A graduate trainee from Lancaster University has been named the winner of a competition to design an app that uses open data to help students at key points in their learning journey. His prize is expert support worth £5,000 from Jisc to develop his idea into a prototype.
John Lacey, who is enrolled on Ambitious Futures: The Graduate Leadership Programme for University Leadership, entered the competition – run by Universities UK (UUK) in partnership with the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Jisc – with an app concept called BookMart. This will use open data including institutional reading lists to help students locate the books they need for their course across various free and paid for sources, giving them a more cost effective route to accessing course materials.
To enter the competition, applicants had to submit a short video and description of their ideas for transforming the student experience using open data to Jisc’s Elevator website. Students and staff were then invited to vote for their favourite ideas.
John’s was one of six shortlisted projects to be invited to attend the open data mashup day on 17 November at Woburn House, London. Here, challenge finalists got the chance to learn and take inspiration from data experts. Sessions were led by Sir Nigel Shadbolt, co-founder of the ODI, with support from the University of Southampton, the Open University and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). They then formed into teams for student journey workshops to develop demo visualisations, before pitching to a panel of judges.
BookMart was commended for adding value by combining data on courses, library catalogues and booksellers, to enable students to locate the books they require in the most cost effective way. The judges were also impressed that users would be able to share and review books, and that whilst there are numerous websites for resale of textbooks, no other product of this type offering the student an holistic view is available at present.
John will now receive £5,000 worth of support from Jisc to help him to develop the idea into a prototype app.
“The open data mashup day was an amazing and immersive experience. It was an opportunity to learn from other universities and work collaboratively with developers that are considered gurus within their fields.
“It is a great achievement to have secured support from such a renowned digital technology charity, and I would like to thank Jisc for providing this fantastic opportunity.
“Given the strength of the other finalists’ ideas and pitches within the challenge, the final outcome was not one that I initially anticipated and I am ecstatic to have been chosen as the winner.
“As we move forward with establishing a working prototype, I hope that the BookMart app will play an important role in the movement towards increasingly open data across the higher education sector.”
Ian Powling, who is digital programmes lead at UUK and chaired the judging panel, said:
“John’s pitch clearly showed that he had considered how he could combine data from different sources to add value to a great product idea.”
Martin Hamilton, futurist at Jisc, and one of the competition judges, said:
“I was hugely impressed by all the ideas I saw during the challenge. Whenever we talk to students we see that they are positively fizzing with ideas and enthusiasm, and it’s great to be able to give them an opportunity to share those ideas and potentially take them further.
“BookMart in particular stood out for proposing a well-thought out solution to a universal problem faced by university students. As part of working with John to take BookMart forward, we will now be looking to engage with e-learning and library systems teams at institutions to explore making reading lists available as open data.”
The open data mashup day is part of Creating Value from Open Data, a joint project between UUK, ODI, Jisc, the National Union of Students (NUS) and several partner universities. The project team is mapping out the value proposition for open data in UK higher education, and will be producing an open data vision and roadmap for UK higher education.