One of the nice things working for CETIS is when organisations like the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) approach you to contribute to their projects it’s often an opportunity to field test cutting edge innovation. This was the case when ALT recruited me* for their Maths Apps Index project which is part of the maths4us initiative being co-ordinated by NIACE.

*I only work 0.8FTE for CETIS giving me room to explore other projects

Maths App Index is designed as a community review site for maths related resources. The idea builds on the Jisc funded ‘Community-led Evaluation and Dissemination of Support Resources – Pilot’, which I was also involved with. One of the recommendations made as part of this pilot was the better display and indexation resource reviews. When ALT asked me for guidance on the latest project and having kept abreast with the work my colleague Phil Barker was doing with new learning resource metadata standards my immediate response was to use the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) properties being proposed for


For those unfamiliar with LRMI/ below is a short briefing note I prepared as part of the project:

There is a general trend in webpages away from hidden metadata (keywords, descriptions contained in the header of a page) towards structured markup. This is in part a move by search sites to prevent the manipulation of search ranking by using hidden metadata. The solution has been to move towards combining human-oriented resource description and machine readable metadata.

An example of this is used in the Creative Commons embeds information about licenses in webpages. Using their ‘license chooser’ tool it generates extra HTML code for you to include in your distributed work. As well as the human readable icon and/or text the machine readable markup includes the rel="license" attribute shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Example of RDFa markup used in Creative Commons license

The inclusion on rel="license" allows search engines to identify that a resource might be released under a specific license, this information being used as a means to facet search results.

A development in this area of particular significance is, an initiative involving Google, Yahoo, Yandex and MS Bing that aims to:

"… improve the web by creating a structured data markup schema supported by major search engines. On-page markup helps search engines understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results." (, 2013)

There are two aspects to; a syntax for encoding parts of a page to identify additional metadata, and a shared schema of item types and their properties to make it easier for search engines to consistently index information.

Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI)

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) is working to extend the the controlled vocabulary used in describing educational resources which is compatible with and other systems. This will mean search engines will be able to understand the information on web pages describing learning resources and make it easier for users to find them.

Table 1 is an extract from the draft LRMI Specification version 1.0[1] and describes the metadata that could be used to describe a learning resource. Within all properties are optional.

Table 1 LRMI Specification version 1.0




An alignment to an established educational framework.


The purpose of the work in the context of education.

● Ex: "assignment"

● Ex: “group work”


The individual or group for which the work in question was produced.

● Ex: "student"

● Ex: "teacher"


The predominate mode of learning supported by the learning resource. Acceptable values are active, expositive, or mixed.

● Ex: "active"

● Ex: "mixed"


A resource that was used in the creation of this resource. This term can be repeated for multiple sources.

● Ex: ""


The predominate type or kind characterizing the learning resource.

● Ex: "presentation"

● Ex: "handout"


Approximate or typical time it takes to work with or through this learning resource for the typical intended target audience.

● Ex: "P30M"

● Ex: "P1H25M"


The typical range of ages the content's intendedEndUser.

● Ex: "7-9"

● Ex: "18-"


The URL where the owner specifies permissions for using the resource.

● Ex: ""

● Ex: ""


It’s worth noting that these were the draft specification and since then intendedEndUserRole has become educationalRole and, as noted by Phil useRightsUrl hasn’t currently made the cut.

In action

Because we thought it was unrealistic for a reviewer to supply data like educationalAlignment for the site we opted for a subset of the LRMI markup. As the review site is a WordPress installation we use a user submitted blog post for each review using the TDO Mini Forms plugin to capture the additional metadata. This is then rendered in modification of the Sampression Lite theme. Below an example of how LRMI is included within this review.

example LRMI/ 

Where to next

When we plug the page into Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool we can see Google is detecting all our lovely metadata. Within a Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) we can even use this to filter a search. For example here are all the reviews with educationalUse set to independent learning. The problem however is Google CSE doesn’t currently provide any tools to all easy faceting of a custom search. Within the Maths App Index site we do have filtering for LRMI properties but currently it’s not integrated with search e.g. independent learning reviews. So with little perceived benefit why are we capturing this data now. It’s primarily about future proofing. I for one wouldn’t like to go back over thousands of reviews adding the metadata. 


a full-fledged repository with complete history and full revision tracking capabilities, not dependent on network access or a central server

That quote is taken from the Wikipedia entry for Git (software), the full quote is:

In software development, Git (/ɡɪt/) is a distributed revision control and source code management (SCM) system with an emphasis on speed.[4] Git was initially designed and developed by Linus Torvalds for Linux kernel development. Every Git working directory is a full-fledged repository with complete history and full revision tracking capabilities, not dependent on network access or a central server. … Git supports rapid branching and merging, and includes specific tools for visualizing and navigating a non-linear development history. A core assumption in Git is that a change will be merged more often than it is written, as it is passed around various reviewers.

The idea of using Git as a platform in open educational development (not just as a software development tool) is something that has pinged my radar a couple of times this year so I thought I’d quickly* share some interesting links material in this area.  The core concept when reading this is the idea that Git repositories are:

  • designed as a collaborative space; and
  • encourage remixing and branching of material

*I’m not entirely happy with how this post is written but don’t want to spend too much time on it – consider it as some very rough notes.

Open bid writing

As it happens to order in which I came across these links also fits in with an evolution of the idea from software to educational support tool. The first example is still more at the software end, in this case the use of the GitHub Service by Joss Winn at the University of Lincoln as a place for Open bid writing, but it helps highlight the potential benefits of Git.

Project proposal versioningIn ‘Open Bid writing’ Joss reflects on the use of GitHub to develop his proposal for, the now funded, JISC OER Rapid Innovation Bebop project. The main advantages highlighted in the post are as this was proposed as a software development project the final code and proposal will all sit in one place. Now you might say how is this different from just uploading your project plan to your project site. The difference here is just as GIt allows you to navigated different versions of the code you can also see how the proposal evolved, see different versions of the proposal and how it was constructed and even how ideas evolved. Joss also points out that using GitHub during the writing process also gave the opportunity for others to learn or even contribute to the proposal.

The final aspect not included in the post but mentioned by Joss is a tweet before submitting the proposal is Git’s functionality for someone else to fork the project, that is take a snapshot of the proposal and develop it in a completely different direction. So at a later date you might see an opportunity to do something similar to Bebop and instead of starting from scratch use Lincoln’s proposal as the basis of your own work.

[In Joss’ post he also that one of the student projects at DevXS was to create a GitHub hosted version of the collaborative writing tool Etherpad which stores documents in Github. You can read more about RevisionHub here and the code developed at DevXS is here].

Not code, but poetry

‘Code is poetry’ is the WordPress motto but as Phil Beauvoir (JISC CETIS) highlights in his post Forking Hell? Git, GitHub, and the Rise of Social Coding already people are using Git repositories for other purposes beyond coding. These include writers, musicians and artists all putting there material in Git for others to contribute or fork to make something different. My favourite example from Phil’s post is:

Durham-based band, the Bristol 7’s, last year released their album, “The Narwhalingus EP” on GitHub under a Creative Commons licence “to see what the world could do with it”. The release, if we can call it that, comprises the final mixes and the individual tracks as MP3 files. The band invites everyone to:

“Fork the repo, sing some harmony, steal my guitar solo, or add a Trance beat. Whatever you want to do, just tell us about it, so we can hear what’s become of our baby!”

[Sticking very loosely with art I see via Ed Summers cc0 and git for data post that:]

the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum at the Smithsonian Institution made a pretty important announcement almost a month ago that they have released their collection metadata on GitHub using the CC0 Creative Commons license

Forking Your Syllabus

So far the examples I’ve highlighted have all used the GitHub service. Earlier in the week I had a chance to chat to Joss Winn at the JISC OER Rapid Innovation start-up meeting and started talking about Git. One of the things Joss mentioned was whilst Git presented a number of opportunities for academics to contribute, share and reuse material the terms and concepts of Git are foreign to the average academic. A post I had read but not fully processed is Brian Croxall’s Forking Your Syllabus. In this post Brian highlights that for new teachers it can be daunting to design a programme of learning and that “when you’re beginning to plan something new, you can always benefit from seeing what others before you have done”

Brian goes on to join the dots between syllabus creation and Git, the final picture coming together with Audrey Watters ClassConnect: "GitHub" for Class Lessons. My hunch is ClassConnect has a Git backend and while the icon set and functionality is ‘fork’ the language is ‘used’. ClassConnect

As Audrey points out ClassConnect is a new product and I don’t think all of the required features are there yet, like selecting and searching by Creative Commons license, but the idea of using the Git model in educational development is one to watch.

But that’s what I think. What do you think? Are the soft issues of getting people to work in a more open way always going to overshadow any technical development to make it easier to do this? Or will tools like ClassConnect suck people into different working practices? Will staff ‘git’ it?

Update: There's been some more discussion on this idea on the OER-DISCUSS JISCMail list

At JISC RSC Scotland North and East we were recently asked for a quick overview of the JorumOpen repository. The query came from a multiple institutional project who were looking for a means of sharing project resources. There main area of interest were easy of access and licensing/copyright. Below is the information we provided:

jOpen JorumOpen is part of the JISC funded Jorum service this service and is designed to let staff freely deposit/reuse educational content under a Creative Commons licence (in essence Creative Commons licences, allow you to keep your copyright but allow others to copy and distribute your work provided they attribute your work with conditions specified). JorumOpen uses the England & Wales version of Creative Commons. People in Scotland can use the England and Wales licences but the licences will be governed by the contract law of England and Wales.

Extracting resources from JorumOpen requires no login or account creation and can be done by anybody, worldwide. Depositing materials is only available to members of UK further and higher education institutions and requires login using  UK Access Management Federation username/password. All Scottish further and higher educational institutions appear to have federated access apart from (please use the comments below if there are any corrections to this list):

  • Banff & Buchan College
  • (The) Barony College
  • Borders College
  • Clydebank College
  • Coatbridge College
  • Cumbernauld College
  • Glasgow College of Nautical Studies
  • John Wheatley College
  • Newbattle Abbey College
  • Oatridge College
  • Reid Kerr College
  • Robert Gordon University

(A further consideration might be that staff don’t realise that their institution is part of the UK Access Management Federation and may login using their existing staff username/password)

Resources submitted/extracted to JorumOpen can be in a variety of formats  ranging from simple one-file assets and links to external resources, to more complex learning objects including content packages and open courseware. The upload limit is 20MB but larger files can be included through consultation with the Jorum team. Once uploaded resources can be edited, removed or updates.

Currently there are 298 resources listed under FE and 6196 for HE. Some example resources include:

Title:Explaining camtasia and audacity to create audio podcasts
Author:Jakki Sheridan-Ross
Description:Podcast designed for use in a PGCHE workshop teaching teachers to create short audio podcasts suitable for audio feedback or to explain a particular concept. Demonstrates Camtasia and Audacity. There is a deliberate error in the audio which highlights that it doesn't need to be perfect to be useful.
Keywords:ukoer; podcast; camtasia studio; audio feedback; audacity
Persistent Link:
Title:A staff guide to Open Educational Resources
Author:Simon Thomson
Description:Comprehensive staff guide to OER's in booklet format (7 pages). Includes 'What are OER's?'; How can OER benefit academic staff?; A quick guide to IPR, copyright and Creative Commons; Guidance on developing OER material; Examples of OER repositories. Easy to use format with 10 key points for each section.
Keywords:ukoer; unicycle; oer; open educational resources; repository; creative commons; IPR; copyright
Persistent Link:

Jorum Learning & Teaching Competition

In conjunction with the ALT-C conference the Jorum Learning & Teaching Competition is open for entries until the 2nd July. Judges are looking for appropriate, engaging/innovative, effective and reusable learning resources. There are three cash prizes (1st £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100) and £20 Amazon vouchers for commended entries. Click here for more information about the competition [Hint: You can see current entries to the competition by visiting the JorumOpen Advanced Search and searching on the keyword  ‘jorumcomp10’].

A recent JISC-funded report has highlighted the importance of having clearly stated preservation policies to guarantee the future of digital resources. Key findings from the ‘Digitisation Programme Digital Preservation Study’ include:

  • External examination … or audit … can change practice for the better merely by asking the right questions.
  • Without a written preservation policy, the long-term usability, authenticity, discoverability and accessibility of the digital collection is at risk.
  • Without defined collection and content management procedures, particularly where metadata is dissociated from content or is held in multiple locations, the long-term usability, authenticity and discoverability of the digital collection is at risk.
  • Without maintaining digital collections on a suitable digital preservation infrastructure, the long-term usability and accessibility of the digital collection is at risk.
  • Without a plan for sustainability, the long-term usability and accessibility of the digital collection is at risk.

The full report includes recommended approaches to analyse preservation including links to existing resources to assist institutions in this area.

Click here to read the full JISC press release

Click here to get the full report