OLNet Fellowship Application Research Proposal Tracking OER Reuse of “Download-able”...
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19 July 2010
OLNet Fellowship Application Research Proposal
Tracking OER Reuse of “Download-able” Resources
Scott Leslie, Manager, Client Services – Open Education, BCcampus
January 14, 2010
Area of Investigation
Tracking Download-able OER and the Promise of Reuse
One of the great promises of Open Educational Resources is their ability to be reused because of the rights that open licenses grant and the minimal costs to replicate and share electronic media in general.[i] In the realm of informal sharing, anecdotal stories abound about the reuse of freely and openly licensed shared resources, often backed up with numbers from individually controlled, commodity web analytic services.[ii] These help foster the “power of positive narcissism,”[iii] providing additional evidence to individual content owners of the value of sharing.
Such evidence has been much harder to find within formal OER projects. Very few of the systems deployed to share OER provide views and reuse metrics back to the content owners. In the case of OER “repository” models that share content that has been removed from its original context of use, and share it in such a way that the content can be downloaded and used in totally new contexts (instead of merely linked in place), very little is known of what becomes of downloaded resources and how often they are reused. This lack of data is a critical failing in providing evidence of actual benefit. It also greatly undercuts individual motivations to share, which are often buttressed by evidence of actual reuse.
This research proposes to
- examine competing methods of tracking download-able resource reuse, comparing and contrast tracking methods in informal sharing with those of more formal OER repositories, and assess the impact that views, comments and trackback metrics have on motivation to share more.
- implement a working tracking mechanism in an existing repository, document this and its success in providing reuse data on downloaded resources as well as its applicability to other contexts
This research will result in a report examining and comparing various methods for tracking OER shared in different ways, as well as a specific implementation which, depending on the ultimate approach adopted, may have generalizable results for other OER collections.
Methods and Techniques
The ideal tracking solution will be one that
- allows for control by the end user
- is generalizable to a larger set of OER repositories
- does not require onerous steps by content owners to implement
A first step will be to look at some of the existing approaches within the OER movement as well as examples of approaches from the general web, approaches like tracking ccRel licenses, Tynt and Attributor to determine their applicability to the specific use case of the BCcampus SOL*R repository and more generally to other OER publication and sharing models.
Currently, recipients of funds who contribute content to BCcampus’ SOL*R repository are encouraged to use an internally developed “License Generator” to create an embeddable image/text license for their works. While it is hoped that an investigation of other techniques may yield a more generic model, the current plan is to amend this embeddable code in such a way as to be track-able, possibly by generating a unique URL for the embedded image file that would then be track-able each time it was called.
Finally, this approach, or a better alternative, will be implemented on the BCcampus servers and initial data will be gathered in the aggregate to demonstrate if there is any appreciable difference (all other variables being similar) to the breadth of reuse that is engendered by sharing OER only within a regional consortia compared to sharing OER on the wider open web.
Relationship to Overall Field and Existing Experience
This issue is not restricted to OER alone; in many creative quarters there is a great desire to learn what happens to content once it leaves the bounds of its initial system.
In terms of existing work I have done and experience in the field, on top of my 8 years of working on open learning content (first with “learning objects” and then later OER) and learning the lessons of sharing and the value of tracking through publishing an influential educational technology blog throughout that period, I have been working on tracking use of the BCcampus SOL*R repository and providing evidence for its continued value for the past 4 years, investigating web analytics and different database reporting tools like BIRT and Crystal Reports.
Benefits to BCcampus, the Open University and wider OER Community
BCcampus uses a model of “download-able” reuse in its repository, and has a critical need to be able to track (as well as let content owners keep track of) reuse of downloaded resources, so implementing a working solution will have a direct benefit to the continued sustainability of our OER efforts. The OU and the larger OER community will benefit from having a much deeper picture painted of the relationship between sharing/production models and their sustainability and tracking, as well as suggestions on which tracking methods may work best in different models and ideally a solution which might have broad application across a number of scenarios.
[i] Smith , Marshall S. and Casserly, Catherine, “The Promise of Open Educational Resources,” William and Flora Hewlett Foundation , 2006, http://learn.creativecommons.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/changearticle.pdf Retrieved January 15, 2010.
[ii] cf. Levine, Alan, “Amazing Stories of Openness” http://cogdog.wikispaces.com/AmazingStories Retrieved January 15, 2010 or Lamb, Brian “Tales of Openness” http://blogs.ubc.ca/brian/2009/02/tales-of-openness-and-serendipity/ Retrieved January 15, 2010.
[iii] Lamb, Brian “The power of positive narcissism does it again,” http://blogs.ubc.ca/brian/2005/10/the-power-of-positive-narcissism-does-it-again/ Retrieved January 15, 2010.