Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Repository 2.0: Social Dynamics to Support Community Building in Learning Object Repositories

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Repository 2.0: Social Dynamics to Support Community Building in Learning Object Repositories

Article excerpt

Introduction

A digital repository is a system that "enables the storage, discovery and retrieval of metadata and/or electronic objects stored at a local or distributed level" (The JORUM Team, 2006, p. 8). More specifically, a learning object repository (LOR) is a system that manages the access to reusable learning content, as it has been defined by several authors (Downes, 2004; Lopez 2005; Namuth, Fritz, King, & Boren, 2005). However, the bounds of what can be called a LOR remain blurred as there is no common agreement about the nature of learning objects themselves (McGreal, 2004; Wiley, 2001). Some of their main features (such as granularity, metadata, and interoperability) cannot be found in the items of repositories listed in different LOR repertories such as LIFE (2006) or McGreal (2007). For the purposes of this paper, we will adopt an inclusive vision, as we are focusing on user engagement issues that can be applied to any repository or portal storing learning resources.

Access to learning resources relies on technical and economic matters that are being considered within the Open Educational Resources (OER) approach. Although there is not an authoritatively accredited definition (Geser, 2007), we can assume that OER consists of educational content and resources--including software--that can be accessed free of charge and can be reused and modified. Open licenses which allow users to access resources and adapt them to their particular needs are relevant as they do not envisage the mere retrieval of content but also active work on it.

LORs have been created and maintained by many educational administrations and institutions (LIFE, 2006) because the provision of learning resources is essential for the development of ICT in education. From this perspective, design and policies contributing to the engagement and participation of the educational community will improve the uptake of these systems. Integrating Web 2.0 technologies (O'Reilly, 2005) can be very useful for this purpose.

The CDLOR project has researched the barriers and enablers that influence implementation and use of LOR and recommends that these systems "be based firmly on the needs and context of the end user communities" they aim to serve (Margaryan, Milligan, Douglas, Littlejohn, & Nicol, 2007, p. 5). Other recommendations include considering the LOR role "in supporting collaboration on development of resources ... rather than only being used to store completed resources" and the addition of Web 2.0 features allowing "collaboration, communication, feedback, and other forms of social networking activities around the resources; for example, recommendation mechanisms and user feedback functionalities...".

Franklin and Van Harmelen (2007, p. 16) consider that repositories could become more accessible "for learning and teaching through the use of Web 2.0 technologies, including tagging, folk-sonomies and social software", although the introduction of these features might raise discussions as to who may see and modify other users' content. While comments, recommendations, tags, or ratings are more easily integrated, collaboration in the core of content, as occurs with wikis, is more challenging.

Based on an OER approach, the OLCOS Roadmap 2012 (Geser, 2007, p. 126) emphasizes that a bottom-down strategy, where repository users are not considered "as consumers but as potential co-creators of shared, commons-based resources" will benefit innovation in teaching and learning. In order to promote and motivate contributions, what the report recommends is "to consider more thoroughly how tools and services can make it beneficial for content creators and providers to make use of the repository", adding features for managing content and content licenses, collaborative tools for communities, alerts, RSS feeds, etc.

This paper explores the possibilities of leveraging the uptake of learning object repositories integrating Web 2. …

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