learning, teaching and research (archive)

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LUDOS, metadata and other things

June 7th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I went to 2 meetings today and learnt something from both. The LUDOS project (Leeds University Digital Objects) was very interesting. I am particularly interested in repositories of this kind as a trend is emerging for writing modules around publically available learning objects and resources of various kinds. Module design will provide a rationale for study, a structure, learning outcomes and objectives, support and assessement but increasingly the bits an academic will write will be scaffolding and wrap-around materials that integrate and exploit learning resources available elsewhere. There has been an increasing emphasis in various Govt. documents and reports relating to education calling for the provision of open learning content (OLC).

This raises the question of metadata, a subject I found unexpectedly interesting! As Libby Bishop said in her very impressive presentation about the Timescapes project that is using the LUDOS repository, “metadata is just data about data”. The whole point about learning and research objects in repositories is that they should be discoverable and used, again and again. This means discoverable by the right people across a range of different disciplines and research areas. An image of a human rib cage will be of interest in a medical context and could easily be described with metadata that would be found by medical reseachers and teachers. But it may also be a very good example of a cantilever system (it may not; not my area, but you get the point) that would be of interest to engineers. However, it would be unrealistic to expect the image to have engineering metadata formally attached to it by its originators. It would perhaps only be seen as as interesting and useful object for engineering students or researchers by an engineer who had nothing to do with the original contex of the creation of the object. This is where user generated metadata comes in – social tagging. A particular engineer may have an interest in looking for examples of engineering principles in Nature and would perhaps, thinking out of the box, look for images of human anatomical bits and pieces as examples, structural, hydraulic perhaps, who knows. She may well find stuff and tag it (add metadata) with her and her students’ interests and objectives in mind. This is where truly ‘open’ content with a user tagging facility comes into its own. And why not go a step further and add a commenting and discussion layer to the repository too. The objects come alive via the animation of the dicussion. Perhaps.

This whole business of metadata is so vital for the whole archive/repository and open content movement and far more important and interesting than I thought. The issue is epistemological in its scope. In fact ontological! What more could a professional procrastinator with an intellectual bent ask for?

The second thing I discovered today at a VLE Project meeting is that 75% of ‘visits’ by students to the VLE are from off campus – 25% from Halls and 50% from who knows where. We now need data on peaks of activity to supplement this picture. Hundreds of students logged in on Christmas day and 1 member of staff was logged in at the stroke of midnight 31st December 2008. That doesn’t sound like much of a party!


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