I did some thinking the other week as I made my way down from Inverness and then back up to Glasgow for the Manchester meeting of the UK Further Education Skills Window Project which I am currently chairing.
Some of the challenges we are hoping to solve have been around as long as I have worked in learning and development
- Across the UK lots of teachers and lecturers are teaching the same things.
- Learners want quality and effective learning experiences
- Learners want to move through learning materials at their own pace and following their own path, you need a lot of good material to accommodate this .
It is also not designed to share materials with peers within other institutions.
An institutionally based VLE cannot therefore easily share learning materials with staff and learners beyond the institution or accept content created by staff or students out with the institution . A VLE is principally about giving learners a prescribed and guided route through learning rather than being about the collection , discovery and presentation of a myriad of routes to understanding.
For some the answer is easy . The solution is the cloud . The argument goes that teachers and learners can just upload their materials to Youtube , Slideshare , a personal blog or webspace , google apps , flickr, scribd .. it could be a very long list and use these tools to share their learning materials.
Then students and teachers would simply do a google or other search and they will find the useful learning materials created by their peers .
This is a cogent argument for not requiring a learning repository . The magical internet will act as a storage, discovery and presentation medium for teachers and learners .
Well it could , but what would be needed for this to work would be standard global and local metadata standards and that they were uniformally being applied . As learning materials went up into the cloud they would need to be tagged with at least some metadata to make them at least discoverable in a broad subject context and ideally tagged with some indication of what type of learner the materials are aimed at . If things like LRMI and other standards were being adopted by organisations like google and other search platforms, then with some training in tagging for discoverability, the cloud or even a local centre based learning materials bank would be the place to share learning materials .
One day this will be possible but at the moment it is not and we do need some national initiatives in this space. The technical arguments were won a long time ago but arguments for not supporting something like JORUM seem to keep resurfacing .
The ETAG targets in England of getting 10% and then 50% of all Further Education online by 2017 has focussed minds and across the UK we need to support national repositories like Jorum and initiatives like the UK further education skills portal to make sure our teachers are sharing resources and our learners have access to a richer and relevant supply of learning materials.
I think it is important too that the vehicle for sharing lies outwith the bailiwick of any individual institution . The materials themselves can come branded but it important for deposit that the portal belongs to the commons.