How your digital infrastructure supports open learning and research
Researchers and learners must have access to resources whether they’re in a university library, studying from home, overseas or undertaking work based learning; and with digital technologies the outputs of research and learning can be created, accessed and re-used almost immediately in new and innovative ways that can make learning more creative and improve research excellence.
But to do this, their digital infrastructure must be fit for purpose and continue to improve to support new and better forms of research and learning. For example, applying appropriate licensing, metadata and using technologies such as text-mining and mobile in open and interoperable ways is essential if UK universities and colleges are to meet the expectations of their students, researchers and funders.
In the JISC Digital Infrastructure team we work on these issues to ensure the best and most up to date practice and solutions are available. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the opportunities and new solutions we find...
Rachel Bruce: Innovation Director, Digital Infrastructure
PROBLEM: An increasing number of teaching staff around the world are sharing their materials as open educational resources (OER). This makes it easy for you to use their content. But what exactly do you need to do to turn the files on your C:drive or virtual learning environment into open educational resources?
AN OPEN SOLUTION: The OER Intellectual Property Rights Starter Pack does exactly what it says on the tin. It was created to support the JISC/HEA OER Programme. Many projects have used it, so have some educators overseas, and even museums and galleries.
HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT: The latest addition to the resource bank is a fantastic animation on turning your resource into an open educational resource.
Watch a video about embedding open educational resources:
PROBLEM: Research is intended to be built upon, to act as a new brick in the foundations of knowledge. Universities, colleges, researchers and students benefit from this: authors with more citations to their work; researchers and students with easier access to publications; and institutions with research that is more visible and has more impact within and beyond the academy. The infrastructure needed for this includes national and institutional policies, technical tools and services such as repositories, and business models that make sense.
AN OPEN SOLUTION: The internet offers huge potential to improve research communication. Digital Infrastructure can improve the ways in which research is communicated. In the future, it is likely that our textual documents will be routinely mined by computer programmes to extract new information. The infrastructure developed to support open access is well suited to these exciting developments, and UK universities and colleges will benefit from it into the future.
HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT: You can access our mature set of resources summarised here for advice on developing and implementing policies, and case studies of those who have done so. There is also economic modelling to help institutional leaders understand both the sector-wide implications and the picture for their own institution – and this Spring we are working to add to this, taking into account the money that research funders provide for open access charges.
Open research data
PROBLEM: Universities need to respond to increasing pressures to make research data as openly available as possible. Research funders wish to obtain the maximum return on investment from research grants – and that means making the research data freely and openly available for validation, additional analysis and reuse in research (unless there are ethical or legal reasons not to do so). Furthermore, it is in research institutions’ and researchers’ interest to do so: as the EPSRC research data policy recognises, ‘Sharing research data is an important contributor to the impact of publicly funded research.’ One of the biggest challenges, however, remains that of providing simple to use tools which fit into researchers’ current practices.
impact of publicly funded research.”
AN OPEN SOLUTION: As a result of JISC’s work in this area, it is now recognised that the challenge needs to be addressed in a number of areas, from advocacy and the development of policy, through support and training, to the development of information systems and data management tools.
HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT: DataFlow is creating a two-stage data management infrastructure that makes it easy for you and your research group to work with, annotate, publish, and permanently store your research data. We have funded it through the University Modernisation Fund. The tools make it more straightforward to transfer data to an institutional or disciplinary data repository where they will be made openly available and curated for the longer term. The project has recently completed a first (beta) release, which has attracted a lot of interest, and a final release will be available in June.
Open developer communities
PROBLEM: Universities share many similar technology challenges. They need to make a core set of software systems work together, they need to develop custom tools to support teaching and research, they need to tailor systems to work well in their local context and they need an increasingly complex set of web applications to support students and staff.
AN OPEN SOLUTION: As the challenges are similar then many of the solutions will have similar elements too. Therefore it makes sense for the developers working on these challenges to share their skills, solutions and their issues. This doesn’t mean everyone has to use open source software, it just means providing opportunities for developers in higher education to meet and share. The developer community supporting innovation project (DevCSI) at UKOLN organises events designed to enable developers to learn from each other, share ideas and collaborate on solutions.
HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT: You can tap into valuable training for developers, enabling them to network with people who are working on similar challenges. The major annual event that DevCSI organises is dev8D alongside events on specific topics such as accessibility hack days. Recently DevCSI has also started involving students in these events by working with Lincoln University to organise DevXS, which brought student developers together to think about what they would develop to improve university life.
Events on their own are not enough and the DevCSI project is also working on collating and recommending good practice for managing an institution’s developer capacity. You can read the DevCSI case studies which describe how developers have delivered tangible benefits to higher education institutions.
List 8D Case Study: Interview with Michael Wilcox: