Higher Education Academy: EvidenceNet, Employability and SHEEN Sharing
On June 9th, Cherie Woolmer (SHEEN Sharing project lead at the University of Strathclyde) and I went to York to have a chat with the Higher Education Academy’s EvidenceNet folks, and also some of their employability experts.
We started with a very nice lunch (thanks HEA!) and then I gave them an up-to-the-minute presentation outlining SHEEN Sharing’s work, which you can see embedded at the end of this post. We showed them this blog, our Twitter feed, and most importantly, our prototype Employability Netvibes site, and talked about how we are going to use Diigo to share and discuss resources, and disseminate those resources and discussions.
We then heard from the Heather Fotheringham and Sarah Heaton about EvidenceNet – which is to be a new repository for evidence in support of good teaching and learning practice, including resources, events and “networks” (in other words you can search EvidenceNet to find groups and organisations of interest). The plans sounded excellent- good sound repository development for Phase 1, and some exciting plans for Phase 2 in supporting communities of practice using EvidenceNet with Web 2.0 / social software applications.
We were lucky enough to have arrived on the day that Sarah was presenting the near-final launch version of EvidenceNet to the whole Academy group involved in it, and, I guess we impressed enough with our enthusiasm for both repositories and Web 2.0 that we were invited to this meeting. I can say that so far it looks great- a really nice, clean, attractive and usable interface (this is based on sitting in a presentation for 15 minutes you understand) and a lot of good clear thinking gone into how the repository will work for users.
They’ve built the thing from scratch, BTW- well, by “from scratch” I mean they’ve harnessed some existing technologies like a commercial CMS and a search engine and so forth, rather than using an existing off-the-shelf repository tool like intraLibrary or ePrints. (It would certainly be interesting from this point of view to get them involved in the various repositories communities to share the different perspective this must have wrought).
They’ve been brave enough to try to create a faceted search interface: it’s never easy to do this in a usable way for people who aren’t librarians or post-doc researchers! But from what I saw it’s looking pretty good. So you can filter your search by resource type, discipline and pedagogic themes.
However, they’ve also made adding vocabulary terms for these facets a mandatory metadata element. Be interesting to see how that goes: one of the more annoying and time-consuming parts of metadata creation even for cataloguers, never mind non-professionals. There are always resources which don’t fit any of your vocabulary terms, too. Still, I suppose you’ve got to aim for the thing you want and see how it goes. They do have people checking metadata quality as well, which was music to my ears.
Some concerns I had before going down were a little allayed- like how were they going to make sure they got lots of current, useful content into the repository? They’ve been working with the HEA Subject Centres, some of the CETLs, and I think other groups as a trial for getting specific communities of practice involved in contributing content- and they say they have some fancy metadata migration tools that help people create metadata simultaneously for their local repository and in EvidenceNet. It’s looking like they will have ca 3000 resource records already in Phase 1. They are looking at all sorts of stuff around where content should be hosted, how metadata should be shared, etc. There was a fair bit of discussion around the pain of metadata creation: Jane Kettle, an HEA employability adviser, found herself spending more time than she thought possible on creating metadata for employability resources! Cherie was quick to empathise after spending a good few hours tagging her bookmarks in Diigo for SHEEN Sharing.
They are trying to keep their remit very clearly defined: it’s about evidence for good teaching and learning practice, not learning objects, for instance (so they are complementary to Jorum). They are for teaching practitioners as well, so they do not intend to compete with services that support researchers, although inevitably there will be some overlap in both LOs and research.
One great concern for them and us was making sure they utilise the possibilities of Web 2.0 as fully as possible during their Phase 2 roll-out later this year. Probably the worst thing would be some kind of half-way house approach that is a bit Web 2.0y but doesn’t fully engage with how this stuff can really power your resource sharing, sharing of teaching and learning practice, and dissemination. A lot of people will be watching and waiting to see what they achieve; whether it can be of use to educators. They have been, and will continue to seek out the ideas and feedback of the UK HE community.
I harped on mostly about how they needed to have lots of juicy feeds capability to enable people to grab, display, disseminate or just remain informed of resources in all kinds of flexible ways. When I showed them the different feeds and Yahoo pipes we make available in our Netvibes site, they were gratifyingly enthused, so I hope they take that on board! Given that intraLibrary has been offering feeds based on searches (simple and advanced), browse terms, colleactions, tags, etc., for some time now, I don’t think there is any excuse for a repository not to be offering this.
I’d also quite like them to have the ability to ingest things in various ways (feeds, SWORD) so that relevant content can be pulled in or viewed in ways that work for how the different communities using EvidenceNet share. For instance, SHEEN Sharing is sharing resources (with tags, descriptions, discussions) using Diigo- wouldn’t it be great if EvidenceNet could just pull that stuff into its catalogue without much further effort?
This leads into the main reason SHEEN Sharing was there: how might EvidenceNet support our exit strategy and sustainability? Well, we got as far as offering to stay in touch, to host them in a return visit soon, and possibly engage the ECN as another community who might contribute resources. We’ve also given them our literature review, and benchmarking / requirements reports, to help support their own requirements gathering for Phase 2.
We also had some discussion about the employability agenda north and south of the border and how the differences impact the work employability staff do in England and Scotland. But that’s more Cherie’s area- I’ll wait and see if she wants to say anything.
Here are the slides I showed them re SHEEN Sharing- have a look for an up-to-date summary:
June 18, 2009 - Posted by Morag Eyrie | SHEEN Project Events & Meetings, Web2.0 Tools, Tips and Tricks | employability, EvidenceNet, HEA, meetings, metadata, repositories, sheensharing, sustainability
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The SHEEN Employability Co-ordinators’ Network (ECN) used this blog to disseminate SHEEN Sharing project documents and activities with anyone interested in promoting employability for students in higher education, or the use of Web 2.0 in resource sharing.
The SHEEN Sharing Project is now finished (Jan. 2009 – Feb. 2010). You can join the Diigo Employability Group to share employability resources with the Employability Coordinators’ Network, and you can visit the project’s main output, Employability Resources for Higher Education in Scotland.
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