #OER13
  7. 7. You can end up with a lot of metadata… • You can end up with a lot of metadata.Image attribution: PBCore is licensed under a CC-BY unported licence. #OER13
  8. 8. What’s the result?  Metadata schemas and profiles proliferate.  It’s difficult to exchange data between different repositories using different schema and vocabularies.  Educational resources get stuck in silos where users can not find them. #OER13
  9. 9. And another thing… Social media applications allow users to share and comment on resources. Formal metadata schema are not good at capturing user interactions. So usage data and context of use gets lost. #OER13
  10. 10. Capturing contextual data is key for OERAccording to the UNESCO Guidelines for OpenEducational Resources (OERs) in Higher Education:“The transformative educationalpotential of OER depends on: Improving the quality of learning materials through peer review processes; Reaping the benefits of contextualisation, personalisation and localisation;” #OER13
  11. 11. The Learning Registry A distributed infrastructure for sharing descriptive and usage data about learning resources. Initiated in 2010. An open source community project. Funded by the US DoE and DoD. Partners include Lockheed Martin, NSDL, ADL, SRI International, NSF, Library of Congress, OER Commons, Jisc. #OER13
  12. 12. An open approach An open project – anyone can participate. Open source – Apache 2.0. Open documents and standards – Creative Commons. Open data – all data about resources is open. But… The resources themselves may be proprietary or commercial. Not just about OER. #OER13
  13. 13. What the Learning Registry isn’t…A search engineA portalA repositoryA destination #OER13
  14. 14. What the Learning Registry is…Plumbing!The LR istechnicalinfrastructure.It allows thedata to flow. #OER13
  15. 15. What the Learning Registry is… A large scale network of nodes, no single point of control. Each node based on schema-free database CouchDB. Unlike relational databases, data does not need to conform to pre-set schema. Documents are stored as a collection of key-value pairs in JSON format. APIs allow nodes to exchange data with other nodes and external services. #OER13
  16. 16. Learning Registry APIs Publish (push from user)  Publish  SWORD (1.3, 2.0)  3rd party OAI-PMH Utility (We don’t harvest) Access (pull to get data)  Obtain (by ID, record, by URL)  Harvest (JSON or OAI-PMH)  Slice (subset by identity, schema, keyword) Distribute (node-to-node, with regex “filtering”) Admin (status, discovery, …) No Search/Query API! (e.g., use Elastic Search) #OER13
  17. 17. Learning Registry node structure© Copyright 2011 US Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative: CC-BY-3.0 #OER13
  18. 18. Metadata and ParadataThe Learning Registry is metadata agnostic.Metadata is stored in a schema-free database.Also designed to store paradata - dynamic usage data.Paradata is generated as resources are used, reused, adapted, contextualized, favourited, tweeted, and shared.Paradata complements metadata by providing an additional layer of contextual information.Metadata describes what a resource is, paradata records how it is being used. #OER13
  19. 19. To go back to the plumbing... In order for plumbing to be useful, you need to build something on top of it…. ….otherwise you end up with a big mess. #OER13
  20. 20. To build useful services on top of theplumbing you need…. #OER13
  21. 21. Plumbers neededThe Learning Registry needs developers to build useful services and applications on top of the network of nodes.The data processing overhead, instead of being handled by the database, is pushed up to the application layer.Develops are needed to create services to process the data to make it useful to educators.But…this approach is relatively new to the education domain. #OER13
  22. 22. Not just any old plumbers, creative plumbers! #OER13
  23. 23. CETIS, Jisc and Mimas involvement CETIS maintained a watching brief on LR since its inception in 2010. Jisc / CETIS / LR information sharing meeting in UK, October 2010. CETIS guest blog post by LR Senior Technical Advisor Dan Rehak in March 2011. DevCSI / CETIS OER Hackday, March 2011. Developer Pat Lockley attended LR Plugfest in Washington DC, June 2011. JISC Learning Registry Node (JLeRN) Experiment funded, Nov 2011. CETIS conference session “The Learning Registry – capturing conversations about learning resources”, Feb 2012. #OER13
  24. 24. Why all the interest? The Learning Registry adopted an innovative approach to an old problem. Already tried mandating formal metadata schema and controlled vocabularies with questionable success. (UKLOMCore anyone?) Not proposing institutions adopted the LR as the approach to manage their learning resources. It’s an interesting step in a new direction. Fitted with CETIS and Jisc’s remit to explore innovative learning technology developments. #OER13
  25. 25. The JLeRN Experiment Funded by Jisc at Mimas from Dec 2011 – Oct 2012. JLeRN Team: Sarah Currier (Manager), Nick Syrotiuk and Bharti Gupta (Developers). Aimed to build an experimental node. Explore feasibility of contributing and analysing data. Support development of use cases and applications relevant with UK F/HE. CETIS helped support UK special interest community. Developers liaised directly with LR developers. #OER13
  26. 26. JLeRN Achievements and Outputs Successfully built 3 nodes. Worked closely with OER Rapid Innovation projects. Ingested test data from Jorum via OAI-PMH feed. Built JLeRN Node explorer. Hosted and participated in a number of community and developer events. Commissioned use cases, case study and “Wider Potential” report from Sero Consulting. Actively engaged with community. Maintained JLeRN blog: #OER13
  27. 27. JLeRN Community Engagement - SPAWSSharing Paradata Across Widget Stores (SPAWS) OER Rapid Innovation Programme University of Bolton  ws-impact/ Used the Learning Registry to share usage data, e.g. reviews, ratings, and download statistics, between web app stores of widgets and gadgets for educators. #OER13
  28. 28. JLeRN Community Engagement - RIDLR Rapid Innovation Dynamic Learning Maps - Learning Registry (RIDLR):  OER Rapid Innovation Programme.  University of Newcastle.  ridlr/  Tested the release of contextually rich paradata via the JLeRN node to the Learning Registry and harvest back paradata to provide resource discovery linked to specific topics displayed within the context of the curriculum and personal learning maps. #OER13
  29. 29. JLeRN Community Engagement - ENGrichENGrich Digitisation and Content Programme. University of Liverpool.  Developed a customised search engine for visual media relevant to engineering education. Information about student ratings and recommendations are stored in their own LR node and used to enhance customised Google searches. #OER13
  30. 30. JLeRN Community Engagement - PgogyPgogy developer Pat Lockley:  Developed tools for interacting with Learning Registry nodes including: Ramanathan - submits information from an RSS feed to LR. Pliny - submits Google Analytics data to the LR. #OER13
  31. 31. Issues – sharing data at network scaleJLeRN did not attempt to share data between nodes.APIs for distributing data between nodes are less well tested than the APIs for interfacing with services external to the LR.Projects, e.g. SPAWS, ENGrich, proved stand alone nodes do have benefits.But LR functionality has not been tested at network scale. #OER13
  32. 32. Issues – technology lock inNot clear if there are real benefits to using LR as opposed to vanilla schema-free databases such as Mongo and CouchDB.LR provides APIs, documentation and community support.May lock developers in to using CouchDB rather than other solutions. #OER13
  33. 33. Issues – semantic technologies Why not use semantic technologies e.g. RDF triple stores? Triple stores have been innovative technology of choice for sharing data on a web-wide scale for a decade or more. But uptake in the education domain has been slow. Steep learning curve associated with such technologies. Learning Registry’s open approach to dealing with messy educational data seemed to fit the ethos of the teaching and learning sector better. #OER13
  34. 34. Conclusions JLeRN Experiment was a technical success. Innovative projects and developers have demonstrated that useful tools and service can be built on top of LR nodes. Overall impact on UK F/HE sector negligible. Always intended to be a proof of concept development, not a supported service. #OER13
  35. 35. Conclusions LR technical infrastructure is a genuinely innovative approach to the thorny problem of managing and sharing learning resource descriptions and contextual data. Technical approaches, esp. use of schema free databases, may have some impact on the education technology landscape in the longer term. #OER13
  36. 36. Coda - inBloom US K-12 initiative. “Secure data management service that allows states and districts to bring together and manage student and school data and connect it to learning tools used in classrooms.” Funded by Gates Foundation & Carnegie Corporation. inBloom index is a dedicated LR node that will connect to the LR network. Will be interesting to see if the LR works at network scale. #OER13
  37. 37. Coda - inBloom inBloom data may include children’s name, social security number, learning disabilities, test scores, attendance record, hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school, homework completion rates. Parents associated with American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association have raised concerns that data will be abused. DoEd says schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest”. inBloom technical infrastructure built by Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps. #OER13
  38. 38. Further information - Learning Registry@learningreg#learningreg #OER13
  39. 39. Further information – JLeRN Experiment#jlernJLeRN blogWider Potential Report: 11/121109-jlern-wider-potential-report-dk1.pdf #OER13
  40. 40. Further information – CETIS@jisccetisLorna’s CETIS blogPhil’s CETIS blog #OER13
  41. 41. Further information – Mimas@MimasNews #OER13
  42. 42. Licence and attribution By Lorna M. Campbell<>, JISC CETIS <>This work is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution 3.0 Unported licence.To view a copy of this licence, visit or send aletter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite300, San Francisco, California 94105, USA. #OER13