Introduction

... 'general practitioner' teachers and lecturers [who] are increasingly clear about their need for meaningful contextual information about the resource to enable them to assess it and reuse it. A particularly popular request is for some kind of review process that allows users of the resource to record their usage and evaluation of it for others to examine (Rehak & Mason, 2003, Casey 2004). It is also increasingly being recognised that the production of this kind of usage information (sometimes called secondary metadata) can be important for professional and institutional strategic development purposes as Robyn, & Dalziel (2003) propose:

"These requirements make clear the need for new conceptions of learning object meta-data, and new ways of using repositories—not just for search and retrieval, but as a living, growing body of shared practice.” ( quoted from Casey, Brosnan & Geller, 2005)

The Contextualised Learning Activity Repository Tools project (CLARET) will address two key needs; the first is to: The CLARET project will further develop the regionally-based cross-sector community of practice which focuses on moving towards a shared culture of use, re-use and re-purposing of online resources in order to succeed in its aims. The CLARET project will study the teaching and learning context across institutions and across sectors, and the sharing and dissemination of good practice. CLARET will focus on language providers in the university and post-16 education sector as language learning has been identified by HEFCE as a valuable subject for addressing the agendas of lifelong learning and widening participation. This community-driven approach will extend the work already undertaken by the L20 and MURLLO projects

1.1 Background and Context

HEFCE has identified languages as a ‘strategically important and vulnerable subject’ (HEFCE June 2005/24) and as language learning materials are used extensively to support lifelong learning a key aim of this project is to promote sharing and re-use of RLOs across institutions and across sectors.

The National Language Strategy (2002) sets out to highlight the importance of a multilingual and culturally aware society to a modern economy, whilst recognising that languages also have an important role to play in the development of personal skills. A recent update on the implementation of the Strategy recognises the need to "develop strong regional and local networks in support of languages". It is against this background of regional and national need that CLARET is proposing to build on existing experience and networks to develop and pilot repository web services.

Languages have been identified by HEFCE as a vulnerable subject within UK education as a whole, though they are strategically important in a number of ways. Language learning is associated with learners across the whole spectrum of education from schools to adult learning, through many types of institution and in many different contexts, for both formal and informal learning.

The project will use a sample of re-usable learning objects (RLOs) provided through the L20 project that include contextual metadata in addition to UK LOM Core. The project will integrate and engage the fledgling MURLLO Community of Practice (CoP) through the use of weblogs, to facilitate and engender discussion and community contribution. The CLARET project will develop a teaching and learning context ontology through a series of workshops and in conjunction with the CoP weblogs.

The experimental E-prints-based Contextualised Learning Activity Repository (CLARe) developed by the University of Southampton will be used as a test bed to offer social bookmarking, and the facility to browse using web services such as metadata tag clouds/lists formed from the teaching and learning context ontology. The web services will be used to align the CLARET project with the E-Framework.

CLARe will act as a suitable test bed for the web services for a number of reasons: The project will have considerable impact since it will facilitate collaboration and the sharing of expertise in the teaching and learning community, through development of a repository web service based on teacher requirements, whilst contributing to the national and regional JISC e-Learning agenda. Cultural issues and usability of CLARe in different teaching and learning contexts will be inherent to the project work. It will present a model of community-driven collaboration together with a number of scenarios, which can be adopted by other subject areas, by other institutions within the region, or by partnerships of employers and institutions.

1.2 Nature of the work to be undertaken

CLAReT Project Space

Figure 1 The CLARET project space showing the relationship between the contextual metadata types and repository web services.

The aim of the project is to pilot the use of CLARe repository web services to enable browsing via the teaching and learning context. To achieve this, the project will engage the existing L20 /MURLLO CoP in a series of workshops, and through the Community of Practice blog. This will determine how practitioners perceive the teaching and learning context, in terms of daily practice, professional development, shared practice and experience as well as language learning itself. The project will explore how the teaching and learning context might aid them in discovering and reusing Learning Objects from the repository. A series of business case studies and use cases will be developed and used as the basis for a teaching and learning context ontology. The project aims to enhance resource discovery through working directly with teachers.

An ontology will be developed from the case studies to model the teaching and learning context/domain. The relationship between the teaching and learning context, and the L20 project’s contextual (pedagogic) metadata will be explored, to underpin a folksonomy for resource discovery, and the sharing of ideas and practice. This formal modelling of the learning and teaching domain will form the basis of prototype web services such as RSS feeds, widgets and the use of social bookmarking and personalisation of repository web services. The CLARe repository, (based on the E-Prints repository), will be developed as a test bed to enable resource discovery using web services such tag clouds/tag lists and social bookmarking by tutors.

CLARET aims to promote a sense of shared ownership of the folksonomy and contributions to the RLO learning and teaching domain ontology. Shared social spaces such as Flickr and Del.icio.us involve sharing of ideas as well as creative outputs. However, these same ideas and creative outputs form part of the Intellectual Capital of the academic environment. The project will explore how cultural issues concerning Intellectual Property in shared social spaces might influence social bookmarking and contribution to a Learning Object Repository social space.

Creation of prototype repository web service(s) will explore visualisation of Learning Object metadata and teaching and learning context through the repository interface. This will be based on the ontology/folksonomy developed by the project, and use web services to facilitate visualisation through such techniques as tag clouds and or lists. This will enable teachers to browse for resources using the ontology/folksonomy, building on the work of L20 project, to enable the CoP to add contextual metadata without specialist knowledge of library systems. Relevant standards and services such as IMS, Dublin Core, L20 metadata schemas, web services such as RSS/ATOM, RDF and relevant extensions will be used.

1.3 Anticipated benefits and the contribution to the regional and national agenda and the JISC Capital Programme Repositories, Infrastructure and eLearning strands.

CLARET will be beneficial in following two areas:
IN TERMS OF CONTRIBUTING TO THE AIMS OF THE JISC CAPITAL PROGRAMME – REPOSITORIES, (TOOLS AND INNOVATION STRAND), THE CLARET PROJECT WILL ADDRESS THE FOLLOWING THEMES:

Theme 1
Community contribution and repository development through the use of social tools such as bookmarking tools and folksonomies. Working with practitioners to define the teaching and learning domain through a series of workshops, and the CoP blogs. These will form the user requirements for the repository web services, a series of business case studies will be developed, and these will then be developed into use cases. All outputs will be made available via the project website. Community contribution will be an ongoing activity through the project, taking advantage of the CoP collaborative tools.

The case studies and use cases from Theme 1 will form the basis of an ontology/folksonomy that can be shared with the wider educational community for feedback and further use.

Theme 2
There are many aspects of the project that will facilitate easier discovery, and therefore greater use of Learning Objects and repositories. The workshops, case studies and use cases will determine and model teacher understanding of the teaching and learning domain in a wide range of contexts. CLARe web services will be extended to prototype browsing for learning objects via web services, formed from the folksonomy or ontology, such as tag clouds and lists, or via prototype widgets consuming RSS feeds.

Theme 3
Explore the benefits of ‘social tagging’ repository content and browsing of existing tags.

The repository interface will allow for extensions and additions to the folksonomy or ontology, to include ideas of teaching practice and experience by tutors. The theme will also explore issues of Intellectual Property and Ownership in shared social spaces. Social tagging might enable practitioners to build own informal view of the domain, extending the folksonomy, to share amongst peers and CoP, typically using a facility such as MySpace.

Theme 4
Exploring the use of visualisation techniques and tools to help display metadata and contents within repositories in order to assist navigation. This will be facilitated via Themes 2 and 5.

Theme 5
Use of newsfeeds and RDF Site Summary (RSS) 1.0 and if applicable RSS (Really Simple Syndication) in innovative ways to exchange and use repository content. RSS and ATOM feeds are widely used web services, and the project will explore the possibility of repository news feeds to deliver content to tutors. A news feed web service using a technology such as Really Simple Syndication could be used in conjunction with a widget providing a simple, lightweight interface or may form the basis of the tag cloud/tag list style browsing of services such as Del.icio.us or Flickr.

1.4 Interoperability and E-Framework

CLARET will extend and develop web services further from L20 and MURLLO and contribute to E-Framework through:

Interoperability – The use of IMS and other standards, as well as readily available protocols such as RSS/RDF will be enable project findings and outputs to be disseminated to other communities. The project will benefit the wider community in terms of prototype web services relating to resource discovery and sharing practice. This relates to the JISC Capital Programme Infrastructure strand.
E-Framework - Project outputs will be expected to extend the E-Framework by: Relevant standards to the project include: UK LOM CORE, RLLOMAP, IMS Learning Design, IMS Content Packaging.

1.5 Exit strategy and sustainability

It is expected that the collaborative nature of the project, and the teacher-centred project development will benefit both individuals and institutions. It is expected that joint development activities will continue and expand. The LLAS Subject Centre will continue to disseminate through its website, and mailing list..

Since this project builds on the work of both the JISC Regional DEL pilot L20 and the Eduserv-funded MURLLO project, the coordination team will aim to seek further funding to extend its work and to: The University of Southampton will continue to host the CLARET website and make available project deliverables, business case studies and reports. Relevant standards will be used for technical project outputs to enable reuse in further work. Project deliverables will be made available for download and reuse.

1.6 Building on existing projects

Project Genealogy
Figure 2 CLARET project genealogy

1.7 Length of project

The project will run for 13 months.