This chapter describes a learning object repository case study undertaken at the Waikato Institute of Technology, Hamilton, New Zealand, during 2005 to 2006. The project, known as the open source learning object repository (OSLOR), involved establishing a functional learning object repository, using open source software, able to be populated with digital resources from across the various education communities. Input from librarians was deemed a critical success factor; high quality metadata determine the searchability, durability, and ultimate value of the repository. The metadata application profile developed was specific to a learning object repository but was also designed to be both reducible and extensible. It was also interoperable to ensure future viability. Close consultation with the National Library of New Zealand was an additional prerequisite. The author hopes the decisions underpinning the application profile design will inform others involved in describing digital resources for a specific community.
Development Of Learning Object Repositories
The exponential growth of repositories for the controlled storage of digitally-created resources has resulted from the need to link communities of practice or interest with resources within a contextual dimension. The increasing use of information technologies to create new learning resources, to manage existing learning resources, and to aggregate learning content from a wide variety of academic and publishing sources has completely altered expectations for teaching and learning. Around the world, academic institutions, professional associations, and corporations are striving to make better use of networks and databases to efficiently and effectively achieve learning and professional development goals. One of the ways they have chosen to pursue these goals is to make learning resources readily accessible to educators and learners through learning object repositories (CANARIE, 2002, p. 5).
The fundamental purpose of learning object repositories is to support teaching and learning through the storage, retrieval capabilities, and maintenance of learning objects. Object repositories are seen as key enablers for bringing increased value to learning resources by providing opportunities for reuse, repurposing, or reengineering to suit a variety of purposes and end user needs. Creating learning resources in object formats is seen as a way to bring about increased flexibility, customisation, ease of update, searchability, and manageability to rich stores of content and learning resources that are available from publishers or that have been created by faculty members or teachers (CANARIE, 2002, p. 5).
A distinguishing feature of repositories is their architecture, including a tailored user interface, and the manner of incorporating structure and organisation around the information that is contained to facilitate the location and use or reuse of such material. From research undertaken for the Australian Flexible Learning Network, Higgs, Meredith, and Hand (2003, p. 60) suggest that in order to provide access to learning objects, a repository must include a series of functionalities that include searching, quality control, maintaining, gathering from other repositories, and publishing (i.e., providing metadata to other repositories).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Metadata: Information about data or a data source. It is associated with objects or systems for the purposes of description, administration, legal requirements, technical functionality, usage, and preservation. Metadata terms include elements, element refinements, encoding schemes, and vocabulary terms.
Learning Object Repository: A site intended to develop, establish, maintain, and refine integrated sets of reusable learning objects to support and sustain educational networks.
Open Source: Source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge.
Namespace Schema: A schema in which namespaces are declared using a family of reserved attributes, for example, an extensible markup language (XML) namespace is a collection of names, identified by a URI reference, which are used in XML documents as element types and attribute names. The namespace declaration is considered to apply to the element where it is specified and to all elements within the content of that element, unless overridden by another namespace declaration.
Application Profile: Metadata elements drawn from one or more existing namespaces, combined together and optimised for a particular application or purpose.
Learning Objects: Self-contained, reusable small units of learning that can be aggregated and tagged with metadata.
XML Namespace: A simple method for qualifying element and attribute names used in XML documents by associating them with a collection of names identified by URI references.