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Following on from the JISC/SCONUL ‘Squeezed Middle’ workshop that I blogged about earlier.  Paul Stainthorp has blogged about his experience and included the paper he presented on his blog here.  Ben Showers, from JISC, has also blogged about the event here on the JISC Digital Infrastructure Team blog.   Links to Ken Chad’s [update to the update: now available here] and David Kay’s provocations/presentations and Lorcan Dempsey’s video are also promised.  There’s also a useful list of the priorities that came out of the workshop, put together by David Kay, here.  This list sets out the priorities in five different areas: ebooks, non-traditional assets, end-user applications, library roles and above campus services.

New JISC call
One of the motivations behind the workshop was to help to inform (both JISC and the HE community) about a new JISC call (12/01) that includes a couple of LMS strands.  One covers a project to create “a new vision for the future of library systems and a ‘roadmap’ for the delivery of that vision”.  There certainly seems to be a lot more activity in the LMS systems area at the moment with new products, open source solutions and shared systems.    The second strand covers a set of “pathfinder projects to investigate a broad range of potential new models and approaches to library systems and services”.  The themes within this area cover Shared library systems, emerging tools and technologies and emerging library systems opportunities.  There are quite a wide range of different aspects touched on in the call paper, ranging through reference management to data.  A lot of potential for some interesting ideas to emerge.

Latest project
From February I’m going to be involved in a new project, STELLARSemantic Technologies Enhancing the Lifecycle of LeArning Resources (funded by JISC).   In some ways the project connects with previous work I’ve been involved with in the Lucero project in that it will be employing linked data, and will be working with learning materials, in that I’ve had some involvement with our production and presentation learning systems through the VLE.  But STELLAR will be dealing with a different area for me, in that we’ll be looking at my institution’s store of legacy learning materials.   So it’s a good opportunity to learn more about curation and preservation and digital lifecycles.

STELLAR is particularly going to be looking at trying to understand the value of those legacy learning materials by talking to the academics who have been involved in creating those materials.   There are quite a few reasons why older course materials may still have value, they might be able to be reused in new courses on the basis that reusing old materials might be less costly than creating new materials.  They might have value in being able to be transformed into Open Educational Resources.  Or, for example, they might have value in being good historical examples of styles of teaching and learning.  So STELLAR will be exploring different types and models of expressing the value of those materials.

Finding out about the value that is placed on these materials can also be an important factor when trying to understand which materials to preserve as a priority, or where you should expend your resources, and we’d hope that STELLAR would help to inform HE policies as institutions build up increasing amounts of digital learning materials.

As part of STELLAR we will be taking some digital legacy learning material and transforming it into linked data (with some help from our friends in KMi). This gives us the opportunity to connect old course materials into the OU’s ecosystem by linking to existing datasets on current courses and OER material in OpenLearn.  By transforming the content in this way we can then explore whether making it more discoverable changes the value proposition, makes the content more likely to be reused or opens up other possibilities.  It should be an interesting project and one that I’m looking forward to, as there are going to be a lot of opportunties to build up my understanding of these issues and aspects.

Last time I heard the results of a Funding bid we’d submitted I was sitting in a conference in London.  It seems to be becoming a habit as we had the results of our latest funding bid just before Christmas.   This time I was sitting in a coffee bar in Yorkshire, and it was a nice surprise to hear that we’d been successful as I wasn’t expecting the results before Christmas.  We’d put in a funding bid back in November and all being well with the clarifications on a few points, are going to be doing some work starting next month with our digital legacy learning materials and linked data.  We’re looking forward to getting started on STELLAR.

I blogged nearly a month ago some reflections on our latest funding bid and sitting at the FOTE conference yesterday an email popped up with the outcome of the bid.  [I’m not sure why but I’m still not really used to the pervasive nature of modern email access.  I suppose although there has been remote access to systems for a long time, through dial-in, VPN and suchlike, maybe there has always been a bit of a process involved in logging into the VPN or a website and then opening up an email client that seemed a bit laborious.  Or at any rate laborious enough to be able to put off doing it.  But with tablets and smartphones email setup, email just appears along with tweets and other messages.  It just seems a bit easy now.  I guess perhaps I’m still not used to the ease of working remotely now, something you take for granted.  But sometimes when you think about it, it’s actually something pretty remarkable.]

Anyway, I was a bit surprised to hear about the outcome of the bid so quickly, but really pleased to hear that we were successful.  So, something else new to do, that’s really exciting for us and I’m sure I’ll probably blog a bit about in the next few months as we get going on project MACON.

We finished off and submitted our latest funding bid earlier in the week.  It’s something we’ve been putting together across the summer and that has been a bit more challenging than at other times.  I must admit that having a funding call that we were very interested in, coming out on the Friday before I went on holiday wasn’t the best timing for us.  Fortunately it had been flagged up in the future funding calls for a while so we’d already done some thinking about things we wanted to do. 

Trying to do these sort of bids during the Summer presents some different challenges.  Bids tend to be increasingly collaborative in their nature so we involve people from other units, on project boards for example and getting their feedback on bid documents.  That means getting hold of all sorts of people, at a time when many academics are away for some time.  So getting stuff looked at and commented on can be tricky and takes longer.  And not everyone that you want to talk to is available.

Because we had been thinking about what we would want to do, we were able to get straight on with pulling the bid into shape.  We had a short summary document already and while I was away on leave colleagues started putting it into the right format for the funding document.  Having the document in the right format made it much easier to concentrate on filling in the gaps and getting people to contribute to it.  So it didn’t take us too long to get to a draft that could be refined and tidied up.

Despite the time of year we managed to get everything together in time.  But I do wonder if other people had the same problems about writing bids during the summer and whether it might impact on the number of bids the funding body gets this time round.

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December 2020

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